As close as they could get

1981

Protagonists: Nelson Piquet (Brabham), Carlos Reutemann (Williams) & Laffite (Ligier).

Going into the final race, the Las Vegas GP, Reutemann had the advantage as he had to only finish in the top four to win the championship. He, however, struggled with his car and gradually yielded ground to Piquet and Laffitte, who finished fifth and sixth respectively. Reutemann finished eighth. Piquet's fifth place finish was enough to ensure him the title.

Points: Piquet 50, Reutemann 49, Laffite 47. Victories: Piquet 3, Reutemann 2, Laffite 0. Podiums: Piquet 7, Reutemann 7, Laffite 5. 1984

Protagonists: Niki Lauda (McLaren) and Alain Prost (McLaren).

It was the closest ever finish in the history of Formula One and Austria's Niki Lauda won the title ahead of his team-mate, Alain Prost of France, by half a point. To win the title, the Frenchman needed a victory, while Lauda had to finish not lower than third. Prost nudged ahead, while Lauda steadily climbed up the field. Nearing the end, Lauda capitalised on Mansell's retirement with a brake failure and finished second behind Prost to take the title.

In the final analysis the Monaco GP, which had to be stopped after 31 laps because of dreadful weather, proved to be Prost's bugaboo. The Frenchman, leading at the time when the race was called off, got 4.5 points rather than the full nine points as the GP ended at less than the halfway stage.

Points: Lauda 72, Prost 71.5. Victories: Lauda 5, Prost 7. Podiums: Lauda 9, Prost 9. 1986

Protagonists: Prost (McLaren), Mansell (Williams), Piquet (Williams).

Into the last and decisive race of the year, the Australian GP, Mansell was ahead with 70 points, followed by Piquet and Prost on 63 points each. A spate of tyre bursts put the leaders, including Mansell, out of contention. Piquet took advantage of this and moved up the field. Williams then erred by calling Piquet into the pits for a tyre change with 19 laps to go. Prost won the race and the Drivers' title.

Points: Prost 74, Mansell 72, Piquet 69. Victories: Prost 4, Mansell 5, Piquet 4. Podiums: Prost 11, Mansell 9, Piquet 10. 1989

Protagonists: Alain Prost & Ayrton Senna (both McLaren).

The title was decided at the Japanse GP. Prost and Senna were engaged in a classic duel. At the final chicane, the Brazilian crashed violently into Prost and both went off the track. Senna, however, restarted and went on to take the chequered flag. But the FIA disqualified him for receiving a push-start from the marshals in an illegal position. The race was awarded to Alessandro Nannini (Benetton), while the Drivers' title was given to Prost even though he refused to run the last race because of heavy rain.

Points: Prost 81, Senna 60. Victories: Prost 4, Senna 6. Podiums: Prost 11, Senna 7. 1990

Protagonists: Senna (McLaren) & Prost (Ferrari).

The Drivers' title was once again decided at the Japanese GP in Suzuka. Starting from the pole, Senna bumped into Prost, which put both out of the race. Piquet (Benetton) took the chequered flag. But Senna with 78 points was crowned the champion.

Points: Senna 78, Prost 73. Victories: Senna 6, Prost 5. Podiums: Senna 11, Prost 9. 1994

Protagonists: Michael Schumacher (Benetton) & Damon Hill (Williams).

Hill chased Schumacher right up to the 32nd lap when both got involved in a nasty crash. Trying to pass Schumacher, Hill banged into the German's Benetton, sending him into a tyre barrier. Hill damaged his suspension in the collision and both the drivers retired. Mansell won the race, and Schumacher won the title narrowly.

Points: Schumacher 92, Hill 91. Victories: Schumacher 8, Hill 6. Podiums: Schumacher 10, Hill 11. 1998

Protagonists: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) & Michael Schumacher (Ferrari).

Hakkinen (90 points) and Schumacher (86) went into the Japanese GP, the last race, with varying mathematical possibilities. But owing to a technical hitch, Schumacher was forced to start from behind. Hakkinen made a clean start and went into the lead. Schumacher worked his way up the grid to move to the third place, but in the 32nd lap his tyre burst and he was forced to retire. Hakkinen won.

Points: Hakkinen 100, Schumacher 86. Victories: Hakkinen 8, Schumacher 6. Podiums: Hakkinen 11, Schumacher 11.