As you’ll all know by now, we head into the final race this season with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen tied on points. It’s not a common thing; in fact, it’s only ever happened once before!
As the epic Verstappen versus Hamilton duel comes to a thrilling conclusion, we take a look at the other times that the title race has been so close ahead of the season-closing Grand Prix!
2021: 0 points – VERSTAPPEN vs HAMILTON
In a year that has had its fair share of close racing, drama and controversy, it seemed almost inevitable that Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton would head to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with the title still to be decided. The Drivers’ Championship has not been decided at the season’s final race since 2016 when Hamilton lost out to team-mate Nico Rosberg.
With Verstappen and Hamilton equal on points, it all comes down to who finishes ahead at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday. It’s worth noting that if neither driver scores in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen would win the title as he has recorded more wins this season.
1974: 0 points – FITTIPALDI vs REGAZZONI
The only other time that the Drivers’ Championship has been tied heading into the final race of the season was in 1974. Both Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni had scored 52 points ahead of the last race, though Fittipaldi was credited with the lead as he had won three races compared to Regazzoni’s one.
The last race of the year took place at Watkins Glen, where Fittipaldi qualified eighth in his McLaren, with Regazzoni’s Ferrari one position behind. Jody Scheckter, who also had a mathematical chance of winning the title, started from pole position. While Scheckter retired from the race, Regazzoni could finish only eleventh, struggling with car issues throughout the race. Fittipaldi finished in fourth place, and his three points were enough to clinch his second and final World Championship.
1981: 1 point – REUTEMANN vs PIQUET
In 1981, Carlos Reutemann went into the final race of the year with a single point advantage over Nelson Piquet. Jacques Laffite was also still in contention for the title, sitting six points behind the leader.
The title showdown was held in Las Vegas, on the parking lot of the famous Caesars Palace hotel! Reutemann secured pole for the race but fell to fifth before the end of the first lap. The Argentine driver had gearbox troubles during the Grand Prix and eventually slipped out of the top ten. Meanwhile, Nelson Piquet finished fifth and won the title by just one point!
Reutemann is one of only ten drivers who led the championship ahead of the season’s final race and failed to go on and win the title. The last time it happened was in 2010 when Fernando Alonso led the way ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
1994: 1 point – SCHUMACHER vs HILL
One of F1’s most memorable title deciders – perhaps for all the wrong reasons – came at the 1994 Australian Grand Prix. Michael Schumacher arrived in Adelaide with a one point lead over Damon Hill. While Nigel Mansell took pole, Schumacher started alongside him on the front row with Hill just behind in third place.
Schumacher took the lead at the start of the race, while Hill’s Williams slotted into second. The order remained the same until the midway point, when Schumacher made a mistake and went wide, allowing Hill to close up to the Benetton driver. Hill went to the inside of Schumacher to overtake, but Schumacher turned in and eliminated both cars from the race. The German was out on the spot, while Hill returned to the pits with irreparable damage – meaning Schumacher claimed the first of his seven titles.
1997: 1 point – SCHUMACHER vs VILLENEUVE
In 1997, Michael Schumacher headed to Jerez for the European Grand Prix one point ahead of Jacques Villeneuve. The pair set identical qualifying times for the race, with Villeneuve starting from pole as he set his lap time first. Schumacher took the lead as the starting lights went out and remained ahead of his title rival after the first round of pit stops – albeit under increasing pressure from the Williams.
20 laps from the end, Villeneuve overtook Schumacher, but Schumacher turned his Ferrari into the side of the Williams while Villeneuve was passing, in what appeared to be a purposeful attempt to take his title rival out of the race. While Villeneuve suffered no damage to his car, Schumacher retired. The Canadian went on to finish third, securing his only championship win.
Originally judged as a racing incident, the collision between the pair went to a disciplinary hearing by the FIA two weeks after the race, and Schumacher was subsequently disqualified from the 1997 season.
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