Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen only have 1974 example in unprecedented F1 showdown

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All eyes will turn to Formula 1 ahead of the dramatic, fitting end to a sensational 2021 season in Abu Dhabi, with Red Bull star Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton tied on points with just one grand prix remaining. The situation with the two leading drivers being level on points heading into the final race has only happened one before: the 1974 world championship was settled at the United States Grand Prix.

Heading into the race at Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race Course in New York, McLaren’s Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni of Ferrari could not be separated after 14 events as they were tied with 52 points each.

The two men struggled in qualifying, with Brabham’s Carlos Reutemann claiming pole while future world champion James Hunt lined up alongside the Argentine on the front row. 

Hamilton and Verstappen are expected to battle at the front this Sunday, but Fittipaldi started P8 while Regazzoni was one place behind in ninth. 

With tension high, Ferrari’s Niki Lauda held up Fittipaldi in an attempt to help his teammate who was struggling with handling problems and began to drop down the field. 

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In fact, it was clear that Regazzoni was struggling by the end of the third lap as a train was forming behind his Ferrari.

Regazzoni pitted for new tyres twice to no avail, as his handling issues were caused by a defective shock absorber and he found himself two laps behind his Brazilian rival. 

Lauda and Jody Scheckter both retired later in the race, boosting Fittipaldi to fourth as he tightened his grip on the championship. 

The race itself was won by Reutemann with teammate Carlos Pace coming second to seal a sensational one-two for Brabham, with Hunt rounding out the podium.

Fittipaldi finished fourth to become the 1974 World Champion, with Regazzoni limping home in P11.

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The Brazilian therefore finished with 55 points to his Swiss rival’s 52, claiming his second world championship after winning his maiden title in 1972 with Lotus.

Fittipaldi’s win with McLaren kickstarted the manufacturers’ surge to become one of the most iconic and winningest teams in the sport’s history, with his Drivers’ Championship being their first title – and they now have 12, with the last coming in 2008 courtesy of Hamilton.

It was also the first Constructors’ Championship won by the illustrious team – the first of eight such titles – after Scheckter was forced to retire when his engine suddenly lost fuel pressure.

The race was marred by the death of Austrian Helmuth Koinigg in what was just his second Grand Prix. His car suffered suspension failure, sending him into the recently-installed Armco barrier.

Koinigg was decapitated as his car passed underneath the top part of the barrier. Lauda retired after learning of his countryman’s death.

The red and white uniforms of the McLaren pit crew mobbed the circuit to celebrate their World Champion in Fittipaldi while the Brabham team celebrated their victors, and the crowd – especially the Brazilians among them – leapt over the fences and jammed the pit area.

Such scenes of ecstasy, delirium and heartbreak are set to be repeated in Abu Dhabi this Sunday.

The question remains: will it be the black and silver of Mercedes or the navy of Red Bull that floods the podium to celebrate the new world champion?


Formula 1 travels to the Yas Marina Circuit for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on December 12, with Red Bull star Verstappen and Mercedes’ Hamilton level on points ahead of the final race of the season.

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