Fight to the finish
The past few seasons have witnessed some of the closest championship battles in the history of Formula 1, so we decided to go down memory lane and take a look at all the championship fights that went right down to the wire.
1950 (Giuseppe Farina vs Juan Manuel Fangio)<br><br> The 1950 season was the inaugural edition of the F1 championship and it proved to be quite a start. The championship consisted of 7 races, of which only the best four were counted towards the title. Points were given to the top 5 finishers (8, 6, 4, 3, 2) and a separate point was awarded for the fastest lap.<br><br> The Alfa Romeo's of Giuseppe Farina (2nd from left) and Juan Manuel Fangio dominated the season with 3 race wins apiece while Luigi Fagioli, driving for the same constructor, stayed close on their heels as the third contender. Going into the last race at Monza, Fangio had the upper hand as he not only led the drivers' standings but also clinched the pole position to tilt the odds further in his favour. However, a gearbox problem on lap 23 of the race ended Fangio's title hopes and in the end it was Farina who won the honour of being crowned the inaugural champion.<br><br> Farina won the deciding race to pip Fangio and Fagioli who finished 3rd in the race as well as overall. It was in fact with his triumph at Monza that Farina equalled Fangio in the number of race wins for the season. Farina won only because he had a better 4th result in a 4th place finish at the Belgian Grand Prix.
1958 (Mike Hawthorn vs Stirling Moss)<br><br> This season saw an enthralling finale but will unfortunately always be remembered more for other things. It was a season full of tragedies that saw the death of three drivers - Luigi Musso, Peter Collins and Stuart Lewis-Evans. It was also the year when 5 time champion Fangio bid adieu to F1, mid-season, after the French GP.<br><br> In the final race, to make the title his, Stirling Moss needed to win and set the fastest lap and hope that Mike Hawthorn (1st from left) finished third or lower. Moss eventually did win the race but could not prevent Hawthorn from coming in 2nd, resulting in a title triumph for the Briton, by just a point. Hawthorn won the championship despite having only 1 race win to Moss' 4.<br><br> The best 6 results from 11 were included in the final tally and Hawthorn had been the more consistent driver, having placed 2nd in 5 races. Hawthorn however, was so upset with the death of his close friend Collins, that he retired from racing the same year and the following year he himself ended up losing his life in an automobile accident.
1964 (John Surtees vs Jim Clark vs Graham Hill)<br><br> This had not two, but three drivers fighting for the coveted trophy. Defending champion Jim Clark, 1962 winner Graham Hill and Ferrari driver John Surtees (in pic) - all 3 British - had a shot at the title, going into the final race in Mexico. While Hill and Surtees had triumphed in 2 races each, Clark had emerged victorious in 3, leaving the trio with a realistic chance.<br><br> However, Hill's collision with Ferrari's Lorenzo Bandini midway ended his hope, leaving Surtees and Clark to battle it out. And just when it looked like Clark was on his way to successfully defend his title, an oil leak fizzled out his charge, forcing him to retire on the last lap.<br><br> Under orders from Ferrari, Bandini allowed his team-mate Surtees through into the second place, handing him the title by just a point over Hill. Although Hill had scored a total of 41 points, a point more than Surtees, it didn't count as only the top 6 results of the 10 races were taken into account for the championship. Meanwhile, if the oil leak had not halted Clark, the trophy would have been his.
1974 (Emerson Fittipaldi vs Clay Regazzoni)<br><br> This was the 25th F1 championship and included 15 races. Going into the season ending race, the US GP, McLaren's Emerson Fittipaldi and Ferrari's Clay Regazzoni were tied on points even though the Scuderia driver had only 1 race victory to Fittipaldi's 3.<br><br> Fittipaldi started at 8th while Regazzoni was 9th on the grid. However, it wasn't Regazzoni's day as the Swiss suffered continuous handling problems, making it difficult for him to pose a serious challenge. The Ferrari driver dropped down the field but continued to fight, that is until lap 55, 4 laps before the end, when he finally retired from the race, bringing down the curtains on his championship dream.<br><br> With Regazzoni out of the race, Fittipaldi knew he only had to finish among the points and even a 6th place would do the trick for him. The Brazilian though finished 4th to muster up more than enough points to secure the title, his 2nd, with 55 points. It gave him a 3 point win over Regazzoni. This race was also unfortunately marred by the death of Austrian driver Helmut Koinigg who crashed into a barrier on lap 9 and died on the spot.
1976 (James Hunt vs Niki Lauda)<br><br> The controversial season saw James Hunt (left) being disqualified as the winner of the Spain GP due to his Mclaren being too wide, only to be reinstated two months after, following a successful appeal. This decision proved to be quite decisive in the title chase as Hunt trailed table leader Niki Lauda by just 3 points going into the final race at the Fuji circuit in Japan.<br><br> Hunt qualified 2nd and Lauda right behind him on 3rd. However, race day witnessed heavy downpour, leading to several drivers protesting the dangerous conditions. After only the 2nd lap, Lauda came into the pits and withdrew from the race, leaving Hunt with an unexpected opponent - nature. The McLaren driver however, refused to give up and kept himself in the hunt, despite suffering severe tyre wear.<br><br> The Briton needed to finish at least 3rd to lay his hands on the trophy but he trailed in the 5th place after suffering a puncture. But, with just two laps to go, Hunt passed both Alan Jones and Clay Regazzoni, who were themselves trying to save their tyres. Hunt finally managed to cross the finish line in the 3rd place to win the championship by a lone point as only the top 7 results from the first 8 races and the best 7 from the last 8 were taken into account.
1981 (Nelson Piquet vs Carlos Reutemann)<br><br> Brabham's Nelson Piquet (right) and Williams' Carlos Reutemann (left) were separated by a single point, with the latter being in the lead, while Ligier's Jacques Laffite, 6 points adrift, was the dark horse in this championship battle that reached its climax at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Caesars Palace hosted the US GP for the first time after Watkins Glen Course, the circuit that had been the venue for the last 20 years, failed to fulfill its financial obligations.<br><br> Reutemann grabbed the pole, putting himself in a fantastic position, while Piquet qualified 4th. However, on race day, Reutemann's team-mate Alan Jones passed him in the first lap itself, followed by other drivers, and even before the end of the lap, the pole-sitter found himself in the 5th place.<br><br> Things only got worse for the title contender as he braked early while being chased by Piquet on the 17th lap, allowing the Brabham driver to finally pass him. Piquet held on to clinch the 5th spot, just enough to get the 2 points to eclipse Reutemann, who failed to score any point after finishing the race 8th, due to gear box problems. This marked the first of Piquet's three F1 titles.
1984 (Niki Lauda vs Alain Prost)<br><br> It remained a two way battle through the season as the McLarens of Niki Lauda (right) and Alain Prost (left) stayed unmatchable. But, the fight between the two got closer than anything witnessed in the past. While Prost was definitely the faster of the two, Lauda proved to be the smarter and more consistent driver.<br><br> Lauda, then 35, was a F1 veteran while Prost, six years younger was only beginning to hit his peak years. Lauda already had two titles to his credit, but none since his comeback from retirement in 1982. Prost was still searching for his first. With 66 points, Lauda led Prost by 3.5 points, going into the concluding race of the season, the Portuguese GP. The win at the Monaco GP had earned Prost only half the points as the race was stopped mid way owing to heavy rain.<br><br> The Frenchman though, got the upper hand when he qualified 2nd while Lauda trailed behind at 11th. If Prost emerged as the race winner, Lauda needed to finish 2nd to claim his 3rd title. Luckily for Lauda, this is exactly what happened as he finished 2nd to Prost, but only in the race, and claimed his 3rd and final F1 championship by the narrowest of margins, a half a point. The Austrian became only the second driver after Denny Hulme in 1967, to win the title without achieving a single pole position in the season.
1986 (Nigel Mansell vs Alain Prost vs Nelson Piquet)<br><br> This season saw Williams team-mates, Nigel Mansell (2nd from right) and Nelson Piquet (extreme right) pitted against defending champion and McLaren driver Alain Prost (2nd from left), for the championship. Mansell who led Prost by 6 and Piquet by 7 points, also took the pole position for the season-ending Australian GP. Mansell was followed by Piquet while Prost started 4th on the grid.<br><br> Mansell's lead however didn't last long as Piquet, Ayrton Senna (extreme left) and Keke Rosberg overtook him by the end of the first lap. Rosberg, competing in his final GP, took the lead a few laps into the race, but was forced to retire with a tyre puncture on lap 63. This elevated Piquet back into the front with Mansell following in 2nd. This would have been enough for Mansell to win the championship, but it wasn't to be, as his left-rear tyre exploded with only 19 laps remaining, putting an end to his contention.<br><br> Piquet meanwhile bore the brunt of a pre-cautionary decision taken by his team. Following Rosberg and Mansell's tyre failures, Williams called in Piquet for a pit stop that left him 15 second behind Prost. Piquet made a late charge but could not prevent Prost from taking the race as well as the championship by 2 points over Mansell.
1988 (Ayrton Senna vs Alain Prost)<br><br> This was again the season of McLaren as its drivers, Alain Prost (right) and Ayrton Senna (left), won all the races between them, barring the Italian GP. However, the season was anything but boring and uncompetitive. The two drivers, hungry to win at any cost, repeatedly feuded and tried everything to outdo each other.<br><br> Senna took his 13th pole of the season after a great duel with Prost, who qualified 2nd at the Adelaide Street Circuit, the venue for the last race of the season. Senna however, lost the lead early on and by lap 23 it was Prost at the front. The Frenchman drove fantastically to put in several fast laps and take a healthy lead over rival Senna, who trailed him at 2nd. With Senna battling a faulty gearbox, it became only harder for him to challenge Prost, who registered a 36 second win over the Brazilian.<br><br> Senna although did well to finish 2nd to earn 6 points and snatch the title away from his adversary, albeit controversially. Prost lost the championship despite not only winning the race but also scoring maximum points through the season, as only the best 11 of the 16 results were taken into account. Prost had a total of 105 points to Senna's 94, but only 87 to the Brazilian's 90, after the culling.
1994 (Michael Schumacher vs Damon Hill)<br><br> This season will always be remembered for the tragic death of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna and Austrian Roland Ratzenberger at the San Marino GP, than anything else. But, this was the year that kicked off F1's most successful driver Michael Schumacher's legacy. Driving for Benetton, Schumi (left) had won 8 races prior to the concluding race in Australia, while Williams' Damon Hill (right) had 6 victories to his name.<br><br> With 91 points in his kitty, Schumi led the Englishman by a single point. He also led him in the qualifying, taking the 2nd spot on the grid while Hill managed 3rd. The German grabbed the lead right at the start with Hill managing to stay right behind him. The order remained the same until lap 35, when things took an unexpected turn. <br><br> While being pursued by Hill, Schumi went off the track and hit a wall, before pulling the car back on track. He was still ahead of Hill, but, barely. Then at the next corner, Hill attempted to pass Schumacher and just when it looked like he would pull ahead, the German turned in, resulting in a collision. Schumacher retired immediately even as Hill hobbled back to the pit to try and repair the damage. But, with the car's front left suspension wishbone suffering heavy damage, Hill also had to retire, gifting Schumi his first F1 title. The triumph however, didn't win Schumi many fans as it became the most controversial win in the history of the sport.
1999 (Mika Hakkinen vs Eddie Irvine)<br><br> With Michael Schumacher out of the equation with a broken leg midway through the season, it essentialy became a two-way battle between McLaren's Mika Hakkinen (right) and Ferrari's Eddie Irvine (left). Schumi was however back for the last 2 races and was the pole-sitter for the Japanese GP, the race that was to bring down the curtains on the season, the 50th for the sport.<br><br> Hakkinen took the 2nd spot while Ervine, who was leading the drivers' standings by 4 points, was back at 5th. Hakkinen overtook Schumacher at the start of the race and barring a brief exchange of positions with the German after the pit stops, the Finn maintained his lead.<br><br> Irvine had no such luck. After making his pit stop, the Ferrari driver was overtaken by Hakkinen's McLaren team-mate David Coulthard who slowed his pace and held Irvine up. Although Coulthard spun off and crashed out on the 39th lap, by then it was too late for Irvine to catch up. Hakkinen won the race and with Irvine finishing only 3rd, the Finn also won the championship by 2 points, to claim his 2nd successive title.
2007 (Kimi Raikkonen vs Lewis Hamilton vs Fernando Alonso)<br><br> This season was rocked by the spygate scandal that saw McLaren stripped off all its points in the Constructors' standings. Its two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, were however, allowed to keep their points and both played a thrilling role in the championship battle along with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.<br><br> Before the last race at Brazil, Hamilton on 107 points, was 4 points ahead of Alonso and 7 ahead of Raikkonen. The Briton qualified 2nd, behind Ferrari's other driver, Felipe Massa, while Raikkonen and Alonso were placed 3rd and 4th respectively, setting the perfect platform for a gripping finale.<br><br> Right at the start of the race, Raikkonen passed Hamilton who was soon also passed by Alonso. Shortly after, Hamilton suffered a gear box problem which caused him to drop down to the 18th spot. The rookie driver although, fought hard and recovered well to finish 7th, but in the end that didn't prove to be sufficient. The Ferraris' were the faster cars on the day and the Scuderia duo never came under serious pressure from Alonso or the rest of the pack. Raikkonen crossed the chequered flag in the first place to seal the F1 title by a single point over Hamilton and Alonso, who finished 3rd, in the race as well as the championship.
2008 (Lewis Hamilton vs Felipe Massa)<br><br> After being in the shadow of Michael Schumacher and then Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari's Felipe Massa (left) finally came into his own during this season. On the other hand, after missing out on the F1 title by just a point in the previous season, Lewis Hamilton (right) looked even more determined and kept himself in contention through the year. Heading into the season-ending Brazilian GP, Hamilton had collected 94 points to Massa's 87 and even a 5th place finish would guarantee the McLaren driver the title. Although in the event of a tie of total points, Massa would secure the championship on account of more race wins.<br><br> In the qualifying, the Ferrari driver clinched his 6th pole of the season, while Hamilton who was nearly half a second slower, managed 4th. On D-day, intermittent rain made the already interesting clash even more exciting. It began to pour even before the start and by the end of the first lap, the safety car had been deployed due to two separate accidents involving David Coulthard and Nelson Piquet Jr. Massa however maintained his lead for most part of the race and by lap 54 extended his advantage over 2nd placed Fernando Alonso to 9.4 seconds.<br><br> Meanwhile, Hamilton, trailing at the 6th place, pushed hard, but could not find a way past Sebastian Vettel and Timo Glock. The Ferrari camp's joy knew no bounds when Massa crossed the chequered flag in the first place. But their celebrations were cut short and forced to end just as pre-maturely as they had begun. Glock who had stuck to his dry-weather tyres after it started to rain for the 2nd time on lap 63, struggled with his grip as his dry-weather tyres slid on the wet track. Owing to this, Hamilton finally passed Glock on the last corner to finish 5th and win the coveted prize in only his 2nd season.
2010 (Sebastian Vettel vs Mark Webber vs Fernando Alonso)<br><br> It was the season of the return of Michael Schumacher from retirement, albeit with a team other than Ferrari, the Mercedes GP. The points system had also undergone changes to make it more competitive, with the winner getting 25 points, 7 more than the man coming in 2nd.<br><br> Ferrari's Fernando Alonso led the chart with 246 points, 8 ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber and 15 more than Sebastian Vettel (left), prior to the finale race at Abu Dhabi. McLaren man Lewis Hamilton, 24 points adrift of Alonso, also had an outside chance. Vettel claimed his 10th pole of the season, becoming only the 7th driver in the history of F1, to achieve this feat. He was followed by Hamilton, Alonso, Jenson Button and Webber in the starting line-up.<br><br> The Red Bulls had been very quick the whole season and this day was no different. Vettel drove a smooth race without facing too much of heat and eased to a comfortable win, while his rivals struggled and battled it out with one another. Vettel's team-mate Webber, who had led the championship and had had the edge most of the year, fell short when it mattered the most. He could only manage 8th, just behind title rival Alonso whose own 7th place was not good enough to win the prestigious prize. As a result, Vettel secured the title to become F1's youngest ever champion.