The First 3 Times the Formula 1 Drivers’ Title was Decided by 1 Point

For the first time since 2016, the Formula 1 drivers’ championship will be decided following 2021’s final event.

F1 leaders and rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are tied at 369.5 points, entering the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Dec. 12. The season-long battle may rank high for on-track drama, but, depending on the finish, the duel may not rank among the closest F1 finishes of all time.

Here’s a look at the first three times a single point determined the F1 world championship:

1958: Mike Hawthorn def. Stirling Moss, 43-42

Consistency eluded Stirling Moss, and his sportsmanship played roles in his runner-up finish.

The 1958 F1 season consisted of 10 events, and Moss performed well in half of the races, winning four and placing second once. The other half? Five DNFs.

Meanwhile, Mike Hawthorn approached the races with a patient, points-first gameplan. He only won one race but remained in the points for most of the season. He also received a verbal boost from his closest competitor.

During the Portuguese Grand Prix, the eighth race of the season, Hawthorn’s machine stalled. He got out and pushed it to the service road, where she jumped in and ignited the car. Immediately, track stewards disqualified Hawthorn.

In his defense, Moss testified his points rival started the car off the track. F1 officials reversed the decision, and Hawthorn earned his six second-place points.

Two races later, Hawthorn claimed the title by one point over Moss.

Hawthorn retired soon after accepting the championship. Unfortunately, he died a year later because of injuries he sustained in an automobile accident.

1961: Phil Hill def. Wolfgang von Trips, 34-33

Formula 1 driver Phil Hill races his way to the world championship during the Italian Grand Prix on Sept. 10, 1961 | Klemantaski Collection/Getty Images

Hill’s triumph came through a second-lap tragedy at the 1961 Italian Grand Prix.

On a hot afternoon, 32 machines lined up for, at the time, was one of F1’s most extended grid starts.

Early in the race, Jim Clark raced side-by-side with Richie Ginther. Phil Hill, Richardo Rodriguez, Wolfgang von Trips, Jack Brabham, and Giancarlo Baghetti followed closely.

Racing along the backstretch, the leaders were still bunched together when Clark and von Trips collided. The Ferrari driven by von Trips spun out and darted up the grass banking and into the crown. Von Trips was ejected and died en route to a local hospital.

Fourteen spectators also lost their lives after being struck by the out-of-control racecar.

Hill averted the collision, and despite the tragedies, the race continued to the end. Hill claimed the checkered flag and sealed the drivers’ championship, but his celebration was muted when he heard of the fatalities.

1964: John Surtees def. Graham Hill, 40-39

During a season in which Hill secured more points than Surtees, he still lost the drivers’ title.

That season, F1 rules called for the championship to be determined by each drivers’ top six races, discounting the other four events. Points were rewarded to the top six finishers, 9-6-4-3-2-1.

Both Surtees and Hill won two races in 1964, and if all the races had counted, Hill would have accumulated 41 points and earned the championship.

But rules are rules.

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