Fernando Alonso becomes Formula One’s youngest ever world champion while Juan Pablo Montoya claims an empty victory for McLaren in the Brazilian Grand Prix…
Spaniard Alonso, 24, was outclassed as Montoya led team-mate Kimi Raikkonen home to score McLaren’s first one-two in more than five years but the Renault driver did enough to secure the six points needed for the championship trophy.
"I am extremely happy and it is a big day for me. I did a good race, I thought we would fight McLaren but it was not possible," said Alonso, who had started on pole for Sunday’s race.
"It was a very long race for me, obviously. I thought about the championship from the first lap. This is the maximum I can achieve in my life."
Alonso has been a model of consistency this year and he absorbed the pressure with ease to finally end the five-year reign of outgoing world champion Michael Schumacher and Ferrari.
McLaren, however, proved they are the top team with an impeccable performance that boosted their hopes of beating Renault to the constructors’ trophy as they eased ahead by two points with two races to go.
"It has been a fantastic championship and Fernando is a fantastic champion," said Renault team boss Flavio Briatore.
"We have been fighting to the end and he has done the best for the performance we have at this moment. He has been so consistent this year. His one mistake was in Canada and other than that he has been fantastic. He is terrific."
Raikkonen said: "All weekend it has been a bit difficult. We knew winning the drivers’ championship was going to be difficult. It was supposed to happen and it did here, so congratulations to him. "I was not quick enough in the early part of the race and also after the first stop I was not quick enough."
His Colombian teammate Montoya was happy to celebrate his victory in what is the closest race to his home and he is ready to help McLaren fight all the way to the constructors’ title as the season heads to the Far East for the final two races of the season in China and Japan.
It was Montoya’s second consecutive win in Brazil. "It was a lot of fun, a big fight with Kimi all day long and it was not easy, especially after the second stop, but it was just close enough," he said.
"I think finally we got a one-two we have deserved since the beginning of the year."
Montoya was never challenged on his way to his third victory of the season but Raikkonen came home seconds behind already sure that his slim hopes of chasing down Alonso for the title were over. It was an easy victory for McLaren, who were thankful the threatening clouds over the Sao Paulo circuit never broke, but Raikkonen was left rueing a lack of consistency for costing him the title.
Alonso made a clean getaway from pole to lead Montoya into the first corner but there was carnage behind when Antonio Pizzonia collided with David Coulthard’s Red Bull and was spun into his Williams team-mate Mark Webber.
Pizzonia and Coulthard retired with Webber coming in for repairs as the safety car was deployed due to debris on the track and when it came back in at the start of lap three Alonso stayed ahead of Montoya into the first corner.
But the Colombian was not waiting around and he stole the lead on the run up to the fourth turn then raced into the distance while Alonso fended off the challenge of championship rival Raikkonen.
Alonso made his first stop some nine laps earlier than Raikkonen and the Finn used that time to jump past the Renault driver and into second place with Fisichella losing out to Michael Schumacher in the stops and dropping to fifth.
Button and Barrichello, who will be team-mates at BAR-Honda next year, provided the entertainment in the middle of the race as they battled for sixth place, Barrichello eventually easing past in a slick move at turn one on lap 44.
Montoya stayed ahead of Raikkonen through the second set of stops and the McLaren pair eased home to take the victory as Alonso pumped his fist in his championship glory.
German Michael Schumacher, who relinquished his crown when he dropped out of the title race in Italy earlier this month, appropriately followed the new wave of drivers home in fourth place for Ferrari.
Italian Giancarlo Fisichella finished fifth for Renault with Brazil’s Barrichello pleasing his home crowds with a sixth place finish in his last home race for Ferrari. Briton Jenson Button was a disappointing seventh after improvements to his BAR-Honda car failed to push him higher up the field, and Ralf Schumacher brought home the final point for Toyota.
But it was Alonso’s day as the Spaniard, who took the lead in the title race back in March and has never given it up, took a composed approach and came home with the crown.