Published on November 23rd, 2016 | by Shannon Gambling
Top five F1 championship finales
This weekend sees the climax to another thrilling Formula One season, with Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton going head to head for the World Drivers’ Championship.
For the second time in three years, Rosberg and Hamilton head the pack going into the Abu Dhabi finale.
This time, it’s Rosberg who is the clear favourite, given his 12-point lead – but there are still several ways Hamilton could come from behind to snatch the title from his team-mate.
Rosberg will win the 2016 crown if he finishes on the podium. Hamilton must finish within the top four to stand any chance of snatching the championship – but even then he needs a helping hand from his German rival.
The title has been won in the final race of the year 28 times in the 66 seasons it has been awarded.
Elephant Sport selects its top five final-race championship deciders; many British motorsport fans will be hoping that this weekend’s finale will be added to the list.
1984: Niki Lauda wins by the finest of margins
The 1984 season came to a dramatic conclusion in the final round at Estoril, Portugal.
The campaign was dominated by McLaren drivers Niki Lauda and Alain Prost.
Frenchman Prost had won seven races to Lauda’s five, but Lauda eventually prevailed by half a point – the smallest margin in F1 history.
Prost qualified second, Lauda 11th. There were shirts and posters already printed that stated “Prost: 1984 World Champion”; but Austria’s Lauda proved them wrong by climbing up to third.
Prost moved up to first and led most of the race, with Nigel Mansell in second in his last race for Lotus before moving to Williams. Mansell retired due to persistent brake problems, Lauda duly moved up to second- ensuring his third drivers crown.
1986: Heartbreak for Nigel Mansell
Three drivers stood a chance of claiming the drivers’ championship in the 1986 season finale in Australia.
Mansell, with 70 points, needed at least third place to beat Prost, who had 64. Nelson Piquet had 63 points going into the final race.
Mclaren’s Keke Rosberg initially led Piquet, with Prost third ahead of Mansell.
The turning point in the race came on lap 32, a blessing in disguise for Prost. The Frenchman’s right front tyre punctured forcing him to make a pitstop, and he returned to the track in fourth.
It looked as though Prost’s race was ruined, but it eventually proved key to him winning. Goodyear technicians inspected his punctured tyre and saw that it was actually in good condition.
The technicians informed the other teams that they could reach the end of the race, without needing to stop to fit fresh tyres.
But on lap 63, race leader Rosberg retired with a tyre de-lamination; the compound tyres were not lasting the race.
With the McLaren gone there was one less car standing between Mansell and the title, and it mattered not that Prost had passed him, leaving the Briton third once again.
Mansell was on lap 64 of 82, when, cruising down the main straight, his left-rear tyre exploded and a shower of sparks burst from the rear of his car.
His catastrophic exit remains one of F1’s most enduring images, and it left Piquet leading from Prost.
The Brazilian on the verge of winning the championship, but there was no hesitation in bringing him in for fresh tyres.
That left Prost in the lead, thanks to his early pitstop. Luck was definitely on his side that day as he secured a second drivers championship.
1994 & 1997: Schumacher madness
Two similar incidents occurred in the final races of both the 1994 and 1997 seasons to determine the world whampion, both involving Michael Schumacher.
1994 saw Schumacher pip Damon Hill to the title by one point in the last race of the season (Australia).
On lap 35, Hill was right behind the German, who led, when he saw his chance to pass. As Hill’s Williams drew alongside the Benetton, Schumacher appeared to turn in aggressively and there was contact between the two cars.
The Benetton was damaged badly enough to mean immediate retirement. Hill’s car initially appeared to be okay but soon he was also back in the pits and out of the race.
This left Schumacher champion on 92 points, with Hill on 91. The controversy and speculation was furthered when ‘Schumi’ attempted the same trick to win the 1997 title.
Unfortunately for the German, it backfired.
On lap 48 of the season finale at Jerez, championship rival Jacques Villeneuve was catching Schumacher and attempted to overtake.
The Canadian had the inside line and was slightly ahead when Schumacher turned into him, his front right wheel connecting with the side of the Williams car.
Schumacher had ended his own race but Villeneuve was able to continue and went pn to take third place – enough to win the championship.
The German was later punished by for causing an avoidable accident and was disqualified from the 1997 championship.
2008: Hamilton’s last-corner victory
The 2008 finale in Brazil was one of the most dramatic yet, fought out in wet conditions between Hamilton (McLaren) and Felipe Massa (Ferrari).
Hamilton led by seven points going into the final round. A maximum of ten were available for thewinner, which meant that Massa could win the title if Hamilton finished sixth or lower.
A late-race rain shower looked to have cost Hamilton the title when he dropped to sixth after a stop for wet tyres.
Massa had won the race and prematurely began his celebrations.
But Hamilton managed to pass Toyota’s Timo Glock quite literally on the last corner of the last lap, to finish in fifth and clinch his first world title.
2010: Four-way showdown in the dessert
In 2010 as many as five drivers from three teams were in contention for the title. At different points in the season Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull all seemed to have the car to beat.
Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso all went to the final race in Abu Dhabi still with a chance of taking the drivers crown.
Hamilton was an outsider in the McLaren with team-mate Jenson Button’s title hopes slipping away before the campaign’s climax in the desert.
Vettel drove a masterful race in the Red Bull to win and lift his maiden F1 title.
The German was third in the standings prior to the race but led from pole and saw other outcomes go his way to become F1’s youngest champion.
Ferrari’s championship leader Alonso came seventh after a poor pitstop strategy saw him stuck behind Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, and the same fate befell Webber (Red Bull) who finished eighth.
Hamilton, who had a slim title chance, finished second but it wasn’t enough. It was a dramatic end to an enthralling season and gave Red Bull their first drivers’ title.
The final standings had Vettel top on 256 points, four clear of Alonso, 14 above third-place Webber and 16 in front of Hamilton in fourth.
Overall, 32 different drivers have won the F1 drivers title, with Schumacher holding the record with seven.
Rosberg will be hoping to become No.33 by winning his first championship this weekend.
The current Drivers’ Champion is Hamilton, who won his first World Championship in 2008, regained it in 2014 and retained it in 2015.
But Hamilton, having been involved in several final-race showdowns, will know that the championship may not be so straightforward for Rosberg who is overdue some bad luck.
The lights go out on Sunday at 1pm (GMT) but the drama will begin on Saturday at 1pm with the all-important qualifying session to decide who begins on pole.