Formula One has been around since 1950, and throughout its 71-year-history, there have been countless close F1 title battles that weren’t decided until the last race. And it seems like the F1 gods have blessed us with another title fight that will end on the knife-edge, as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen head to the final race of the 2021 Formula One season in Abu Dhabi, tied in points.
So not only will you be able to bet online on what is shaping up to be one of the most exciting F1 races of the century, even those who aren’t ready to risk their money picking out the winner will have plenty to look forward to.
And while the 2021 F1 title battle is set to go down in history as one of the closest fights in Formula One history, this definitely won’t be the first race that will see F1 fans sit at the edge of their seats.
Today, we look at some of the closest Formula One title battles of the decade, which were decided by the smallest of margins and most unpredictable endings to the seasons.
2010 – Four Drivers Vying For The Title
The 2010 F1 World Championship season was one of the most open F1 seasons in years, featuring four drivers who entered the final two races with a shot at the title.
Fernando Alonso headed to the penultimate race of the season in Brazil as the man to watch, having fought his way to the top of the standings with a convincing win in wet Korea. Still, he had Sebastian Vettel, Max Webber, and Lewis Hamiton on his tail, as all four looked set to compete for the crown.
At the time, Alonso commented that anything could happen in the next two races, and he couldn’t have predicted the future better. After an engine failure forced him out of the Korean Grand Prix, Vettel bounced back by winning the Brazilian Grand Prix, overtaking Alonso, who could only manage third, behind Hamilton.
And with the wind in his sails, Vettel cruised to another victory in the season-culminating race in Abu Dhabi to snatch his maiden Formula One World Championship title. Vettel ended the season with 256 points, four ahead of Alonso with 252 and 14 clear of Webber, who landed in third.
Although 2021 wasn’t the closest in terms of the points separating the top two drivers, it definitely provided a nail-biting ending to the F1 season.
Champion: Sebastian Vettel – 256 points
Runner-up: Fernando Alonso – 252 points
2012 – A Rematch From 2010
Only two years following the exciting battle for the F1 title, we got to see another tightly-contested fight, once again featuring Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. This was also the season in which Vettel proved he has all the right qualities of an F1 champion – namely, tenacity.
The two drivers were neck-and-neck for most of the season. While Alonso was in a healthy lead for a good portion of the first few months, Vettel caught up with four back-to-back wins in Singapore, Japan, Korea, and India, and the two found themselves in a tight contest with only three more rounds to go.
In the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Vettel successfully recovered from a qualifying disqualification for not having enough fuel to provide a sample and took third despite starting the race from the pit lane. His remarkable performance saw the German keep his lead with only two more races left to go.
Vettel extended that advantage by outperforming Alonso in the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, setting himself up for success. But things turned sour for Vettel in the season’s final race in Brazil, where he encountered two unfortunate incidents.
First, he was hit by Bruno Senna on lap one and was later tagged by Kimi Raikkonen. However, despite all that, Alonso couldn’t steal away the title, as he was unable to challenge Jenson Button for the title, landing in second, and ended the season three points short of Vettel, who finished the Brazilian Grand Prix in sixth place.
Champion: Sebastian Vettel – 281 points
Runner-up: Fernando Alonso – 278 points
2014 – Hamilton Wins His Second Title
The 2014 Formula One World Championship title battle came down to Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who found themselves neck and neck for the season’s final rounds.
After a lot of back-and-forth for the first half of the season, Hamilton found his stride in the 13th round, when he won the Italian Grand Prix and extended his form to the next four, picking up wins in Singapore, Japan, Russia, and the United States.
At that point, his teammate Rosberg was the only driver who could stop Hamilton from claiming his second title. And while the German wasn’t able to stop Hamilton, he kept it interesting by winning the Brazilian Grand Prix to reduce the gap to 17 points.
With 50 points up for grabs in Abu Dhabi, the title battle was far from over. But unfortunately, the F1 fans did not get the ending to the season they expected.
Rosberg’s chances to claim the title turned to dust after encountering mechanical issues, reporting that his ERS had failed only 25 laps in. Hamilton won the race, ahead of Filipe Massa, while Rosberg finished in 14th.
Champion: Lewis Hamilton – 384 points
Runner-up: Nico Rosberg – 317 points
2016 – A Pair Of Seconds Was Enough
The ending of the 2016 F1 season was a weird one, and while there is no denying Rosberg deserved to lift the trophy, it’s the fashion in which he did it that made the 2016 season a memorable one.
The German kicked off the season with four straight wins, to which he added his fifth in the European Grand Prix in Azerbaijan. He followed that up with a string of three wins when the season resumed after the summer break.
A third-place finish in Malaysia was a minor setback for the German, but he got right back into the box seat with a win in Japan.
Rosberg could only manage runner-up in the USA and Mexico, where he finished behind Hamilton. However, he headed into the final two races of the season, knowing that he only needed a pair of second-place finishes to hoist the trophy.
And it seems like Rosberg took the path of the least resistance and had done just enough to collect the title, finishing the Brazilian Grand Prix and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in second. The German driver claimed his first F1 world championship title with five points to spare.
Champion: Nico Rosberg – 385 points
Runner-up: Lewis Hamilton – 380 points
2021 – One Race To Decide The Title
Max Verstappen has enjoyed a very solid season in 2021 and at one point held a 19-point lead over Lewis Hamilton. But a late resurgence from the seven-time world champion saw Hamilton remove the gap ahead of the season’s final race – thanks to his three back-to-back wins in Brazil, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
As the two drivers head to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with nothing to separate them, the pressure is higher than ever as the one who places higher will be crowned the new champion.
There is, however, a catch, as a DNF from both would see Verstappen claim the title, setting up a perfect scenario for a possible dramatic and controversial finish to the 2021 season.