by Rob Wilkins

The 2007 FIA Formula 1 World Championship had it all, with drama by the bucket load both on and off the track.

In the end the battle for the drivers' title went right to the wire and for the first time since 1986, there was a three-way title showdown at the season finale. In the end Kimi Raikkonen came through to take the crown at Interlagos, finishing the year just one point up on Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

Here columnist and ITV F1 pundit, Mark Blundell looks back over the year, in the first of two interviews about 2007. Just what did MB think about the year?

Read on to find out...
Mark, if you had to sum up the 2007 season in a few words, which ones would you choose?

Mark Blundell:
Fantastic, interesting - and I would have to say probably the best world championship I have seen since I was involved in motorsport. I don't think there has ever been such an exciting championship.
Overall what do you think people will remember most about 2007?

I think they will remember the emergence of Lewis Hamilton, the fierce battles on circuit between four guys in McLarens and Ferraris fighting to win the championship and the trials and tribulations off the track as well because it has certainly been very busy on that side of things.
Was Kimi Raikkonen a worthy champion?

Very much so - he deserved to win the championship. He won six grand prix's and that was more than anyone else. He had a tough couple of years when he was at McLaren with lots of reliability issues and when he went to Ferrari it took a little bit of time to make the marriage work, but it is definitely really working now.
So much has been said and written about Lewis Hamilton during his debut year in the sport, ultimately though he just missed out on the drivers' title. Was the runners-up spot still a good result for him?

It was fantastic - a brilliant result. Nobody ever thought he would come in and do what he did. Nobody ever thought he would be fighting for the world championship right up to the end and no one really ever thought he would be there winning grand's prix as quickly as what he did. He has made a statement and he has come into the sport with a bang and he is here to stay. It won't be long in the future before he is crowned world champion, because for sure he has got the talent to do that.
We saw a side to Fernando Alonso this season, which I think is fair to say, has left his reputation a bit tarnished. Would you agree with that?

Yeah, from my side of things he is damaged goods. He has created an area of concern about him because any team now cannot be confident that he is not going to destabilise things. That is definitely what he did at McLaren. I was somewhat surprised by how he acted because I think he pretty much had the championship for the taking if he had kept his head down and shown us what a great driver we all know him to be. He has won two championships already and he is still a young man and he had a great deal to offer and that was very evident on many occasions. But unfortunately I think his reputation is slightly tarnished now. [Mark was speaking before Renault confirmed they had resigned him for 2008 - ed].
If you had to pick out your top five drivers' of the season, who would they be?

I would put Kimi Raikkonen as the top driver, because I think he is deserving of that. Then I would put Lewis with Alonso third, Felipe Massa fourth and Robert Kubica fifth. Kubica did a really good job.
If you discounted Lewis Hamilton, who would be you're rookie of the year? It would have to be between Heikki Kovalainen, Adrian Sutil and Sebastian Vettel wouldn't it?

Those guys would obviously be vying for honours if it wasn't for Lewis and what he did this season. But if we exclude him, I would probably go with Sebastian Vettel. He came in and did a very good job [once he joined Toro Rosso] and was solid against his team-mate and with the equipment he had.

Adrian Sutil was also outstanding but on many occasions made a few mistakes, which were quite costly.

Overall Heikki Kovalainen really had a little bit more available to him and he didn't really extract it. It was only until mid-way through the season that he started to get it together with the car and the team and then it kind of petered off at the end of the season. I was expecting slightly more from him but maybe that was because the expectations of him as a driver were quite high for a lot of us.
What did you think of the performances of Jenson Button, David Coulthard and Anthony Davidson?

Anthony Davidson was very solid and deserves a place in F1 in the future. He put in some good results and was a good addition to the Super Aguri team.

David Coulthard has proven, again, that he is not the 'old man' as such and that he has got a lot to offer. He has shown that over and over with some outstanding drives.

For me though, out of those three, I would say Jenson Button has been the most outstanding. He has matured and he has shown great character. He has shown us that keeping your head down and getting on with the job will reap rewards. Maybe those rewards might not be in the short term, but in the not to distant future Jenson and Honda will get some big results again, especially now that the team has the right personnel and the right focus. Jenson was very impressive.
Did Giancarlo Fisichella - and for that matter, Ralf Schumacher, do enough to deserve another season in the top flight?

Ralf Schumacher was a little bit hot and cold. Some times you would watch him and it looked quite inspirational, but then on other occasions it was a little bit lacklustre. Whether he is deserving of another seat pro-rata to what his capabilities were to giving results back I am not sure. I think he was outshone by his team-mate.

Giancarlo Fisichella in contrast still has a lot to offer and he did get some pretty good results. However he didn't really lead the team with the same strength and level of forcefulness that was maybe needed. He is a very smooth driver and there is still more to come from him. Unfortunately I don't think he will be in the right car now to get the job done.
At the start of the year there was a lot of talk about this being the first year without Michael Schumacher driving. Did you miss him?

No - not at all. Formula 1 is such that things move on and progress is made. We all step up to the plate and get to another level and I think that is exactly what we did for this season. Michael Schumacher wasn't involved and nobody missed him really. Of course we have still got great memories and we are all fully aware that the seven-time world champion was not on the grid. But we had huge amounts to look forward to. We still had some great stars and we have had some new stars emerge this season. I think the racing overrode the fact we no longer had Schumacher around. I didn't really miss him from that side of things.

Coming soon: The second part of Mark Blundell's 2007 F1 season review. MB turns his attention to the teams and the spy row...