- September 25 down the years
Alonso becomes the youngest championWhat happened on this day in Formula One history?
Third place at the Brazilian Grand Prix was enough to give Renault's Fernando Alonso the world championship, and so become the youngest champion at 24 years and 59 days. "The final laps seemed to take for ever," he said. "And it took a while for it to sink in once I came to a stop. I won the championship with maybe not the best car, so I am proud of what I did. The fact that I have taken over the title from Michael Schumacher is a bonus. I came from a country with no tradition in F1. I had to fight my way alone. I have only had the help of two or three people in my career, no more." The result also raised questions over the future of Schumacher who said he was "not sad to lose the world title after all this time". In the Guardian, Alan Henry wrote: "Schumacher may be one of the fittest drivers in the field, but at 36 he is also the oldest. Losing his championship to a driver 12 years his junior will have forced him to confront the dimming of the sun."
Nelson Piquet won the European Grand Prix to cut Alain Prost's lead at the top of the drivers' table to two points with one race remaining (in South Africa Piquet came third while Prost retired, so winning the second of his three titles). At Brand Hatch, Prost was six-and-a-half seconds behind Piquet. Derek Warwick finished fifth despite a fire extinguisher exploding in his cockpit. "The fluid kept pouring out for a lap and it was a bit like frostbite," he said. "My gear-changing hand simply froze solid and I had to work hard to get some feeling back into it."
At the Portuguese Grand Prix as Damon Hill led home Williams team-mate David Coulthard, the first British one-two since Hill's father Graham headed Piers Courage at Monaco 25 years earlier. "It begs the question why Williams should pay $1 million-a-race demanded by Nigel Mansell when Coulthard, 18 years his junior, has shown such immense long-term potential," asked Alan Henry in the Guardian. Coulthard had led after Gerhard Berger retired early, but on the 28th lap he went wide at a hairpin allowing Hill through. The Scot admitted it was a "great overtaking manoeuvre" but added he thought "we'd agreed we wouldn't be overtaking each other at that corner". It was the last race to date where there was no defending champion in the field.
Keke Rosberg secured his one and only drivers' title in the last race of the season, held in a car park at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. His fifth-place finish was enough to see of his one remaining rival, John Watson, who came second to 25-year-old Michele Alboreto in a Tyrrell. It was a confusing weekend as Rosberg had five days earlier lost an appeal against a decision to disqualify him from the Brazilian Grand Prix, meaning Watson could have been crowned world champion, but also that the decision could have been overturned if the appeal against the appeal had gone Rosberg's way! This was the third US Grand Prix of the season, and the last to be held at this particular venue.
Henri Pescarolo, who was born on this day in Montfermeil, Seine-Saint-Denis, was carried into Formula One by Matra on the strength of strong Formula Three, Formula Two and sports car performances, but not before his career had suffered a major setback when a crash at Le Mans in 1969 left him with severe burns. Nevertheless, fully recovered, he was drafted into the Matra Formula One team in 1970, and took an excellent third place at Monaco, followed by a fourth place at Silverstone in Frank Williams' March in 1971. Henri dropped out of Formula One and only returned occasionally, before committing to sports car racing full-time at the end of 1976, notching up the fourth of his wins in the 1984 Le Mans 24 Hours. He continues to run one of Europe's leading sports car teams, always fielding young French drivers, and is still a fixture in the pits at Le Mans.