The 5 closest finishes in Formula 1 history

Alex Gassman

by Alex Gassman

Closest F1 finish

With the recent dominace of Max Vestappen it’s rare that we see two cars battling right up to the finish line in modern Formula 1.

However, there have been some incredibly tight finishes in the sport’s history. Here’s a look at 5 of the closest.

5 - 1969 Italian GP: 0.08 seconds

The fifth closest Formula 1 finish ever took place at the 1969 Italian Grand Prix, held at the incredibly fast Monza circuit. 

The drivers battling for the win were Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Bruce McLaren.

Monza, being so fast, was always a game of slipstreaming. It was highly tactical and often the driver in second place would have an advantage going on to the last lap. 

Approaching the final corner of Parabolica, Stewart was in the lead but Rindt dived up his inside. Beltoise also went around the outside of Stewart.

But Stewart had a better exit from the corner. He had also reportedly selected his 4th gear ratio specifically so he didn’t need to change up to 5th until after he crossed the finish line. And that’s what helped him win the race by a tiny 0.08 seconds, taking his first Formula 1 title in the process. The top four drivers were seperated by just 0.19 seconds.

Watch the finish for yourself below, commentated on by the legendary Murray Walker.

4 - 1982 Austrian GP: 0.05 seconds

The win for the 1982 Austrian Grand Prix, held at the Österreichring, was contested by Elio de Angelis and Keke Rosberg.

With 5 laps to go, de Angelis had a lead of more than 4 seconds over Rosberg. But Rosberg had much more pace and was closing on Elio rapidly.

1982 Austrian GP finish 2

Starting the final lap Keke was within a second of catching the leader. de Angelis had to defend for the last two corners, and it came down to who could get a better exit from the last corner and run to the line.

In the end de Angelis held off Rosberg by a mere 0.05 seconds. 

1982 Austrian GP finish

3 - 1986 Spanish GP: 0.014 seconds

The 1986 Spanish Grand Prix was held at Jerez circuit. It saw some classic on-track battles between the legends Mansell, Senna and Prost.

Quite late in to the race, Mansell went from 1st to 3rd as his tyres began to fall off the pace. He made a bold call to pit for fresh rubber, but faced a 20 second deficit to Senna in the lead upon rejoining.

Nevertheless he was on a mission. Starting the final lap he was less than a second by Ayrton, and exiting the final corner he used all of his Williams’ turbo power to try and pass Senna’s Lotus, but it wasn’t to be.

Ayrton Senna crossed the line just 0.014 seconds ahead of Nigel Mansell to win the race.

2 - 2002 US GP: 0.011 seconds

The end of the 2002 United States Grand Prix was marred with some controversy and confusion. To understand why we have to go back to the Austrian Grand Prix earlier that same seaon.

In that race Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello was leading the race from his teammate Michael Schumacher. Rubens’ team had ordered him to let Michael pass. Rubens was reluctant and in a show of defiance only did so on the final straight, just meters before they crossed the line.

By the time Formula 1 had reached the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis, Schumacher had already won the title. The Ferrari drivers were 1-2, with Michael leading, as they approached the line.

Michael decided to slow down to let Rubens pass, in an attempt to give him back the victory that was taken from him at Austria. Rubens lifted off too, but ended up finishing ahead of Michael by just 0.011 seconds to take the win.

1 - 1971 Italian GP: 0.010 seconds

The closest ever finish in Formula 1 history was at the 1971 Italian Grand Prix held at Monza. Finish #5 in this list was held two years before this one, also at Monza. And if you thought that was close then this one is something else.

Not only was the finish between the first two drivers a tiny one-one hundredth of a second, the top four cars were only seperated by 0.18 seconds, so it’s the closest 1-2-3-4 finish in Formula 1 history too.

The win was fought over by Peter Gethin, Ronnie Peterson, Francois Cevert and Mike Hailwood, none of whom had ever won an F1 race at the point. The Grand Prix was another slipstream battle that saw a total of 25 lead changes. The final corner of Parabolica would once again be the deciding moment.

Peterson made his move in to Parabolic but ran wide. Peter Gething saw his chance and got a better exit, extracting every last horsepower from his BRM to cross the line first.

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Alex Gassman

I‘m Alex. I write F1 and motorsport guides based on my own experience as a racing driver and full-time motorsport nerd. I’ve traveled the world watching F1 and other racing series.

I started oversteer48 with the aim of helping other motorsport fans who want to learn more about racing.

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Join the oversteer48 F1 Insider's club

I’ll send you a weekly email with insider info on the latest F1 news and results. 
Read by over 5,000 busy F1 fans each week.