SHANGHAI, China – Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari won the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday and Lewis Hamilton of McLaren missed his chance to clinch the drivers’ title by spinning out entering the pits.
Fernando Alonso of McLaren was second and Felipe Massa of Ferrari finished third.
Hamilton ran off the track and into a gravel trap while entering pit lane after 31 laps.
“I haven’t made a mistake all year, but I am over it now,” Hamilton said. “There is still one race to go so, I can still do it. I will now focus on attacking in Brazil, where I will do everything I can to bounce back.”
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The championship will go down to the final race in Brazil on Oct. 21 with three drivers capable of winning the title. Hamilton has 107 points, Alonso has 103 and Raikkonen 100. A win is worth 10 points and second is worth eight.
It will be the first time since 1986 that three drivers have a chance to win the title in the last race.
Raikkonen earned his fifth win of the season. Alonso and Hamilton have four each. If there is a tie, the number of victories will break the tie. After that, the number of seconds will be counted.
Hamilton failed to finish a race for the first time this season. Alonso and Raikkonen acknowledged the young Briton remained the favorite to win the title.
“Lewis will be very focused in Brazil, Alonso said. “He has the capacity to do well in Brazil. Everything is looking good for him. For the championship, I still need something dramatic to win. “ Raikkonen would need even more unusual circumstances to clinch the title in Brazil, but was buoyed by Sunday’s victory.
“We just have to win the race and see what happens to the others,” Raikkonen said. “We saw today anything can happen. We are just in a better position than we came here but still it will be difficult.”
Hamilton started from pole knowing he only needed to finish ahead of Alonso to become the first rookie to win the drivers’ title, but rain began to fall just as the drivers began the warm-up formation lap.
Eight laps into the race it stopped raining and a dry line emerged on the track. By that time Hamilton was leading, more than five seconds ahead of Raikkonen and nine up on Massa. Alonso was 11 seconds back.
Hamilton was the first to pit after 15 laps, giving Raikkonen the lead for four laps. Raikkonen managed some fast laps with clear track in front of him, and by the time the Finn had emerged from his own pit stop, Hamilton’s lead was down to four seconds.
Rain began to fall again, and Hamilton was having difficulty controlling his car on deteriorating wet-weather tires, allowing Raikkonen to close onto his tail.
By the 28th lap they were wheel-to-wheel. Hamilton fended off two passing attempts, but Raikkonen got by on the third.
Just three laps later, Hamilton’s race was finished.
He was coming into the pits to change to dry-weather tires, attempted to take the mild turn into the pit lane at speed, but lost traction and left the tarmac after twice trying to correct.
The McLaren car slid into a gravel trap near the pitlane entrance. He remained in his car trying to get some bite from his tires or a push from the Chinese race attendants but eventually accepted his fate and calmly made his way back to the garage.
“Although my tires were in poor condition, we took a joint decision to get through the last rain shower before changing to dry tires,” Hamilton said. “I was trying to be careful, and as a result was not really fighting aggressively with Kimi. I would have worked out perfectly but I then made a mistake coming into the pit lane and that was it.
“We made the right decision, and I was just unfortunate.”
With Hamilton out of the race, Raikkonen continued in the lead, followed by Alonso.
Raikkonen was eight seconds ahead at the start of the 35th lap, and he maintained that buffer the rest of the way as the rain held off.
Sebastian Vettel of Toro Rosso finished fourth, Jenson Button of Honda was fifth, followed by Vitantoni Liuzzi of Toro Rosso in sixth.
In 1986, drivers Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell went into the final race of the season in Adelaide, Australia, capable of winning the title. Mansell held a seven-point buffer going into the race, but retired after a spectacular tire failure, allowing Prost to win the crown.