4 Moments in F1 History Where Another Driver Miraculously Swayed a Championship-Decider

Published 12/26/2021, 10:43 AM EST
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – NOVEMBER 25: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing celebrates with team mates on the podium as he finishes in sixth position and clinches his third consecutive drivers world championship during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 25, 2012 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)


In a largely dominant race, Lewis Hamilton would have had an easy run to the checkered flag; but, a spectacular season had one more twist to come. Nicholas Latifi handed the dramatic end of the 2021 championship battle to us on a plate. However, this isn’t the first time in F1 that another driver has come in the way of a title face-off. Although Nicholas Latifi received unwarranted hate for his crash, it’s worth remembering that it has happened before.

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Many times in the past, two great drivers have locked horns for a close battle for the crown. Now, if Hamilton and Verstappen’s rivalry can be compared to the greats, then it’s ending too, can be found in the history books of the sport.

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Here are four times that another driver has, inadvertently, decided the fate of an F1 championship.

1. Chaos at Interlagos in 2012

Max Verstappen needed a miracle to win the championship in 2021, and in 2012, Fernando Alonso did, too. The race was the definition of utter pandemonium. Alonso was 13 points behind Sebastian Vettel, however, Alonso got his miracle, but it was soon taken away.

Vettel started on the second row and after a nasty lap 1 incident, he found himself behind the grid. Vettel had turned into the corner, where Bruno Senna was taking the inside line. The two made contact and soon, the Red Bull spun off. On the other hand, Alonso was glorious on the opening lap. The master-overtaker soon found himself in podium position- the championship trophy within reach.

But Vettel was still determined. The gap wasn’t too large, and soon the German was back in the game. In a prodigious charge, he finished 6th, just enough to rob Alonso of the title by three points.

2. Michael Schumacher’s easy fifth F1 title

The 2002 French GP was a unique one. The championship-deciding race was not the final race of the season; Michael Schumacher had comfortably won the championship six races before the season wrapped up. Therefore, round 11 of 17, the French GP can be considered as the potential turning point.

However, there was one man who could have made Schumacher wait longer for his fifth crown. It was a yellow flag situation brought on by Allan McNish, whose car blew up five laps from the finish line. Thus, the Adelaide Hairpin of the Magny-Cours was covered in oil left from the Toyota chassis.

Marshalls waved yellow flags, but not oil flags- a mistake that proved costly to the race leader, Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn slid on the oil, giving Schumacher the race lead and the championship. The champion finished the season 67 points ahead of his nearest contender.

3. Nicky Lauda’s miracle in 1984

Niki Lauda won the 1984 championship by half a point. Thus, you best believe the decider was nail-biting. Once again, a miracle in the final moments of the race gave him the crown. Lauda started the Portuguese GP 11th on the grid; within 33 laps, he was in third place. However, with Alain Prost leading the race in the sister McLaren, third wasn’t enough for the title.

Further, he was a massive 30 seconds behind Nigel Mansell who was in second place with 20 laps remaining. Now, the miracle came in handy. Mansell was struggling with his brakes. After spinning and rejoining the track multiple times, Lauda closed in setting fastest laps. The Austrian took P2 on lap 52 and cruised undisputed to the checkered flag, thus claiming the title in the closest standing in the sport’s history.

4. “Is that Glock?” – the infamous 2008 F1 championship decider

Before 2021, there was 2008. Easily recognized as the most dramatic and heartbreaking F1 race, the 2008 Brazilian GP once held the crown. That year, it was Timo Glock in Latifi’s shoes, Hamilton in Massa’s, and in a twisted fate, Verstappen in his rival’s seat.

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The rain also played a role as Glock stayed out on slicks for the closing laps of the race. As Massa crossed the checkered flag, Ferrari prematurely celebrated their champion; however, a couple of seconds behind, Glock painfully lost pace. In the final laps, he was slow enough to let Hamilton pass through on the final corner of the Interlagos.

Thus, Hamilton was in fifth place, snatching the title from Felipe Massa. It’s not often that heartbreak is uniformly felt throughout F1, but there stood Massa, a victor in front of his home crowd, yet not enough for the ultimate crown.

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Then and even to date, Glock has been severely accused of his mistake, quite similar to Latifi. However, if the Canadian’s plea for kindness has been anything but a wake-up call for F1, we have failed miserably as a sport.

Watch this story: F1 Driver Salaries Revealed: How Much Do Lewis Hamilton & Co. Earn?

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Shreya Sanjeev

771 articles

Shreya Sanjeev is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. Having attained a journalism degree from St Xavier's College, she finds comfort in the sound of her keyboard while typing and excitement in the sound of F1 cars speeding on a track. A street circuit and Daniel Ricciardo fan through and through, Shreya claims the 2018 Monaco GP to be one of her favorite races of all time.

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