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The Circuit

F1's memorable last-race title deciders

  • Story Highlights
  • F1 has seen some memorable title deciders at the final race of the season
  • Michael Schumacher involved in two controversial collisions, in 1994 and 1997
  • Last year's championship was the first three-way title fight since 1986
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Neale Graham
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Formula One has seen a number of last-race world championship deciders down the years.

Michael Schumacher (left) and Damon Hill collided at the last race of 1994, with the German taking the title.

Here, The Circuit looks at four of the most memorable of the last 15 years. Drivers in capitals won the title.

1994 (Australian Grand Prix, Adelaide)


Even without a last-race showdown, the 1994 season had been dramatic enough. The legendary Ayrton Senna had become the second fatality in two days at the San Marino Grand Prix after 12 years without a death in F1. Photo See images of the best title showdowns. »

Schumacher started the season strongly in a Benetton that had its legality questioned by a dubious paddock and media, and by mid-season he was 27 points clear of Hill. But Hill clawed his way back into the title hunt, helped by Schumacher's two-race ban for ignoring a black flag at the British Grand Prix.

Come the decider in Australia, the momentum was with Hill and the deficit was down to one point. Schumacher looked rattled all weekend and after being hounded by the Englishman from the off, he crashed into a wall midway through the race.

Crawling back onto the track, Schumacher veered one way and Hill the other as they approached the next right-hander, only for the German to swipe across the Williams' bows, ride up over Hill's front wheel and into retirement. Read more about F1 at The Circuit.

Hill would have become world champion if he could have kept going but suspension damage ended his race and his title challenge. Schumacher, at 25, became one of F1's youngest and most controversial champions.

1997 (European Grand Prix, Jerez)

JACQUES VILLENEUVE v Michael Schumacher

Three years on from Adelaide, those who had given Schumacher the benefit of the doubt were left to reassess their opinions of the German.

Villeneuve's Williams was the class of the 1997 field but mistakes had blighted his campaign and Schumacher's brilliance had put him ahead by one point by the last race in Jerez, Spain. Vaulting poleman Villeneuve at the lights, Schumacher raced into a lead few thought he would lose.

But after the last round of pitstops, the Ferrari's tires were not working as well and Villeneuve closed in. Heading down the back straight, the French-Canadian dived up the inside into the following hairpin corner, surprising Schumacher, who turned into the corner and into the side of the Williams.

Schumacher slid off into the gravel and retirement while Villeneuve, his car damaged from the collision, hobbled on to finish third and take the title by three points. A vilified Schumacher was later stripped of his second place in the championship for his desperate maneuver.

1998 (Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka)

MIKA HAKKINEN v Michael Schumacher

An intriguing season, the first with grooved tires and narrow-track cars, had seen Hakkinen surge into an early season lead with a lightning-quick, if somewhat fragile McLaren.

But Schumacher's Ferrari benefited from Goodyear's incessant tire development and by mid-season the never-say-die German was back in the title hunt. Going to the season-closer in Japan, Schumacher had to make up four points on Hakkinen, who had edged the previous race at the Nurgburgring.

Schumacher had claimed pole at Suzuka, just ahead of Hakkinen, but stalled on the grid, further adding to his reputation of fumbling pressure-cooker situations. Starting from the back at the restart, he sliced his way up to third and was keeping his fingers crossed for a problem for the race-leading Finn.

But a puncture on lap 31 ended his title hopes. An ice-cool Hakkinen was not headed throughout and could coast to his first drivers' world championship.

2007 (Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos)

KIMI RAIKKONEN v Lewis Hamilton v Fernando Alonso

It had been a remarkable debut season for McLaren's Hamilton, with him often outpacing double world champion team-mate Alonso. But after a slow start, Ferrari's Raikkonen had begun to look menacing as the season progressed.

F1's first three-way title decider since 1986 saw Hamilton start the last race in Brazil with a four-point advantage over Alonso and seven over Raikkonen. Felipe Massa's Ferrari took pole with Hamilton alongside, but the Englishman was slow away and by turn three he was behind Raikkonen and Alonso.


Rashly, Hamilton attempted to re-pass Alonso, ran wide and dropped down the order. Soon after, he suffered gearbox problems that cost him 30 seconds -- effectively scuppering his chances of becoming F1's first rookie champion.

Out front, Massa slowed to allow Raikkonen past for the win he needed to become champion by one point from seventh-placed Hamilton and Alonso, who trailed home a distant third.

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