The closest championship battle in Formula One history was decided today in 1984.
Less than a point separated McLaren team mates Niki Lauda and Alain Prost after the final race of the season at Estoril in Portugal. Lauda edged his young team mate by just half a point.
All season long the McLarens had usually been shaded by their rivals in qualifying – especially Brabham – but their TAG-Porsche turbo engines helped them come on strong during the races with a winning blend of performance and fuel economy.
At the season finale on the new Estoril circuit Nelson Piquet was on pole position for Brabham alongside Prost with Lauda down in 11th place.
Prost quickly made his way into the lead but he was doomed to win the battle and lose the war as Lauda inexorably made his way through the field.
When Lauda brushed Ayrton Senna’s Toleman aside to take third place only Nigel Mansell’s Lotus stood between him and a third world championship.
Fortunately for Lauda, Mansell’s entreaties to team boss Peter Warr to fit larger brakes to his car had fallen on deaf ears. When Mansell’s car skidded off the track with smoking brakes, Lauda was through into second.
It was the second year in a row Prost has missed out on the title by a slender gap. Piquet beat him to the 1983 crown by a mere two points.
What was most unfortunate for Prost was that he’d only taken half points for his victory in the shortened, rain-hit Monaco Grand Prix. Had the race carried on for a few dozen more laps, then even if Prost had slipped to second place behind the charging Senna, the extra points would have made him world champion.