Three Formula 1 drivers became champions od 21st October – Niki Lauda (1984), Ayrton Senna (1990) and Kimi Raikkonen (2007).
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Brazilian GP, 21 October, 2007
In 2007. we have seen a dramatic turnaround in the driver’s championship. Lewis Hamilton arrived at the last race in Brazil with seven points lead ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and four points ahead of his team mate Fernando Alonso. All that Lewis needed was fifth place if Kimi won and third place if Alonso won.
Ferraris were faster at Interlagos and secured first (Massa) and third (Raikkonen) place at the start, while Lewis and Alonso were second and fourth. Raikkonen jumped Lewis at the start and through a series of the first three corners Alonso and Hamilton were next to each other.
And instead of backing off and settling down at fourth place that guarantees him the championship, Hamilton brakes very late on the outside of turn four, flies off the track and drops to eighth place.
In the second lap Hamilton passes Trulli for Toyota and in the lap six he passes Heidfeld in a BMW Sauber for the sixth place. Then he ecountered the problems with the transmission, but manages to reset the software and continue the race.
He lost about 30 seconds and dropped to 18th place. By the end of the race Lewis was able to get to the seventh place, Alonso finished third and Raikkonen won after Massa deliberately made an mistake to let him through the pitstops. Finn became the world champion in his first season for Ferrari after four seasons in McLaren. Ferrari had already secured the constructors title since McLaren were stripped of all points for possessing Ferrari’s technical documents. They were also punished and fined for 100 million US dollars.
Ayrton Senna, McLaren Honda, Japanese GP, 21 October, 1990
Grand Prix of Japan in 1990 was as controversial as in the previous year. Senna and Prost were again leading the championship, just like in previous two years. Two greatest drivers of their generation dominated in Formula 1 in the last few years – they won 37 of 46 races ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix in 1990.
Senna had an nine points advantage, but two wins in the last two races would be enough for the the Frenchman to become world champion, even if Ayrton finished second on both occasions. In that case, Prost would have won the title with the same number of points but with one more victory. The situation almost identical to last year, but in reverse roles.
Senna won the pole position with three tenths advantage over Prost’s Ferrari. The Brazilian asked FIA to move pole position to the left side where the track was cleaner (racing line), which was approved at first, but the president of the FIA Jean Marie Balestre returned things to the initial state. Pole position remained on the dirty, right side of the grid that leads to the inside of the first corner. Frustrated Senna said, just like Prost last year, that will not move if Prost tries to pass him into the first corner – ‘This year it has to be my way’, said Senna before the race.
Prost started better and took the lead from Senna, but powerful Honda engine allowed Senna to reduce the gap until the first bend. The Frenchman returned to the racing line, Senna was holding inside line and crashed into the rear end of his Ferrari.
Both drivers retired but Senna became the world champion for the second time. FIA did not intervene after the race, just like the year before when Prost blocked Senna at the last moment. Angry Prost later described Senna as ‘worthless man’. The race was won by Nelson Piquet in a Benetton in front of team mate Robert Morena and Agurija Suzuki in Lola Lamborghini. For Moreno and Suzuki that were their only podium finishes in their F1 careers.
Niki Lauda, McLaren TAG, Portugese GP, 21 October, 1984
Niki Lauda needed second place to secure the championship, even if his team mate at McLaren Alain Prost wins the race.
Nelson Piquet was fastest man in qualifying in Brabham BMW, 0.071 seconds in front of Alain Prost in McLaren TAG and 0.233 seconds in front of Ayrton Senna in Toleman Hart. Lauda was only 11th, 1.480 s behind fastest Piquet.
Prost did everything he could and won the race, but Lauda overtook car after car, set the fastest lap of the race and managed to finish second after Mansell retired in lap 52/70 with a brake issues.
Niki Lauda won his third and final title with only half a point advantage over his team mate Alain Prost. Lauda became the driver with biggest gap between two consecutive championships – it was seven years since he won his second title in Ferrari in 1977.
Lauda and Prost dominated the season and won 12 of 16 races in 1984 – Lauda won five and Prost seven races.
Interestingly, Lauda won the title without starting from pole position in that year and he is the only second driver in F1 history who achieved that after Denny Hulme in 1967.