Top 5 F1 Title Turnarounds

September 18, 2017 6:10 pm

Talk about momentum swing and how harshly it has swung against Vettel in favor of his championship rival and that too in a race where he was expected to open a big lead in terms of points.

Vettel duly took pole on Saturday despite the woes in practice sessions while Hamilton could do no better than 5th. But the opening lap carnage means now the German trails by 28 points to the Brit with only 6 races remaining. However not all is lost for the Ferrari driver and he should not throw out his 5th world title dream just yet and he can definitely look at these stories to draw an inspiration from:

Nelson Piquet 1981

While everyone may remember the 1982 season as the most haywire of all, the previous season was no less dramatic. The season itself began with “swords drawn out” conflict between the FOCA, the association of the independent constructors, and FISA – the sport’s governing body that threatened to throw the entire season into the dish even before it had begun. But some bluff calls by the FOCA meant the season did get underway but with the season opener in South Africa being stripped of its Championship status.

The first, well officially, race got underway at Long beach USA and Alan Jones won the race setting the tone for his intention to lift the crown once again while Piquet finished 3rd. At Brazil, however, Brabham were finally ready with the hydro-pneumatic suspension that allowed the team to flout the 6cm ground clearance rule. Piquet took the pole but crashed out of the race because of a strange decision to start on dry tires on a wet track but in Argentina, their advantage was quite clear with Nelson winning the race by disappearing into the distance and following it up in San Marino. But he crashed out of the chaotic race in Zolder while Reutemann won, establishing himself as the other contender for the title and by this time other teams had caught up with Brabham.

By Silverstone, it was quite clear that this was going to be a two-horse race for the Championship between Reutemann and Piquet. Everything seemed to be going in the favour of the former as he was leading the championship by 17 points. The turbocharged Renaults were the class leaders lining up on the front row race after race and taking wins while the Championship contender teams were relegated to 2nd-3rd best.

However, from this point on, Piquet got his act together to put in consistent drives scoring podiums while Reutemann’s form eluded him despite Piquet suffering a retirement in Italy and the Argentine finishing 3rd.

Going into the final race, Reutemann still led the championship by 1 point and looked good to by claiming the pole but come Sunday, Reutemann put in one of the most mysterious race performances in the sport’s history. He essentially faded to nothing, in a fashion that has never been fully explained. He was down to fourth at the first corner, and to fifth at the end of the first lap. On lap 17, with the championship at stake, he let Piquet pass him with all the timidity of one being lapped, before eventually finishing a lapped eighth.

Piquet held on to finish 5th that allowed him to lift the cup at the end of the race etching a great turnaround story.

Vettel 2012

Arguably the best season of the decade, the 2012 season had all the drama, heartbreak and racing that one could ask for. 7 different winners from the opening 7 races, several drivers weaved in and out of championship contention except for Fernando Alonso whose supreme consistency meant he remained on the path to his third world title while reigning champion Vettel’s charge ran into trouble as his RB8 struggled to adapt to the high degrading Pirellis.

For the first 3 races, the McLarens and Alonso fought amongst themselves but Vettel took the lead for the next 2 races, but from Monaco onwards Hamilton and Alonso resumed their fight and Vettel started slipping so much so that he only won once out of the first 13 races and by Monza was 39 points adrift of Championship leader Alonso.

But the moment the Asian races started, Vettel’s top form returned as he started his winning streak from Singapore till India taking the lead of the championship in the process. Putting up a spectacular race in Abu Dhabi where he had to start the race from the pit lane while title rival Alonso closed the gap to 10 points.

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The title decider at Brazil was no less nail-biting as Vettel got involved into an accident right on the opening lap and ended up facing the wrong way. He got going again and fought his way through the traffic up to 6th while Alonso could only manage 2nd and losing the title by a mere 3 points.

John Surtees 1964

The late John Surtees is already a legend for being the only man having the honor of being a champion on both 2-wheels and 4-wheels. The Briton showed speed the moment he arrived into Formula One, but for a few years, his stints were not in championship winning team until he finally landed himself a Ferrari drive in 1963.

His time came in his 2nd year at Ferrari in 1964 but the season started horribly for him. He retired in 3 races out of the first 4 and at that point of time the season consisted of only 10 championship points races.

His fight for the title was a three-way battle between himself and compatriots Jim Clark and Graham Hill.

The close battle finally began in Britain when the trio took the top 3 positions and it was Jim Clark and Surtees who continued to trade positions. Surtees superior form resulted in 2 wins and two-second place finishes in the final five rounds compared to Clark’s only scoring 2 points in the same time frame meant thatSurtees breezed ahead. But by this time Graham Hill emerged as the main contender whose BRM showed a better mix of speed and reliability.

In fact Graham Hill had outscored Surtees but in an era where only the best 6 finishes were counted, the title went down to the wire. Both his competitors fell by the wayside as Clark retired with an Oil leak and Hill tangled with the other Ferrari and dropped out of contention. Finishing 2nd by way of team orders, Surtees scored 1 point more than Hill and lifted the title.

Kimi Raikkonen 2007

Notoriously inanimate and uncommunicative, the silent speedster’s frozen expression in fact masked the hidden depths in one of the most original – and popular – characters in the sport’s history.

Starting his first season with Ferrari with a bang, the Finn won the first race itself establishing that Ferrari were indeed right in selecting him as Schumacher’s successor. But three consecutive finishes outside the podium meant all the spotlight shifted towards the rookie sensation Hamilton and his battle with the sport’s youngest double world champion Alonso.

Read: Kimi Raikkonen’s finest drive ever

McLaren emerged as the field leader and title fight seemed to be between the McLaren duo. However, two wins back to back in France and Britain saw him back in contention and with  3 more podiums and a win at Spa meant he entered the penultimate race 17 points adrift of leader Hamilton.

At China however, Raikkonen won from 2nd on the grid while Hamilton who was leading till lap 30 beached his car at the pit entry retiring out of the race and at the last race in Brazil, Hamilton opted for a riskier 3 stop strategy and after the first round of pit stops, Massa led Raikkonen. The Italian team played the strategical game and switched their positions in the 2nd round of pitstops and Raikkonen led while Hamilton languished in 7th when he needed to finish 5th. With Alonso taking 3rd, it levelled the Spaniard with Hamilton but Kimi crossed the line P1 taking the title by a solitary point.

James Hunt 1976

James Hunt needs no introduction especially after Hollywood movie Rush made the rivalry between Hunt and Lauda famous. But 1976 is remembered as the year of Lauda’s accident and his great comeback which put him in the league of F1 legends.

But it was also the year when Hunt realized his speed and potential and duly lifted the title.

It was Hunt’s 3rd year in F1 and racing for McLaren, things got off to a troubled start as Hunt retired 4 times out of the first 6 races. A victory in France which was the halfway point of the season meant he at 17 points was only 4th in the standings while Lauda was leading with 55 points.

And then Lauda got involved into his now famous fiery crash in Nurburgring where Hunt won. Lauda suffered extensive burns and was in the hospital fighting for his life while the season went on and Hunt won a close race at Netherlands.

In the next race at Italy, Lauda miraculously returned just 6 weeks after his accident and took P4 in a gritty drive while Hunt spinning meant the battle was still alive.

Going into the last race at Fuji, Lauda still led the championship by 3 points but in treacherous wet conditions where rain continued to pound the circuit, Lauda decided to quit the race stating it was not safe to race but Hunt held on to fight the conditions and scored the last place on the podium which was just enough as it handed him the title by 1 point.


Muktesh Swamy

A Petrol Head, Traveller, Writer and Philosopher. Who do you wanna meet?

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