Which was F1’s best down-to-the-wire title fight? | Debates and Polls

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For the 30th time in 71 seasons of the Formula 1 world championship, the drivers’ title was decided in the very final race of the season.

But what was F1’s best ever final showdown? Recap all thirty of the final race title deciders below and then let us know which one you feel was the best climax seen in a Formula 1 season.

1950: Fangio vs Fagioli vs Farina

The first world championship produces the first title showdown at Monza. Fangio needs a win or second place to become the inaugural world champion, but Fangio retires twice in two separate cars, opening the door for Farina who takes the win and the first ever world title.

1951: Fangio vs Ascari vs Gonzalez

The next year, another threeway showdown for the title at the season-ending Spanish Grand Prix around the streets of Barcelona. Going into the final round with the lead, Fangio holds off Ferrari’s Jose Froilan Gonzalez to take the chequered flag and secure his first of five titles.

Juan Manuel Fangio was in F1’s first three showdowns

1956: Fangio vs Collins

Peter Collins has the chance to win the world championship for himself in the final round in Monza, but when Fangio retires with steering problems and Ferrari team mate Luigi Musso refuses to hand his car over to the Argentinian, Collins sacrifices his own title chances to gift his car to Fangio. Stirling Moss wins the race for Maserati, while Fangio secures title number four in second.

1958: Hawthorn vs Moss

The Moroccan Grand Prix will decide which British driver – Mike Hawthorn or Stirling Moss – will take the title. With an eight point lead and fewer DNFs through the season, Hawthorn holds a keen advantage. Hawthorn takes pole but Moss takes first at the start and leads every lap to win. But Hawthorn’s second place is enough for him to take the title by one point after dropped results.

1959: Brabham vs Moss vs Brooks

The season finale at Sebring will decide the championship between Moss, Jack Brabham and Tony Brooks. Brabham has the edge, with Brooks needing the most fortune to claim the crown. Moss takes pole and leads the first five laps, but transmission problems ends his championship hopes. Brooks takes third but Brabham’s fourth place secures the Australian’s first world championship. New Zealand driver Bruce McLaren takes his first grand prix victory by winning the race.

Graham Hill, Lotus, Zandvoort, 1967 Graham Hill won two deciders and lost a third

1962: Graham Hill vs Clark

The South African Grand Prix is the scene of the first title showdown of the Sixties. Hill is ahead on points, but thanks to the dropped results system, all Clark needs to secure the championship is a win. Clark gives himself the best possible chance, leading Hill from pole for the first 61 laps. Then an oil leak on his Climax engine forces him to retire and gifts the win and the title to Hill.

1964: Graham Hill vs Surtees vs Clark

Graham Hill has a strong chance of taking his second title heading into the Mexican Grand Prix. Former Motorcycle Grand Prix world champion John Surtees is in hot pursuit in the Ferrari with reigning champion Jim Clark holding an outside chance in third. Clark takes pole and leads most of the race. Hill was hit by Lorenzo Bandini’s Ferrari, damaging Hill’s BRM and allowing Surtees through. Then another engine problem takes Clark out of the lead, allowing Surtees into second where he would finish, taking the title by one point and becoming the only person to win both the MotoGP and F1 world championships.

1967: Hulme vs Brabham

The 1967 world championship comes down to a duel between Jack Brabham and his team mate, Denny Hulme, within the team Brabham himself owns. The gap is just five points after Hulme had finished ahead of Brabham at Watkins Glen, with Brabham starting in front of Hulme on the third row of the grid in Mexico. Jim Clark leads from pole as the Brabham cars move up the order. Clark wins, but Brabham’s second place is not enough to deny his team mate the world championship in third.

1968: Graham Hill vs Stewart vs Hulme

Hill is in the hunt for the title in a showdown for the third time, with Jackie Stewart challenging him in the Matra and champion Hulme in with a shout after two late season wins in a row. Hill takes to the front at the start in Mexico City and trades the lead with Stewart over the opening laps. Hulme’s hopes are dashed by suspension failure on lap ten, as Hill and Stewart continue to duel out front. Then a series of car problems late in the race slow Stewart and drop him through the field, allowing Hill to take the win and his second world title.

1974: Fittipaldi vs Regazzoni vs Scheckter

The 1974 season sees two drivers locked together on points at the top of the standings for the first time ever, with Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni both on 52 with Jody Scheckter within reach in third heading to Watkins Glen. Scheckter starts six, ahead of Fittipaldi in eighth and Regazzoni ninth. Handling problems leaving Regazzoni struggling for any pace, as Scheckter retires from fourth. Fittipaldi finishes in fourth place to claim his second title.

James Hunt, 1976 James Hunt took the title in Japan in 1976

1976: Lauda vs Hunt

Reigning champion Niki Lauda survives a horrific accident at the Nurburgring that almost kills the Ferrari driver. McLaren’s James Hunt takes a series of late wins to sit within three points of Lauda at the final race in Fuji. Torrential rain makes the circuit conditions incredibly dangerous with many drivers feeling it is not safe enough to race. The race begins anyway, with Lauda choosing to withdrawn, rather than risk the life he so nearly lost earlier in the year. Hunt fights through the spray and fog to take third place and a famous world championship victory.

1981: Reutemann vs Piquet vs Laffite

The atrocious Caesars Palace car park circuit is the venue for the 1981 showdown. Carlos Reutemann leads Nelson Piquet by a single point, with Jacques Laffite in contention in third. Piquet passes Reutemann on lap 17 after the Williams brakes so early into the final corner that Piquet believes it was an attempt to take him out. Gearbox troubles see Reutemann drop down the field and Piquet fights through exhaustion to finish fifth and take his first world title.

1982: Rosberg vs Watson

Didier Pironi leads the 1982 world championship before a horrible crash at Hockenheim ends his F1 career through injury. That leaves Keke Rosberg and John Watson to battle it out for the title at Caesars Palace once again. Chasing down a nine point deficit, the odds are against Watson. The McLaren driver’s best efforts are good enough for second place, but it’s not enough to deny Rosberg and Williams the world championship.

1983: Piquet vs Prost vs Arnoux

Alain Prost leads Nelson Piquet by just two points heading into the final round in Kyalami. Piquet jumps from second on the grid to take the lead of the race at the start as Rene Arnoux’s slim hopes for the title fade after engine failure on lap nine. Prost retires from third with turbo failure midway through the race, meaning Piquet just needs to finish fourth to win the title. He backs off and crosses the line in third to claim his second world championship.

1984: Lauda vs Prost

A resurgent Niki Lauda and McLaren hold a 3.5 point advantage over Prost heading into the 16th and final race at Estoril. Prost lines up second, with Lauda only 11th on the grid. Rosberg takes the lead at the start but hits early engine trouble, dropping down the field and allowing Prost into the lead, which he never relinquishes. Lauda gradually makes his way through the field and up to second place, holding on to deny Prost his first world title and secure his third and final championship by half a point.

1986: Mansell vs Piquet vs Prost

Adelaide’s second grand prix sees it hold its first decider in a threeway battle between Piquet, Prost and Nigel Mansell. The British driver leads by six points. The three contenders are running line astern on lap 63 when leader Rosberg is eliminated with a puncture, moving Piquet to the lead and Mansell to a championship-winning second place. The next lap, Mansell suffers a major tyre failure that pitches him out of the race. Williams pit Piquet, handing Prost the lead. Prost holds on to take the win and the title, successfully defending his championship.

Michael Schumacher collides with Damon Hill, Adelaide, 1994 Michael Schumacher collides with Damon Hill, Adelaide, 1994

1994: Schumacher vs Hill

A contentious season-long duel between Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill reaches a dramatic climax in Adelaide. Schumacher holds the points advantage and the early lead with Hill in second. Mid way through the race, Schumacher runs off the track entering Flinders’ Street and hits the wall. Hill sees the Benetton in trouble and dives to the inside of the next right hander, the two rivals colliding and sending Schumacher into the air and the barriers, out of the race. Hill recovers to the pits but the damage to his suspension cannot be fixed and he is forced to retire, meaning Schumacher takes his first of seven titles.

1996: Damon Hill vs Villeneuve

The 1996 world championship is an exclusive contest between the Williams drivers of Hill and rookie Jacques Villeneuve. Hill is significantly ahead on points as they arrive in Suzuka, but Villenueve takes pole position. Hill takes the lead at the start as Villeneuve drops to fifth. A loose rear wheel flies off Villeneuve’s car on lap 37, sending him out of the race and securing the title for Hill, who goes on to win the race.

1997: Schumacher vs Villeneuve

Schumacher is within touching distance of his first world title for Ferrari and leads Villeneuve by a point heading to the European Grand Prix at Jerez. The two contenders occupy the front row after posting identical qualifying times. Schumacher leads the early stages, with Villeneuve chasing behind. Ferrari pit Schumacher first, with Villeneuve attacking hard after he pits for fresh tyres. Approaching the Curva Dry Sac on lap 43, Villeneuve dives inside his rival but Schumacher forcefully hits the side of the Williams. The Ferrari ends up in the gravel out of the race, as Villeneuve continues in a wounded Williams. Needing only to finish fifth to take the title, Villeneuve allows both McLarens of David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen through into first and second and crosses the line in third to take the title. Schumacher is retroactively disqualified from the 1997 championship for his actions.

1998: Hakkinen vs Schumacher

McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen has been locked in a battle with Schumacher throughout the 1998 season. With a four point deficit at the last race in Suzuka, Schumacher’s hopes suffer a major blow when he stalls from pole position at the start, relegating him to the back of the grid. Hakkinen leads from the start as Schumacher recovers from the rear up to third, before a tyre failure caused by debris puts an end to his championship challenge. Hakkinen wins the race to take his first of two titles.

1999: Irvine vs Hakkinen

Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine has a four point advantage over reigning champion Hakkinen at Suzuka. Schumacher has returned from injury and taken pole position, but gets a poor getaway and Hakkinen sprints into the lead. Irvine struggles to match the pace of his team mate, let alone Hakkinen’s, and has to settle for third, far, far from Schumacher and Hakkinen ahead, who dominates the race to successfully defend his world title.

2003: Schumacher vs Raikkonen

Schumacher looks to secure his unprecedented sixth title – and fourth in a row – against young McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen. Schumacher holds a strong nine point lead, but a rain-interrupted qualifying sees the contenders start eighth for Raikkonen with Schumacher 14th. All Schumacher needs is one point in with eighth, but his job is made more difficult after losing his front wing following contact with Takuma Sato. A close encounter with brother Ralf Schumacher sees him narrowly avoid further damage. Raikkonen moves up to second but cannot catch the leading Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello who wins the race and confirms a sixth title for Schumacher.

2006: Alonso vs Schumacher

Schumacher has a chance to take an eighth crown at Interlagos in what has been announced to be his final grand prix. But he needs incredible fortune if he is to do so, needing to win the race with Renault’s Fernando Alonso failing to score points. Schumacher’s difficult task becomes even harder when a fuel pressure problem in Q3 sees him unable to set a time, dooming him to tenth on the grid. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa leads almost the entire race from pole, with Alonso a distant second, absorbing pressure from Jenson Button. Alonso crosses the line and secures his second consecutive world championship as Schumacher recovers to finish fourth.

Kimi Raikkonen won arguably the closest championship in 2007

2007: Hamilton vs Alonso vs Raikkonen

The closest ever threeway title decider sees McLaren rookie sensation Lewis Hamilton hold a stunning lead in the championship at Interlagos ahead of team mate Alonso and Raikkonen third, seven points behind. Massa leads Ferrari team mate Raikkonen at the start, as Hamilton falls to eighth after a messy first lap. On lap 8, Hamilton’s McLaren suddenly falls into neutral, dropping him down to 18th. Alonso in third cannot challenge the Ferraris ahead, as Raikkonen takes the lead in the final stint and takes the chequered flag to take his only world championship, just one point behind the two McLaren drivers who finish equal on points.

2008: Hamilton vs Massa

Hamilton looks to have a strong chance of taking his first world championship in Brazil after a commanding win in China. But rain plays a wildcard role as Massa leads from pole. Hamilton is safe in fourth, until a late rain shower sees the leaders pit for intermediate tyres while a number of cars stay out to risk it on dry tyres. Hamilton slips down to sixth with only a couple of laps remaining, taking him out of championship-winning position. Massa duly wins the race, but the rain falls harder, allowing Hamilton to catch and pass Timo Glock’s dry-laden Toyota on the last corner of the last lap, moving him to the fifth place he needs to claim his first of seven world titles.

2010: Alonso vs Webber vs Vettel vs Hamilton

The only four-way championship showdown in F1 history sees Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso fighting Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, with Hamilton in contention in fourth. Vettel takes pole and leads from the start, but an early safety car allows a number of drivers to make their single stops early. When Ferrari pit Alonso, he resumes behind Vitaly Petrov’s Renault, who had switched to harder tyres under the safety car. Around the dire Yas Marina circuit, Alonso spends the remaining 39 laps unable to find a way past Petrov, ultimately crossing the line in seventh place. Vettel’s win is enough to see him clinch the title by four points and become the youngest ever champion.

2012: Vettel vs Alonso

Fernando Alonso somehow keeps his hopes of a third world championship alive heading into the final race in Interlagos, with Vettel holding the lead. Vettel is caught up in a melee at the Subida do Lago corner making heavy contact with Bruno Senna’s Williams and dropping to the rear of the field. Another light shower makes conditions treacherous but allows Vettel to recover back up to sixth place. With Alonso unable to catch and pass Jenson Button for the lead of the race, Vettel crosses the line in sixth to take his third successive world title.

2014: Hamilton vs Rosberg

A season long battle in the first year of the V6 turbo era sees the championship come down to the dominant Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. A quirk in the rules means the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will award double points, which could prove beneficial to polesitter Rosberg. Hamilton takes the lead at the start with Rosberg chasing, until he loses ERS power on his car halfway through the race. Hamilton is untroubled out front and takes a comfortable win to secure his second world championship as Rosberg fades down the field to finish 14th.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2021 Max Verstappen won the title in the most controversial circumstances

2016: Rosberg vs Hamilton

Rosberg’s second opportunity to win a championship against his Mercedes team mate sees him go into the final round with the points lead. Hamilton leads the race from the start, but Rosberg is safe in the knowledge that second will secure him the title. As the Ferrari of Vettel and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen close up to the two Mercedes, Hamilton deliberately slows off the pace to try and back Rosberg into the clutches of the cars behind. Rosberg repels Vettel’s pressure and holds on to finish second and take the world championship, before promptly retiring from the sport.

2021: Verstappen vs Hamilton

At the end of a 21 race marathon battle between Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, the pair are on equal points heading to Abu Dhabi. Verstappen takes pole, but Hamilton gets the better start and takes the lead. Hamilton appears to have the pace advantage over Verstappen, only losing ground to the Red Bull thanks to the defensive efforts of Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez. A late safety car allows Verstappen to pit for fresh tyres while Hamilton stays out. Race control announce lapped cars will not be allowed to unlap themselves, before then announcing that they will a lap later. Only five cars between leader Hamilton and Verstappen are permitted to overtake the safety car, with the race restarting on the 58th and final lap. Verstappen uses his fresh tyres to dive past Hamilton into turn five and hold off the Mercedes’ best efforts to fight back. Verstappen takes the chequered flag to win and snatch the world championship in highly controversial circumstances.

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