Anytime a Formula 1 championship begins with the parity that the 2018 season has started with, there is a lot of excitement. Fans look forward to a thrilling season with the battle going on until the last lap of the last Grand Prix. Is it realistic? Yes, of the 68 World Drivers’ Championships (WDC) in the history of F1, 25 were decided by five points or less (36.8%).
Drivers’ Titles Decided By Close Margins, Will It Happen Again In 2018?
The first F1 drivers’ championship decided by five points or less was actually the inaugural season, in 1950. Giuseppe “Nino” Farina became the first driver to win the crown in F1 and did it while outscoring Argentina‘s Juan Manuel Fangio by 3 points.
The 1956 season was Fangio’s revenge. The Argentinian Maestro defeated Stirling Moss by 3 points and clinched his third consecutive title and his fourth overall. Mike Hawthorn joined the action in 1958 and did it in extreme fashion. The British driver edged Moss by a single point, the first championship won by such a small difference in the history of the sport.
Jack Brabham closed the 1950s with a thrilling championship victory over Scuderia Ferrari‘s Tony Brooks with a four-point difference in 1959.
Then, in 1961, Phil Hill defeated Wolfgang von Trips by a single point. In 1964, John Surtees beat Graham Hill by one point and won the title, however, Hill scored more points overall, but only the best six results counted for the championship.
Denny Hulme accomplished his only F1 drivers’ crown after outscoring Jack Brabham by five points in 1967. Three years later, Jochen Rindt became the first driver to be posthumously crowned as World Drivers’ Champion, after Jacky Ickx‘s charge for the championship lead fell short.
The 1974 season was a thrilling one. McLaren‘s Emerson Fittipaldi beat Ferrari’s Clay Regazzoni by three points, giving McLaren their first championship in F1. Then, James Hunt gave the Woking-based team their second drivers’ championship in 1976, in the same fashion, by one point and against a Ferrari driver (Niki Lauda).
In 1979, Jody Scheckter defeated Gilles Villeneuve by four points.
The Golden Era
Two years later, in 1981, Nelson Piquet snatched the title from Carlos Reutemann by one point after the Argentinian driver’s feud with his own team. The following year, Didier Pironi‘s tragedy in the 1982 French GP, which forced him to retire from F1, opened an opportunity for Williams‘ Keke Rosberg. The Finn outscored Pironi and John Watson by one point.
The Golden Era continued in 1983 with the third championship in a row to be decided by five points or less. Nelson Piquet did it again in 1983 after beating Alain Prost‘s Renault by just two points.
The streak went until 1984 after Lauda outscored his McLaren teammate Prost by 0.5 point. Prost’s fortunes turned around in 1986 with his championship triumph against Nigel Mansell by two points.
The 1980s ended with another heartbreak for Prost, after Ayrton Senna joined McLaren and beat him with a 3-point margin in 1988.
The decade of the 1990s did not have a great number of championships decided by small margins. But 1994 is one of the most memorable championships ever, Michael Schumacher took his first title over Damon Hill by one point in the controversial 1994 Australian Grand Prix.
Mika Häkkinen won his second straight title for McLaren-Mercedes in 1999 with a two-point margin over Eddie Irvine.
Michael Schumacher’s run with Ferrari in the early 2000s had just one competitive season. Kimi Räikkönen pushed Schumacher into a slim victory for his sixth F1 crown (by 2 points) in 2003. Raikkonen had another run for the championship and he was able to cap it off in 2007 with a one-point victory over McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton held Felipe Massa off the following year with his one-point triumph after his last-second overtake on Timo Glock in the last corner at the last GP of the year.
Sebastian Vettel defeated Alonso in 2010 and 2012 by four and three points, respectively. And Nico Rosberg closed his career in 2016 with a five-point triumph over Hamilton in the Mercedes’ drivers war.
List of drivers involved in more than one season decided by 5 points or less (wins in bold):
Juan Manuel Fangio: 1950 and 1956
Stirling Moss: 1956 and 1958
Jack Brabham: 1959 and 1967
Niki Lauda: 1976 and 1984
Nelson Piquet: 1981 and 1983
Alain Prost: 1983, 1984, 1986 and 1988
Michael Schumacher: 1994 and 2003
Kimi Räikkönen: 2003 and 2007
Lewis Hamilton: 2007, 2008 and 2016
Fernando Alonso: 2007, 2010 and 2012
Sebastian Vettel: 2010 and 2012
Alonso (3) and Moss (2) are the only drivers in history who were involved in more than one season decided by five points or less and lost each time.
Ferrari is the team that had the most drivers fighting for the championship in seasons decided by five points or less (11). McLaren and Williams follow with five and three such campaigns, respectively. Vanwall, BRM, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Brabham and Mercedes each have one season of that nature.
The 1950s had four seasons with the close title battles, the 1960s had three, the 1970s four, the 1980s were the decade with the most such championships with six.
The 1990s had two. Since 2000 six championships were decided with the narrow margins.
Will 2018 See Another Close Fight?
After five races in 2018, Lewis Hamilton leads the standings with seventeen points over Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari. Three teams have won races so far, will the championship maintain this level of equality?.
The 2018 F1 championship resumes with the FORMULA 1 Grand Prix de Monaco 2018 between May 24th and May 27th at the Circuit de Monaco.
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