FORMULA 1 racing brings together technology, endurance and excitement in equal measure, although not always at the same time.
Some races are about endurance, seeing a driver committed to their race for a couple of hours, not making a slip for a second. Some are about the fastest cars and the best pit crews whilst others are just madcap thrill rides, encapsulating everything that we love about the sport in a few crazy laps.
The 2020 season was perhaps one of the strangest ever, not because of the races it involved, but because of the organisation it took to keep the races going. In the end, Lewis Hamilton came out on top, winning his seventh championship and his sixth in the last seven years.
Whilst 2020 might not have served up a race notable for thrills and spills, it did deliver some drama, not least in Bahrain, where Romain Grosjean suffered a spectacular and life-endangering crash. Nobody wants to see that sort of drama on the track, but fans do like to be excited, thrilled and even appalled, as they were in these five thrilling races.
1988 Japanese Grand Prix
We start with the classic rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. A list of exciting races should feature Japan in 88, 89 and 90, but to dominate the list with the famous rivalry would be unfair on other great races. We have picked the best of the three, where Senna won his first title. After a woeful start, he found himself 14th and fighting to save his season, but he reeled each car in, one by one, and eventually pipped the Frenchman to first place. That handed him his eighth race win, one ahead of his rival and enough to take the title.
1994 Australian Grand Prix
Back in 1994, only British driver Damon Hill could catch Michael Schumacher as they went into the final race in Adelaide. Schumacher was on 92 points, Hill on 91, and the two went head-to-head for the Driver’s Championship, as well as the two teams being separated by just five points for the Constructor’s Championship. Schumacher led, looking for his first title win, but Hill caught him up before the two tangled. Exactly what happened is still debated today, but some observers believe Schumacher deliberately took Hill out of the race. The German was also immediately eliminated, but Hill tried to press on. His bent suspension ended his dreams and Schumacher took his first world title standing on the sidelines.
2008 Brazilian Grand Prix
Schumacher won the last of his seven titles in 2004, and four years later the man most likely to top his record won his first Driver’s Championship too. Lewis Hamilton has gone on to equal Michael Schumacher’s record for the most driver’s titles this year, and Bwin rate him as favourite in the 2021 season too. Back in 2008, he had won nothing and going into the last race he was battling Felipe Massa for the title. When the chequered flag came down on Massa, he had clinched the title on his home circuit sparking jubilant scenes in his garage. That ecstasy turned to agony as Hamilton then overtook Timo Glock on the final lap, securing an extra point, which was enough to hand him his first title.
2011 Canadian Grand Prix
In terms of the greatest British drivers of all time, Jenson Button might not quite be in the same bracket as Hamilton, but he does have a World Championship behind him, and perhaps the single greatest drive of any in history. Button came back from two crashes, a puncture and a stop/go penalty to win the race. If Formula One is about endurance, belief and outright driving skills, this might just be one of the single-most impressive drives of all time.
2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton’s feud with Sebastian Vettel might not have the fury of the Prost/Senna rivalry, but it did boil over in a thrilling race in Azerbaijan, with 2017 a season in which the pair consistently traded blows. In one of the more shocking moments from racing history, an enraged Vettel deliberately drove into Hamilton whilst the safety car was out after he felt aggrieved at Hamilton’s sharp braking. The two exchanged words after the race, which saw Vettel finish ahead of Hamilton and extend his Driver’s Championship lead to 14 points. The British driver had the last laugh, taking the title by a 46-point margin and tying up the win with two races to spare.