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Raikkonen Wins Dramatic Japanese Grand Prix

Kimi Raikkonen drove from 17th on the grid this afternoon, to win the penultimate race of the season at an eventful and extraordinary Japanese Grand Prix. Joining the Finn on the podium were the two Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella. The seven times World Champion, Michael Schumacher, drove from 16th on the grid to take home a hard earned 2 points. Having qualified in 9th position, Rubens Barrichello had to be content with 12th after an unfortunate first lap incident. The Brazilian was subsequently promoted to P11 following Jacques Villeneuve’s post race penalty for causing Juan Pablo Montoya’s crash.

'A totally awesome race to watch from a spectator point of view, this is what Formula One should be about ', said Mike Copson of Shell Global Solutions. 'A great drive from Kimi and a good solid defensive drive from Michael, further strengthening our position in the Constructors' Championship. It was a fault free weekend from Shell's side and we are looking forward to China and putting in a good performance there next weekend.'

Last year's Japanese Grand Prix was almost washed out by Typhoon Ma-On, but this year the Japanese fans had a lot to cheer about when their two home constructors took the front row on the grid. In a qualifying session that was reminiscent of the season opener in Melbourne, a rain storm resulted in an unpredictable and up side down grid. Ralf Schumacher had luck on his side and took his first pole position for Toyota, just ahead of Englishman Jenson Button. Giancarlo Fisichella took the third spot with a fortunate Christian Klein just behind him. The Ferrari cars were less successful, with Rubens Barrichello sliding round to take P9 and Michael Schumacher doing the best he could in the soggy conditions to take P14.

Crucially for the Constructors' Championship, new World Champion Fernando Alonso would start from 16th with both McLarens behind him still. But with the weather and not the teams running the show; anything was possible for race day.

The paddock finally stopped holding their breath on Sunday morning when the clouds cleared and it became evident a dry and warm race lay head. With McLaren needing good finishes to win the Constructors' Championship, Renault keen to add another title to their wall, and Toyota needing to finish well to spearhead their assault on Ferrari in the Constructors', the opening laps were very fraught indeed.

Ralf Schumacher got off the line well to lead the pack in to the first corner, traditionally there is a lot of action here and this afternoon's race was no exception. Barrichello and home hero Takuma Sato both ran wide on to the gravel with Juan Pablo Montoya crashing in to the wall only moments later. A trip to the pits for a new tyre was to follow for the Brazilian and as the safety car was deployed to clear away the stricken McLaren, the teams all took stock.

Michael Schumacher had made a flying start to show his undisputed class and move up seven places to take 7th and, not content with this when the restart came, the German pushed harder to take the Red Bull of Christian Klein for 6th. The corners and combinations of the track proved too challenging for some drivers with Antonio Pizzonia and Jarno Trulli both out by lap 11.

Giancarlo Fisichella picked up the lead when Ralf Schumacher dived in to the Toyota pit early in the race. Meanwhile, Raikkonen was making up ground in the mid field to occupy 9th by lap 15. As the Finn closed in on Alonso, a scrap between Michael Schumacher and the Spaniard was developing. The 155,000 Japanese fans were soon treated to several laps of wheel to wheel racing with this highly demanding circuit living up to its reputation. Alonso finally took the German on the outside of130R to leave him suffering from the unwanted attention of Raikkonen.

Try as the McLaren driver could he was unable to take the Ferrari driver. Heavily fuelled, they both stayed out and as fuel levels dropped lower, they were amongst the fastest cars on the track. In fact, when Michael eventually pitted on lap 25, at the same time as Raikkonen, he exited ahead of the McLaren and the Renault of Alonso to take 4th. At the sharp end Fisichella now led Button, Webber, Michael Schumacher, Raikkonen and Alonso.

And so it began again, with 21 laps to go, Alonso finally managed to pass Schumacher for the second time this afternoon with Raikkonen having done so two laps prior. As the final pit stops came and went, Button lost his second place to Webber with Alonso squeezing through just one lap later. Meanwhile Kimi Raikkonen, yet to make his second stop and now leading the race, became the fastest man on the track.

As the race neared its close, Alonso took Webber for 3rd and Raikkonen began to stalk Fisichella for the race lead. A classic finish in Suzuka became inevitable and with Raikkonen taking the lead with just one lap to go the Japanese Grand Prix proved to be one of the most dramatic of the season so far.

Raikkonen won, ahead of Fisichella and Alonso who joined him on the podium. Webber drove well to take five points for Williams ahead of Button and Coulthard with Michael Schumacher and Ralf Schumacher taking the last two points scoring positions.

The Drivers' Championship may have been settled, but the first two positions in the Constructors' are far from firm. For Toyota, the dream of coming third in the Constructors' Championship is over; they cannot mathematically beat Ferrari in China.

With Renault now leading McLaren by just two points, the best championship in the world moves to its finale in China in seven days times. With the teams so close still, no one least of all the drivers, can afford to rest on their laurels.