Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Formula One’s most memorable finales

Lewis Hamilton needs a minor miracle to clinch the Formula One championship at Abu Dhabi this Sunday. The British driver could take inspiration from these three dramatic finishes – including one he'll be very familiar with, writes Gruffudd Owen

Following Lewis Hamilton's dramatic victory in monsoon-like conditions at the Brazilian Grand Prix, the Mercedes driver heads into the final race of the 2016 Formula One season at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit with his hopes of claiming a third successive championship still alive – just.

The Briton trails his team-mate Nico Rosberg by 12 points – despite both being on nine race wins each – and knows that it will take something special for him to pull off the unlikeliest of title victories: even by winning in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton would still need Rosberg to finish no higher than fourth to take home the championship.

Should he succeed, it would go down as one of the sport's most memorable comebacks. But can it top any of these three dramatic Formula One finales?

1976 Japanese Grand Prix

Speed, thrills and danger are all synonymous with motor racing, but the 1976 Formula One season really did raise the bar.

Heading into the final race of the season at the Fuji Speedway in Japan, there were two drivers in contention for the championship – James Hunt of McLaren, and Niki Lauda of Ferrari, who just three months earlier had been involved in a near-fatal accident at the German Grand Prix, causing severe burns to his face.

Despite torrential rain, the race at Fuji went ahead – although Lauda, still clearly affected by his traumatic experience at the Nürburgring, retired after just two laps. In hazardous driving conditions, Hunt clung onto third place and was crowned champion – but the mere fact that Lauda was able to take part was itself a significant victory.  

1986 Australian Grand Prix

No fewer than three drivers were in with a chance of winning the championship at the season-ending Australian Grand Prix in 1986. With a six-point advantage at the top of the overall leaderboard, Nigel Mansell of Williams-Honda was the firm favourite going into the race, while defending champion Alain Prost of McLaren trailed in second place with Mansell's team-mate Nelson Piquet a point behind in third.

Despite starting in pole position, Mansell began the race badly and dropped to fourth, only to be handed a lifeline when race leader Keke Rosberg retired with a puncture late on in the race, which saw Mansell climb to third. While this would have been enough for the Briton to clinch the title, just one lap later he was forced to pull out himself due to an exploded tyre – leaving Prost and Piquet to battle it out for the crown. Prost eventually pipped his rival to claim a famous championship win. 

2008 Brazilian Grand Prix

Seeking his first Formula One championship, a 23-year-old Lewis Hamilton knew that a fifth-place finish or higher would be enough at the final race of the 2008 season in Brazil.

Looking to spoil the party was Ferrari driver and home favourite Felipe Massa. While the Brazilian did everything he could by cruising to victory, Hamilton struggled throughout the race and looked destined to miss out on a maiden title win – only to overtake Toyota's Timo Glock at the death and pass the finishing line in fifth place, securing the championship for a jubilant McLaren team.