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Wild finish to another thrilling F1 season

Wild finish to another thrilling F1 season

Another Formula One season came down to the last race of the year _ and this time to the very last turn.
Lewis Hamilton's dramatic pass on the final turn of the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday allowed the Briton to win his first world title _ and gave F1 a thrilling finish for the second year in a row.
It was the second straight time the season was decided by a single point, and the third consecutive time it was decided in the final race of the year.
With cost-cutting measures and new rules in place for next year, more unpredictable finishes could be in place with teams expected to be more even than before.
After years of dominance by seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher and meaningless races at the end of the calendar, F1 has finally put together a string of good finishes that are helping attract more fans.
Sunday's wild finish, which drew record audiences across the world, certainly didn't hurt. It was so close that the drivers themselves weren't sure who had won the title until moments after the checkered flag dropped.
"I don't think it has hit home yet, I just had the most intense race of my life," Hamilton said.
Hamilton needed to finish fifth or better in his McLaren to clinch the championship at Interlagos, while Ferrari's Felipe Massa had to finish first or second to have any chances.
Massa cruised to victory in front of his home crowd, but Hamilton nearly wasted his shot at the title for the second year in a row after heavy rain began falling late in the race at Interlagos.
Hamilton dropped to sixth place with only two laps to go after being overtaken by Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel, putting him out of contention at the time.
With Massa finishing first, the crowd was already celebrating what seemed to be Brazil's first F1 champion since Ayrton Senna in 1991, but Hamilton was able to pass Toyota's Timo Glock on the final turn to secure fifth place.
"My heart was about to explode," Hamilton said. "I don't know how I kept my cool and I was very fortunate, especially on the last lap."
Glock was slower than the rest of the front-runners because he chose to stay on dry tires despite the rain.
Hamilton had squandered a seven-point lead to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in the season-ending race last year in Brazil.
"I think we did everything we could," Massa said. "But that's how racing goes sometimes, you do everything right but things don't go your way. We'll try again next year."
The finish capped another thrilling season in Formula One. Last year, three drivers _ Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Raikkonen _ entered the last grand prix of the year with chances of winning the title in the tightest race for the championship in more than 20 years.
In 2008, seven different drivers and five different teams won races for the first time since 2003. Four different drivers led the championship, while six drivers took pole position and 15 led races.
The one-point margin that decided the title this year and in 2007 hadn't happened since Schumacher's title victory over Damon Hill in 1994.
Only twice since 1994 was the title margin two points _ when McLaren's Mika Hakkinen edged Ferrari's Eddie Irvine in 1999, and when Ferrari's Schumacher beat McLaren's Raikkonen in 2003.
Another close finish could be in sight for next season with new rules and cost-cutting measures being implemented because of the global financial crisis.
Among the changes that FIA said are intended to "improve racing" is the introduction of hybrid technology through KERS, an energy recovery system that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions without affecting performance. The Kinetic Energy Recovery System collects energy under braking to provide an extra boost that should allow for more overtaking.
Aerodynamic changes also will be in place, and slick rubber tires will return to F1 for the first time since 1997.
There have been discussions for a sole engine and transmission system provider in F1, but the changes would only take place beginning in 2010.
Teams said at the Brazilian GP that cost reduction is a priority for next year and beyond.
"We are in a very difficult position economically. Formula One is not immune from this panic," Renault managing director Flavio Briatore said. "We are working very hard together to achieve, as soon as possible, a solution."
Super Aguri, which made its debut in 2006, folded after four races this season after being unable to find sponsorship to meet the high costs of maintaining an F1 team.
This season marked the farewell season for Red Bull driver David Coulthard, who retired after a 15-year career. It could also have been the last season for Rubens Barrichello, the driver with the most grands prix in F1 history. He has not renewed his contract with Honda yet and, after 271 races, could be left without a ride for 2009.
His possible replacement could be the nephew of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna, Bruno Senna. He will test with Honda later this month.
Two-time world champion Alonso is yet to announce his team for next year but said the decision has already been made. After a strong finish with Renault, he is likely to stay with the French team for another year.
Next year Formula One is set to be without a race in North America after the Canadian Grand Prix was dropped because of financial matters. The French Grand Prix also was in danger, but the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was secured to make its debut as the final race of the year.


Updated : 2021-10-19 01:18 GMT+08:00