Coming into this final race, Hunt needed to finish four points ahead of Lauda: which meant, under the traditional scoring system of the day, that he needed to finish at least 3rd or better (with Lauda not scoring). Hunt dominated the first-half of the race — run in atrociously bad weather — with a fantastic start. When Lauda abruptly withdrew after three laps, not willing to risk his life in a race that today would surely have been red-flagged, it seemed James had everything wrapped up. Yet as the track dried his rain tires began to shred. Pitting from a safe 3rd place, Hunt rejoined in 5th with just five laps to go. Ferrari began celebrating Lauda’s title, but they were counting out an inspired Hunt, who quickly passed Alan Jones and Clay Regazzoni to retake 3rd. Still, Hunt was unable to communicate with his pits, which meant he did not know what position he was in, and kept pushing for his life to catch Patrick Depailler. At the end, Hunt crossed the line unable to see the track, not knowing where he had placed or whether he had captured the drivers’ title — while Mario Andretti almost anonymously won the race in his Lotus 77. As Hunt berated his crew for terrible pit signals, it was only the grinning face of McLaren team manager Teddy Meyer that told Hunt he had won the World Championship. And, on that treacherous day at the foot of Mt. Fuji, he truly deserved it. Classifications.
A featured race from the F1A&G | Races collection.