During the 2000 Formula One season, you had two drivers gunning to take the world title: Michael Schumacher, already a double world champion, aged 31 and driving for Ferrari, and Mika Hakkinen, also a double world champion, and driving for an Adrian Newey -designed car (McLaren). Schumacher won, and the Ferrari/Schumacher domination of noughties commenced.
This weekend the 2012 Formula One season comes to an end in Sao Paulo, Brazil. There are two drivers gunning to take the world title: Fernando Alonso, already a double world champion, aged 31 and driving for Ferrari; and Sebastian Vettel, also a double world champion, and driving an Adrian Newey-designed car (Red Bull). Will history repeat itself?
This weekend is what Formula One is all about. You could see by the reaction of the Red Bull Racing team in Austin last weekend (amazing win by Lewis Hamilton by the way!) when they wrapped up their third consecutive Constructors title: no jubilant celebration. Some chinks in their armour had been made: Vettel, under pressure, faltered and lost the lead and a valuable 7 points; his team mate, Mark Webber, retired, and the previously bullet-proof Renault engine has a recurring alternator problem that has already made Red Bull publicly announce they are concerned about it ahead of the final race.
But why weren't Red Bull celebrating their fine Constructors win? Well...they should be, as the Constructors championship is where the money is that awards the teams. But only to those in the sport, those who write about it or are the most-knowledgeable of fans will remember a certain car - Formula One is about the driver.
Twenty-five points are available. Alonso is 13 points behind - there are all sorts of permutations which allow for Alonso or Vettel to win the title. Formula One has a habit of bringing up a surprise when at least expecting it, and when a championship is to be decided, "down-to-the-wire" races have been nail biting. Here are some of my favourites:
2010, Abu Dhabi
Going into the final race, Hamilton (McLaren) had the slimmest of chances to win; Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) had a good chance but all eyes were on Alonso (Ferrari) to take the title. Alonso spent the whole race stuck behind Vitaly Petrov's Renault and in a position that wouldn't allow him to win the title - Vettel won the race and the championship.
Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa were heading to Brazil, the final race of the season as title contenders. Massa won the race, yet on the last corner of the last lap, Hamilton overtook fifth placed Timo Glock's Toyota to score enough points to win the title.
The lead up to the final race had been mired by the cheating scandal between Ferrari and McLaren (Ferrari intellectual property had ended up in McLaren hands) - McLaren were excluded from the Constructors championship and fined $100m, but the Drivers championship was still open. Both Hamilton and Alonso (McLaren teammates) and Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) were in with a shout - Kimi taking the necessary points to win the title.
I can't talk about season finales without mentioning my childhood hero. 1996, Damon Hill heading into the final race with a 9-point cushion ahead of teammate and F1 rookie, Jacques Villeneuve. Damon had had a run of poor starts off the grid in previous races, but at Japan it all came together - a dream start off the line, a solid race, Villeneuve retired leading to Hill to take the title and become the first second-generation world champion. It was also the race where Murray Walker infamously said, "...and I've got to stop, because I've got a lump in my throat."
There are many others, including the infamous Prost/Senna years and before that - but this blog would go on forever if I described every event. It'll be exciting whatever happens, and fate seems to point towards Alonso as the victor. It is the battle for a three times world champion, Fernando Alonso won in 2005 and 2006, winning both titles at the Brazilian Grand Prix. They say things come in threes...perhaps its third time lucky again in Brazil for 'Nando.
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