The 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, on 13th December, will be the third latest end to a Formula 1 season. Here are the five latest dates on which the final race of an F1 season has taken place!
29th December: 1962 South African Grand Prix
The 1962 South African Grand Prix holds the record for the latest date in the year on which a Formula 1 race has been held. The 1962 season was contested over nine rounds, with the first eight playing out between May and October. After the United States Grand Prix, there was a wait of almost three months before the season-ending South African race, which was to be a title decider. It was also to be the first time that F1 raced in South Africa as part of the World Championship.
Practice for the race began on Boxing Day – though there were only a few runners. Title rivals Graham Hill and Jim Clark took to the track for the first time on the following day. The pair started alongside each other on the front row, and it was Hill who would come out on top. He won the race, securing the first of his two Drivers’ Championships.
28th December: 1963 South African Grand Prix
One year later, F1 returned to South Africa at the same time of year. This time around, Jim Clark had already wrapped up the title in September. It was Clark who would be victorious at the 1963 South African Grand Prix, winning his seventh race of the year. With only ten races in the season, Clark’s winning percentage of 70% that year has been beaten only twice – by Alberto Ascari in 1952 and Michael Schumacher in 2004. This was the last time that a Formula 1 race was held in December for over 55 years.
13th December: 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will bring to an end one of Formula 1’s strangest seasons. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Yas Marina race was originally scheduled to take place on 29th November, but was pushed back by two weeks to allow two additional races in Bahrain to take place, boosting the number of rounds in the season to seventeen.
12th December: 1959 United States Grand Prix
The 1959 United States Grand Prix, held three months after the previous race at Monza, was the first Formula 1 race to be held in the month of December. It was also the first time that F1 visited the United States; though the Indianapolis 500, not run to F1 regulations, was a round of the World Championship in every season prior.
The race, held at Sebring, was a three-way title decider between Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks. Moss led the opening laps, but retired on the fifth tour, giving the lead to Brabham. Brabham comfortably led until the final lap, when his car ran out of fuel. It came to a halt a few hundred yards from the finish line, and the Australian got out to push the car over the line. He ultimately finished fourth, but it was enough to secure him his first of three titles.
1st December: 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the first F1 race to take place in December in 56 years. While this is the fifth latest season-ending race, it is the sixth latest date in the year on which an F1 race has been held. The penultimate round of the 2020 season, the Sakhir Grand Prix, was held on 6th December. Lewis Hamilton, who had wrapped up a sixth title earlier in the season, won the race in dominant fashion.
After graduating in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. The blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics.
Nicky also writes at F1Destinations and Motorsport Guides and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast. His work has appeared on WTF1, BadgerGP, motorsport.com, Sky Sports F1 and BBC Radio 5 Live. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast.