Everyone dreams of winning a championship by winning a race, but probably not by finishing sixth...
One of the many records Lewis Hamilton has broken this season is one no-one probably imagined he’d ever get: by finishing ninth in the Mexican GP, he set the record for the lowest a driver has ever finished in order to clinch a title.
But which other drivers have won championships with similarly unremarkable finishes? Here’s a list of the some of the worst title-winning results (excluding retirements).
Schumacher’s sixth title wasn’t won in the kind of dominant fashion you’d expect him to win it with. He only qualified 14th and had an extremely scrappy race, which included a front-wing change after a botched attempt to pass Takuma Sato.
He eventually stumbled across the line in eighth as teammate Rubens Barrichello won from Schumacher’s title rival, Kimi Raikkonen. One place higher for Kimi and one place lower for Michael and we’d be talking about the Finn as a double champion.
Mario Andretti was guaranteed the 1978 championship when teammate Ronnie Peterson was eliminated from the race in a massive first corner accident. At the restart, Andretti went on to win the win the race just ahead of Gilles Villeneuve, but both were penalised a minute for jumping the start, meaning Andretti was classified sixth.
Unfortunately not getting to celebrate his title with a win was far from the worst thing about Andretti’s race, as overnight Peterson tragically died of complications from the leg injuries he sustained in the crash.
The thrilling 2012 season got the season finale it deserved in a bonkers wet-dry race in Interlagos. Sebastian Vettel dropped right to the back on the first lap after colliding with Bruno Senna, but brilliantly fought his way back to seventh after just seven laps.
As the race went on the championship swung to-and-fro between Vettel (whose car incredibly kept going with significant damage) and Fernando Alonso. Come the chequered flag, Alonso managed second, but Vettel crossed the line in sixth - enough to win him the title by three points.
Normally you’d expect a three-way final race title decider to be decided at the front of the field, but the 1981 finale at Caesars Palace was decided in the minor points positions.
Nelson Piquet, Carlos Reutemann, and Jacques Laffite all had a chance to take the championship. Laffite needed to finish in the top two with both Piquet and Reutemann having duff races to win the title, and though that’s exactly what happened, Laffite himself could only manage sixth.
Reutemann started his Williams on pole but couldn’t keep the pace in the race as his tyres destroyed themselves. To make matter worse he also lost fourth gear, and eventually finished a lap down in eighth.
That left Piquet to take the title with a dogged drive to fifth place. From the half-way point in the race he’d had severe back and shoulder pain, and couldn’t keep his head up straight. He also vomited in his helmet during the race, and when he got out of the car afterwards he could only make it a few steps before collapsing from exhaustion. That’s quite the way to win your first championship!
The crazy 1982 season ended with a head-to-head for the championship between Keke Rosberg and John Watson. Rosberg held all the cards as he only had to score points to win the title, whilst Watson had to win with Rosberg not scoring to triumph.
Whilst Watson managed to take second behind Michele Alboreto (whose win for Tyrrell made it a record 11 different winners in a season), Rosberg knew he didn’t need to do anything spectacular (which must have been pretty difficult for him) and took a measured fifth, winning the title.
Felipe Massa did everything right in the final race at Interlagos as he tried to win the 2008 championship and thanks to a late rain shower, a Sebastian Vettel overtake, and a strategy gamble by Toyota, it almost worked out for him.
Hamilton had dropped back in the late stages of the race as the rain came down, and with a few corners to go he was only in sixth place - and he needed to be fifth for the title. Massa crossed the line and thought he was champion as Hamilton looked like he was going to narrowly miss out for the second year in a row.
But wait…is that Glock?
It is! The Toyota driver was struggling with slick tyres on a wet track and ended up losing a place to Hamilton with just a couple of corners to go. Just like that, the McLaren driver was the champion in one of the greatest title deciders of all time.
Jenson Button was desperate to secure the 2009 world championship with a race to spare in 2009, but with teammate and title rival Rubens Barrichello (yes, he did once get sorta close to actually winning one!) on pole and Button down in 14th, it looked a long shot.
But in the race Barrichello dropped back and eventually got a puncture, whilst Button fought his way up to fifth in a fine display of overtaking and took a remarkable championship victory for the Brawn team.
In a strange coincidence, it was the second year in a row that a British driver in car number 22 had won the title by finishing fifth at Interlagos.