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The Top Three Title deciding Races

Written by Megan Teahan, Edited by Aiden Hover

The 2021 season has so far seen fifteen out of twenty-three rounds take place, with Turkey coming up next. Sir Lewis Hamilton goes into this race only two points ahead in the championship battle against Max Verstappen. This is the first season in years that we have seen such a close title battle. Even when Rosberg won the title in 2016, Hamilton and Rosberg were not this close in the championship at any stage. Whilst Hamilton has led the championship for much of the season, Verstappen has never been too far behind in keeping the championship battle alive until the final round.

In 2020 we saw Hamilton clinch his record breaking seventh title in Turkey with three rounds to go and one hundred and twenty-four points ahead of his teammate, Bottas who was in second place. In 2021 we go to turkey with seven rounds still to complete (after the Turkish grand prix) with only two points in the championship battle. With eight rounds to go, it is extremely hard to say who will win the championship this year. It seems likely that the championship will go down to the last lap this year but who knows what will happen. For now, we are going to hope the championship goes right down to the wire and take a look at some of the memorable moments in history when this happened before.

The 1986 Australian Grand Prix

The final round of the 1986 season was the Australian Grand Prix which took place at the Adelaide Street Circuit. Going into this race there were three drivers in contention for the championship; Alain Prost for McLaren, Nigel Mansell for Williams, and Nelson Piquet also for Williams. Mansell went in as the championship leader on seventy points, followed by Prost with sixty-four points and Piquet in third with sixty-three points. The constructor’s championship had already been decided at the Portuguese Grand Prix in September with Mansell and Piquet winning nine of the last fifteen rounds.

Mansell was in the best position for the start of the race, lining up on pole position. If Mansell was to be crowned champion that year, he needed to finish the race in at least third, while Prost and Piquet had to win the race to secure their own championship. Piquet started the race on the front row with teammate Mansell whilst Prost started from fourth position. It seemed Prost would have all the work to do from fourth position if he wanted to win the title. The race began and off the line Mansell had a superb start followed by his teammate Piquet and Senna in third. Senna managed to take the lead of the race by turn 1, with Mansell dropping to fourth position with Prost behind in fifth place. Senna would only stay in the lead for six laps with Rosberg who had started from seventh position on the grid taking the lead of the race for now. Rosberg began to build a gap to Piquet who was behind in second position but on lap 23 Piquet spun, losing several positions, no damage was done to the car, and he continued. A couple of laps later Prost fell down the order to fourth after suffering a puncture and having a slow pit stop. Piquet was the car to watch as he made his way back up the field passing Mansell for second position on lap forty-four. Twenty-five laps remained with Prost in second behind Rosberg, Mansell in third and Piquet in fourth.

On lap 63 Rosberg’s race came to an end when the car suffered a left rear puncture after attempting to lap a backmarker. This now meant Prost led the race and was set to win the championship after Piquet was pitted for a change of tyres in fear his race would end in a puncture like teammate Rosberg’s had and how Mansell’s race ended. Piquet would make a late charge at Prost for the lead of the race making up over ten seconds in just a few laps, but the laps ran out for Piquet and Prost won the driver’s world championship for the second year in a row. The first driver to win back-to-back championships since Jack Braham in 1959/60.

The 1994 Australian Grand Prix

The 1994 title-deciding race took place at the Adelaide Street Circuit in Australia. For this race not only were the drivers Schumacher and Hill racing for the drivers’ championship, but the constructor’s championship was also still to be decided. Schumacher driving for Benetton led the championship with ninety-two points, Hill followed behind in his Williams with only one point in the difference. Williams had the led in the constructor’s championship with one hundred and eight points, followed by Benetton with one hundred and three points. Everything was on the line for both drivers and their teams.

Mansell qualified on pole position followed by Schumacher in second place and Hill in third. Off the line, Schumacher took the lead of the race with Hill following close behind. Hill was constantly challenging for position with Schumacher up until lap thirty-six when Schumacher went off track at the East Terrace corner hitting the wall on the right. There was no damage to the car and Schumacher pulled straight back onto the track with Hill coming around the corner. The two avoided colliding with each other but were now much closer. Hill challenged Schumacher once again for the led, the two collied when Schumacher turned in on Hill. Schumacher immediately retired after the incident while Hill continued. It looked like Hill was set to win the championship. Hill only continued as far as the pit lane where he was forced to retire the car due to a front left damaged wishbone. Neither driver scored points which meant Schumacher had won his first world titled by just one point. Much controversy still surrounds this race with some saying Schumacher deliberately crashed into Hill for the championship win. After the incident both drivers claimed it to be a racing incident, it wasn’t until years later Hill said he blamed Schumacher for the incident and costing him the championship in 1994.

The 1976 Japanese Grand Prix

The 1976 season saw the near-fatal crash of Niki Lauda at the famous Nürburgring track. Lauda’s Ferrari swerved off track, hit the embankment and immediately burst into flames. The Ferrari came spinning back onto the track due to the speed at which it hit the embankment, causing the oncoming car of Lunger and Ertl to hit the fireball Ferrari before the car finally came to a halt. Lauda was eventually dragged out of the car, while he was fully conscious after the accident. He later fell into a coma suffering third-degree burns to most of his face, losing his right ear and both eyelids. Up until this crash, Lauda had led the championship from his rival Hunt. Lauda returned to F1 a mere forty days after his almost fatal crash missing only two Grand Prix. Lauda was still in contention for the championship that year.

Heading into the last round of fifteen at the Japanese Grand Prix, Lauda led the championship by three points to Hunt in second. Ferrari had already won the constructors championship in the previous race. For Lauda to win the drivers championship he just had to finish ahead of Hunt. For Hunt to win the championship he needed to finish first, second with Lauda in fourth or lower, third with Lauda in sixth or lower or fourth with Lauda in seventh or lower.

On the day of the race, conditions were beyond ideal with running water all over the track, extremely heavy rain and fog persisted throughout the lead up to the race. The organisers and drivers had been in meetings all morning to discuss whether they should go ahead with just how appalling the conditions on track were. Lauda was one driver who did not want the race to go ahead, along with others. Ultimately the decision was made for the race to go ahead by the organisers.

Off the line, Hunt took the lead of the race and after driving just one lap Lauda retired from the race due to poor visibility on the track. Drivers such as Perkins, Pace and Fittipaldi made the same decision to retire from the race due to the conditions on the track. It seemed Hunt would have an easy win of the race and championship with his main rival retired. Hunt continued to lead the race up until the track began to dry out. The conditions had changed, and Hunt was now not on the optimum tyre choice. Hunt needed to finish at least fourth to win the championship. After pitting Hunt dropped down to fifth in the order chasing down the cars ahead Hunt managed to overtake Jones and Regazzoni in the closing stages of the race. Hunt managed to finish the race in third place, due to the tricky conditions throughout the race Hunt did not know the finishing order when he crossed the line nor did organisers after a few moments it was announced Hunt had finished in third place winning the 1976 world championship, much to his surprise.

Do you think the championship will go down to the last race this season? Let us know below.

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