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With the Formula One season about to end in a final race showdown this weekend, many have compared this campaign to the thrilling championship 24 years ago which had four drivers fighting tooth-and-nail for the title.

F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone punctuated the parallel in the run up to October's Korean Grand Prix by recreating a famous photo from 1986 featuring that year's "Gang of Four" title contenders: Williams drivers Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost of McLaren, and Lotus' Ayrton Senna.

This time the photo had five drivers - Red Bull's Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, and the McLaren pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button - who were in the running for the championship at the time the shutter snapped. After the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday, the list is now down to four, with Button being eliminated.

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While four drivers remain mathematically in the running for the 2010 championship and the sport continues to hype the showdown in Abu Dhabi, measuring this year's battle against the one 24 years ago makes the 2010 fight look tame in comparison.

Unfortunately, one thing continues to be missing from today's F1 races: Passing at the front. Most F1 battles for the lead happen in the pit lane where cars try to use their stops as a strategic tool to overtake. Even with the end of refuelling this year, this remains the norm.

Rain has made this somewhat different in 2010, where the wet weather has brought some good battles. But it can't compare to the days of the wheel-to-wheel combat that marked the 1986 season.

That championship 24 years ago featured some of the most memorable action in the sport's history, as a quartet of current and future world champions fought a running battle for the entire 16-race season, with the title coming down to the last race of the year. Along the way, fans saw some of the best action in grand prix history with teammates Mansell and Piquet not giving either an inch in several races where they overtook each other for wins in a feud that ultimately delivered the title to Prost.

In Spain, there was the epic three-driver fight between Mansell, Prost and Senna, where the Williams driver took the lead early but was too hard on his tires. After being passed by Senna and Prost, Mansell pitted for new tires with 10 laps to go and set off in pursuit of the leading pair. He got past Prost and then tried everything to get past the Lotus but missed getting the win by 0.014 seconds. The year also included one of the bravest overtaking moves in F1 history when Piquet got by Senna at the first corner in Hungary by diving outside and then four-wheel sliding his car into the lead.

Then there was the final race in Australia, where the top-3 went into the championship deciding event separated by seven points, with Mansell leading Prost by six. In the end, Mansell crashed out of second place after a tire blew, while leader Piquet pitted late as the team worried he would also have his rubber fail. Piquet tried in vain to catch Prost over the last 18 laps but fell four seconds short.

Good omen for Hamlin?

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A win in Texas on Sunday for Denny Hamlin means that Jimmie Johnson does not lead the point standings with two races left in the NASCAR Sprint Cup season for the first time in four seasons. The Toyota driver took the checkered flag and the points lead by a scant 33 after out-duelling Matt Kenseth to the line following a late restart.

The last time Johnson was second with two to go, he lost the 2005 title to Tony Stewart after crashing out of the Homestead-Miami season finale about halfway through the race. He ended the year fifth overall, but rebounded in 2006 to take his first of four consecutive championships. To make matters worse, all is not well in Johnson's pit as his crew chief Chad Knaus dumped his struggling pit crew in favour of Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon's guys after the No. 24 driver crashed out of the race. Gordon's crew serviced Johnson's car on his final three stops.

Perils of racing in Brazil

McLaren driver Jenson Button and his companions escaped unharmed after an attempted carjacking on the way to his Sao Paulo hotel from the Interlagos Circuit on Saturday afternoon. Luckily, the 2009 F1 world champion escaped unhurt due to some fast thinking by his driver who went into escape mode when the armed assailants threatened his passengers.

Button and his companions - father John, physiotherapist Mike Collier, and manager Richard Goddard - were unhurt in the incident. The McLaren driver went on to finish fifth in Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix but the result in Sao Paulo wasn't good enough to keep Button in the hunt for the 2010 world title.

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