Red Eye’s Favourite… Modern Title Run-Ins08 Oct
The tension at the summit of the Formula 1 ® World Championship standings is palpable at the moment.
With just seven races left on the calendar – including the recently announced inaugural Qatar Grand Prix at Losail – Sir Lewis Hamilton currently holds a slender two-point advantage over chief rival Max Verstappen.
There have been a few high-profile incidents between the pair already this campaign, including clashes on-track at Silverstone and, more recently, Monza. High drama indeed, and it gave us an opportunity in the office to reflect on our four favourite title battles from recent memory…
2007 – Hamilton vs Alonso… then Raikkonen!
It was a season destined to go down in the history books, not least for Hamilton’s burst from the GP2 ranks to superstardom fame, but also for his rivalry with two-time world champion and team-mate Fernando Alonso, the infamous ‘Spygate’ saga with main rivals Ferrari – and yes – an overdue first championship for the Flying Finn, Kimi Raikkonen.
In truth, Raikkonen was far from sublime in his first season for the Scuderia; a victory on debut in Melbourne gave way to a steady, if unremarkable run of results, before back-to-back victories at Magny-Cours and Silverstone brought him into the mix.
As Alonso and Hamilton’s respective bids hit trouble, the former crashing heavily in the torrential rain at Fuji, the latter suffering that pit lane debacle in Shanghai, before a mechanical issue hampered him in Sao Paolo, Raikkonen kept winning.
Raikkonen won three of the final eight races, and finished on the podium in the other five, which proved enough, as his engineer famously said over the radio, to win the championship by one point.
2010 – Fantastic Four take it down to the wire
Given the sometimes-processional nature of the turbo-hybrid era, it’s crazy to think that, just over a decade ago, we had three teams – McLaren, Ferrari, and Red Bull – each with their own superstar line-ups going hammer and tongs after the sport’s top prize.
Until the penultimate event in Sao Paolo, any one of Hamilton, Jenson Button, Alonso, Mark Webber, or eventual winner Sebastian Vettel could have taken the honours, such was the variety in race winners across the campaign, often dictated in part by circuit characteristics.
Fittingly, the drama went down to the wire in the second running of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina; a strategy call ultimately dented Alonso’s hopes, and Vettel went on to win the race, taking his first crown by four points from the Spaniard.
2008 – Is that Glock?!
Often over-used, but still every bit as powerful as the moment Martin Brundle first yelled it into a microphone, Hamilton’s last-lap, last-corner pass on the flailing, slick-shod Toyota of Timo Glock remains one of the sport’s all-time iconic moments.
Frustrated by a fledgling Vettel in the Toro Rosso, Britain’s brightest hope – for another twelve months, that is – looked on course for heartbreak at the final round for a second consecutive season, until the rain fell.
As Felipe Massa brought the Ferrari home to score an emphatic home victory in Sao Paolo and send the locals into raptures, a few corners back, it would be Hamilton’s turn to be dealt a good hand by fate.
Making a move stick on the inside, he crossed the line fifth and scored the points needed to take the title away from Ferrari, although in the confusion both teams celebrated for a few moments as the chaos settled down.
When it was over, Hamilton had his first championship title. And the rest, as they say, is history…
2012 – So near – yet so far – for Alonso and Ferrari
Getting a read on the early-season contenders was nigh on impossible back in 2012, with a remarkable seven different winners from as many races.
Indeed, it took Alonso, still chasing an elusive third title with the Prancing Horse, until the European Grand Prix on the streets of Valencia to become the first repeat winner of the campaign, before a run of podium finishes took him into title contention in a sometimes-unfancied Ferrari.
Although the Spaniard kept that silverware-laden form up, a purple patch in form for Vettel, including four straight wins, contributed to setting up a final-race showdown at – you guessed it – Sao Paolo, Brazil.
Alonso looked on course for a podium, finishing second, but Vettel was able to recover to sixth after an early collision with Bruno Senna, giving him the points to snatch the crown back away, then for a third consecutive time.
What are your favourite title fights from recent memory? Let us know in the comments!