x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Some thrilling last-day deciders in F1

We take a look at some of the most exciting championship ahead of the Yas Marina denouemont in Abu Dhabi.

Niki Lauda races in his McLaren during the 1984 Portuguese Grand Prix.
Niki Lauda races in his McLaren during the 1984 Portuguese Grand Prix.

Yas Marina Circuit is almost guaranteed to provide a dramatic finish to the 2010 Formula One season with the Red Bull-Renault pair of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel along with Lewis Hamilton, of McLaren-Mercedes, all seeking to overhaul Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in the battle for the drivers' title.

It will be difficult, however, to eclipse what happened on the last day of the season two years ago.

The championship appeared to be won by Felipe Massa, only to be snatched from him by an overtaking manoeuvre by Hamilton just seconds from the finishing line.

The incredible denouement on Sao Paulo's Interlagos circuit that day was the 24th time in 60 years that the destiny of the title had been clinched in the final race. Abu Dhabi will make that 25 in 61.

Here are some of the most thrilling of those last-day deciders:

2008 Brazilian Grand Prix

Hamilton arrived in Sao Paulo boosted by victory in the penultimate race of the season, the Chinese Grand Prix. That win gave him a seven-point cushion over Massa and the realisation that fifth place or better would guarantee him the title, irrespective of what Massa could achieve in front of a passionate home crowd.

Massa did all he could in his Ferrari to convert a pole position into a victory and as he took the chequered flag, his team began their celebration in the knowledge that Hamilton was lying sixth.

The Ferrari pit-lane crew did not know, however, that Timo Glock, the Toyota driver, had suffered a loss of performance in the closing stages due to the risky strategy of retaining dry-weather tyres in wet conditions, and a grateful Hamilton chased down his prey and swooped past on the final corner of the 71st and final lap.

2007 Brazilian Grand Prix:

Hamilton landed in Brazil with one hand on the title but the young Briton was denied at the end of a campaign which was tarnished by his McLaren team's "Spygate" scandal. Starting the race with a four-point advantage over Fernando Alonso and seven points ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton was undermined by running wide at the start and then gear-box trouble and could manage only seventh position.

Agonisingly, that left him one point behind Raikkonen, who rose to the occasion with a tremendous victory, and level on points with Alonso, who had in the course of a season turned from an amicable teammate into an arch-enemy.

1994 Australian Grand Prix:

A season that was scarred by the deaths Ayrton Senna, the three-time world champion, and the Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger ended with more drama as the two title contenders, Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill, collided on the 36th lap of the Adelaide race. The consequent failure to finish by both drivers preserved Schumacher's one-point advantage over his British rival and launched a dominant era for the German, who went on to win seven titles in 11 seasons.

1984 Portuguese Grand Prix:

While a single point had in successive years made the difference between despair and delight for Hamilton, Niki Lauda squeezed to his third and final world title by half that margin. A weather-hit Monaco Grand Prix midway through that 16-race season meant that Alain Prost, Lauda's McLaren teammate, was awarded only 4.5 points rather than the customary nine for winning the shortened event, leaving the Frenchman 3.5 points behind the Austrian ace rather than a point ahead going into the deciding race. Lauda knew that second place behind Prost would suffice and duly held on to make Prost wait a year to claim the first of his four titles.

1964 Mexican Grand Prix:

Three British world champions - John Surtees, Graham Hill and Jim Clark - fought desperately for the title that year. Surtees edged out Hill by a single point, courtesy of being allowed, on team orders, to take the lead from his Ferrari colleague Lorenzo Bandini.

Hill accrued one more point than Surtees that season but the rules then decreed that a driver's best six finishes from the 10 races should count, and Surtees had the edge in that tally.

wjohnson@thenational.ae