• October 21 down the years

Senna v Prost and the dirty line

What happened on this day in Formula One history?
Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost collide at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix © Getty Images

Suzuka was the scene for one of the most controversial endings to a Formula One world championship ever as bitter rivals Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost went head-to-head. Senna took pole position but wanted the starting slot changed to the clean side of the track. When his request to the FIA was refused, a furious Senna insisted he would not lift off into the first corner come what may. Prost did indeed get a better start from the clean side of the track but Senna refused to give way, knowing that Prost's retirement would hand him the title. And so the inevitable happened, with both cars going off into a cloud of dust. "What he did is disgusting," Prost said afterwards. "I am not ready to fight against irresponsible people who are not afraid to die." Senna was unrepentant: "I don't give a damn what he says. He has tried to destroy me but he will not. Prost made the biggest mistake by closing the door as I came inside. He knows I always go for the gap."

Title outsider Kimi Raikkonen claimed his first drivers' championship at Interlagos by a single point from Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Hamilton went into the title-deciding round in Brazil leading the drivers' championship and with the title in his hands. But he soon found himself down in fourth, the fast starting Ferraris and team-mate Fernando Alonso getting the jump on him at the start. In an attempt to get past Alonso round the outside, Hamilton went off the circuit and rejoined in eighth. Things quickly went from bad to worse as his McLaren lost drive and slowed to a crawl before he regained momentum, albeit now in 18th place. Although he fought his way back to seventh, it was not enough as Raikkonen took the chequered flag and the title. "This is my first year, I will bounce back stronger. I have learnt a huge amount. Certain mistakes I have made, I won't make next year," vowed Hamilton. True to his word, he did bounce back to win the drivers' title in 2008 in even more dramatic circumstances.

Niki Lauda picked his way through the field from eleventh at the Portuguese Grand Prix to secure his third world title by just half a point from McLaren team-mate Alain Prost. Lauda picked off driver after driver at Estoril to move up to second and score the necessary points to hold onto his lead in the standings. After the race he said: "It has been the hardest season of my life and that last lap seemed one of the longest. But I've done it by half a point and, I can tell you, Alain Prost was a difficult man to beat."

Tazio Nuvolari won the only Gran Premio di Napoli to be held in Posillipo. Known as the Coppa Principessa di Piemonte in honor of Marie-José of Belgium, it continued from the same event held in 1933 in the Circuito Province Meridionale. It was held again from 1937 to 1939, although from 1938 it was purely a Voiturette race and attracted all-Maserati entries. After World War II it was restarted as the Gran Premio di Napoli and ran from 1948 until 1962.