Any lingering doubts over the natural ability of Lewis Hamilton ended with a tremendous wet-weather win at the Japanese Grand Prix, emphasised as team-mate and defending champion Fernando Alonso span off after 42 laps. "In the last few laps the team was telling me that I was going a second faster than anyone and to slow down," Hamilton said. "I was saying that I was going as slowly as I felt comfortable with." However, Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo was in no mood to be gracious. "I still think that in the spying affair it was a big mistake not to disqualify the McLaren drivers as well," he said. "If Hamilton wins the championship he will also win it thanks to Ferrari because there is a lot of Ferrari in his car." He didn't have to worry. Hamilton faltered and Kimi Räikkönen came up on the rails with wins in the last two grands prix to take the title for Ferrari.
Mika Hakkinen's last win before he retired came in front of 170,000 spectators at the US Grand Prix. "This was one grand prix I wanted in my record book," he said. "A wonderful win. It's incredible and I'm very happy." Hakkinen's day started badly when his McLaren was demoted from second to fourth on the grid after exiting the pit lane under a red light, but after early domination by the Ferraris, a slick pit-stop strategy enabled him to go on to take the chequered flag. Coming three weeks after the 9/11 attacks, it was an emotional day. Michael Schumacher, who drove with a Stars and Stripes emblem on his helmet, had seriously been considering retirement from F1 because of the emotional trauma he found himself in after the attacks.
It was also the final race as a full-time TV commentator for Murray Walker. At the end he was presented with a rare gift: an original brick from the Indianapolis track ('The Brickyard').
The first of three retirements in the last three races of the season by Ayrton Senna allowed rival Alain Prost to win the Spanish Grand Prix, team-mate Nigel Mansell making it a one-two weekend for Ferrari. Senna's day ended when the radiator on his McLaren was punctured by debris from backmarker Yannick Dalmas, allowing Prost to coast home and cut his lead to nine points. The weekend was overshadowed by a serious crash involving Martin Donnolly on the Friday which ended his career.
Jochen Mass, born on this day in Cologne, won once in 102 starts between 1973 and 1982. He made his F1 debut with Surtees, and then moved to McLaren in 1975, where he was an excellent No. 2 to Emerson Fittipaldi and won the Spanish Grand Prix. However, he then dropped into a subordinate role after James Hunt arrived in 1976, as he could not match the Englishman's pace on the track. Jochen moved to ATS in 1978, but broke a leg in a test at Silverstone. He drove for Arrows in 1979-80, had a year off in 1981 and returned for an uncompetitive season with March in 1982, after which he concentrated on sports cars, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours for Mercedes in 1989. The following year he acted as tutor to the company's young stars, including Michael Schumacher, before retiring at the end of 1991.
Alan Jones in a Williams recorded his fourth win in five races at the Canadian Grand Prix, successfully fighting off a determined challenge from Gilles Villenenuve in a Ferrari. Jones said afterwards his strategy was to let Villenenuve set the pace and then challenge "if everything felt OK with my car". On the 44th lap Jones outbraked Villeneuve at a hairpin and was never headed. Only ten of the 24 starters completed a race in which Ricardo Zunino made an unexpected debut after Niki Lauda had suddenly retired on the Friday.
Eric van de Poele, who was born on this day in Verviers, Belgium, entered 29 grands prix but started only five, thanks to him being associated with teams low and funds and with outdated cars. A ninth for Modena at San Marino was a promising debut, but he only qualified for one of the next 22 races. His last hurrah came with three outings for Fondemetal before its money ran out.
With sideburns large even by the standards of the day, Reine Wisell was a direct contemporary of Ronnie Peterson, a smooth driver in contrast to Peterson's more wild approach. His chance in F1 came when he was offered a drive by Lotus for the final two races of 1970 and he immediately made headlines with a third-place finish on debut at Watkins Glen, securing a contract for the following year. But Lotus struggled that year, and although he won the non-championship Pau GP he was released and his career petered out after a few more forgettable performances.