From the Hollywood plot of Lauda and Hunt to the bitter ending of Prost-Senna, F1 has had some incredible title deciders over the years. Here are five of the best.
1994: Schumacher vs Hill (Adelaide)
Michael Schumacher and Benetton had dominated the early stages of the 1994 championship, but mid-season technical controversies saw them disqualified and then banned from a total of four races.
That gave Damon Hill a route back into the title tussle. The Williams driver was doing a fine job of leading the team following Ayrton Senna’s death, and with wins in Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Japan was able to cut Schumacher’s advantage to one point ahead of the season finale in Australia.
Then came their infamous collision. Schumacher led but made a mistake and clipped the wall. As he moved back across the track Hill went for the gap - and the door was quickly slammed shut. Michael was out on the spot, seemingly handing Hill the title, but the Williams had suffered terminal damage. Controversially, Schumacher was champion.
1976: Hunt vs Lauda (Fuji Speedway)
For years it was said that the plot to the 1976 F1 season was straight out of a Hollywood film. Then they made a Hollywood film about it. Be careful what you wish for…
Rush was actually a very good effort, but no 90-minute movie could ever encapsulate the incredible battle between McLaren’s James Hunt and Ferrari’s reigning champion Niki Lauda. In fact, you’d need at least that long to simply cover the decider at Fuij Speedway.
Faced with torrential rain, and still recovering from his near-death experience at the Nurburgring, Lauda retired after just one lap. Hunt persevered; he thought he’d finished fourth and thus missed out on the title, but the Brit actually crossed the line in P3. That made him world champion by a single point and kicked off what we can only imagine to have been the most almighty of title-winning parties.
1986: Prost vs Mansell vs Piquet (Adelaide)
Heading into the final race of 1986 in Australia, Williams driver Nigel Mansell led McLaren’s Alain Prost by six points, with the second Williams of Nelson Piquet a further point back. The Brit was poised to seal his first world championship.
Mansell started from pole but dropped down the order. However with less than 20 laps to go he had worked his way back up to third - which would have been enough to secure him the title. Then, in one of the most famous and dramatic moments in F1 history, his right-rear tyre exploded. Mansell slithered into the run off area and retired, leaving his title dreams in tatters.
Piquet was then forced to pit to avoid a repeat on his car, allowing Prost to grab the lead. However the Brazilian was much faster and began reeling the Frenchman in at a rapid rate.
Prost just hung on to win, despite a late charge from the sole remaining Williams, earning an unlikely second world title by two points from Mansell. Nigel would have to wait six more years before finally getting his hands on the championship.
1989: Prost vs Senna (Suzuka)
Unlike the rest of this list, the Japanese Grand of 1989 was not the final race of the season - but it did decide the destination of the world title in jaw-dropping fashion.
Ayrton Senna entered the race behind McLaren team-mate Alain Prost on points. He knew he’d need to beat the Frenchman to take the championship fight to the finale in Australia, so when he saw a gap on lap 46 he dived at it. As they approached the chicane Prost turned in, the pair tangled, and both appeared to be out.
But Senna got a push-start from the marshals and went on to win the race, before later being disqualified for missing the chicane. Prost was world champion in controversial circumstances. 12 months later Senna left nothing to chance, driving Prost off the circuit at Suzuka to ensure to reclaimed the world title.
2008: Hamilton vs Massa (Interlagos)
The 2008 world championship showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa was the most dramatic in Formula 1 history, with the destination of the title changing during the final 30 seconds of the race.
Having missed a golden opportunity to be champion 12 months earlier, Hamilton seemed to have blown it again in 2008. Ferrari man Massa led into the closing laps and the McLaren driver was running down in sixth.
Felipe crossed the line to win, which should have been enough to make him champion. Then Timo Glock’s Toyota got away from him, allowing Hamilton to grab the fifth-place he needed with just seconds remaining in the race.
The scenes of celebration in the Ferrari garage, followed by absolute dejection when it became clear Lewis had snatched the championship by a whisker, remain etched into the minds of all who saw them. For Lewis it was jubilation just a year after his 2007 disaster; for Massa, the heartbreak was plain to see when he took to the podium in tears.