Debate: Do the FIA engineer championship showdowns?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Chinese Grand Prix 2007, Shanghai International Circuit, start | DaimlerThere are often allegations that the FIA favours one driver, or team, over another. I don’t take those claims very seriously.

But it does sometimes seem as though decisions are made with the purpose of engineering championship showdowns at the final round of the year. After all, it keeps up public interest in the season.

Does the sport’s governing body try to keep the championship battle alive until the end?

Here are a couple of stewards’ decisions that conveniently left the title hanging in the balance with one round to go:

1994

A string of decisions went against Michael Schumacher, including disqualification at Silverstone (and exclusion from two further races) and Spa-Francorchamps.

That kept Damon Hill in the title fight until the final round – when Schumacher swiped into Hill’s car, taking the Briton out of the race, and winning the championship.

1997

Jacques Villeneuve, along with several other drivers, were penalised for passing yellow flags without slowing down sufficiently during practice at Suzuka. But as Villeneuve had committed a similar misdemeanour earlier in the season, he was excluded from the weekend.

Villeneuve raced under appeal, arguing that he had passed the yellow flag on a straight and thought that lifting off or braking would have been more dangerous, citing the fact that other drivers had done the same in his defence.

But after the race his team were leant on to drop the charge, which they did. Nonetheless, Villeneuve won the title at Jerez following a controversial clash with Michael Schumacher.

1999

Perhaps the most celebrated championship controversy of all. The Ferraris were disqualified from their one-two finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix for having barge boards of illegal dimensions. That made Mika Hakkinen of McLaren champion.

To no-one’s great surprise Ferrari’s appeal was accepted and the title went down to the final round once again.

2003

The Michelin-supplied teams and drivers had enjoyed a healthy advantage through the middle of the season until the FIA changed the tyre rules following a complaint fro Bridgestone.

Michelin were forced to bring new tyres and every race from that point on was won by Bridgestone-shod Ferrari, giving Michael Schumacher his sixth championship win.

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