5 of Formula One’s closest title battles as Hamilton-Verstappen fight heats up

The 2021 Formula One season promises another closely fought title scrap.

Philip Duncan
Monday 06 September 2021 15:31
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are leading the way in the fight for the title (PA)
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are leading the way in the fight for the title (PA)

Lewis Hamilton’s championship battle with Max Verstappen has breathed fresh life into Formula One.

Following his home triumph in Holland, Verstappen heads Hamilton by just three points with nine rounds remaining.

Here, the PA news agency looks back at five of the sport’s most exciting title fights.

1958 – Hawthorn v Moss

Sir Stirling Moss narrowly missed out on winning the 1958 championship (PA)

Sir Stirling Moss missed out on becoming the first British driver to win the world title following an extraordinary act of sportsmanship. Moss’ compatriot Mike Hawthorn was set to be excluded from the Portuguese Grand Prix after a marshal claimed he illegally rejoined the track following a spin. Hawthorn’s disqualification would have seen Moss crowned champion. But Moss, who won by more than five minutes, jumped to his rival’s defence and rubbished the marshal’s claim. Hawthorn was reinstated to second and, at the end of the season, Moss missed out on glory by a single point.

1976 – Hunt v Lauda

The rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt ignited the popularity of F1 around the globe. Heading into the 10th round at the Nurburgring, Lauda looked set to defend his title, having amassed a 31-point lead, but on the second lap he was trapped in a fireball inferno. Lauda sustained injuries so catastrophic he was read the last rites in hospital. But just 40 days after he almost burnt to death, the Austrian returned to his Ferrari cockpit. The title went to the wire at a rain-hit Fuji. Lauda, who led Hunt by three points, retired from the race blaming the awful conditions. Hunt raced on, and despite dropping down the field after a dramatic tyre failure, the Briton finished third to take the title.

1989 – Prost v Senna

Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna’s bitter rivalry exploded at the penultimate round in Suzuka. On lap 47, Senna, who trailed Prost by 16 points, made a move on his McLaren team-mate for the lead at the final chicane. But the two rivals collided. Did Prost turn in on Senna? Was Senna’s move too aggressive? Prost retired but Senna got going again with the help of the marshals. The Brazilian stopped for repairs before overhauling Alessandro Nannini for victory. But Senna was disqualified for missing the chicane in the aftermath of his collision with Prost. The Frenchman was awarded the title.

1994 – Schumacher v Hill

Against the backdrop of Senna’s tragic death at Imola, the Brazilian’s Williams team-mate Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher in his Benetton fought for the championship. Following a season of high controversy, the title battle went down to the final race of the season in Adelaide. On lap 36, Schumacher ran wide at the East Terrace corner. Hill sensed an opportunity to take the lead only for the German to close the door on his British rival. Both men retired, with Schumacher claiming the first of his seven championships in contentious circumstances.

2008 – Hamilton v Massa

Hamilton sealed his maiden championship at the last corner on the last lap of the last race of the year. Hamilton’s chief rival, Felipe Massa won the rain-hit Interlagos race. His Ferrari crew celebrated wildly, believing the Brazilian had done enough to take the title. But Hamilton made his move on Toyota’s Timo Glock in the closing metres of the race to finish fifth and edge out Massa by a single championship point.

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