F1 flashback: Lauda takes title by half a point (VIDEO)

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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.

Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”