An injury-time score, a shot at goal in the red, a final-over victory. Whatever the occasion, sports fans love a tight affair.
The 2005 Ashes, the 2018-19 Premier League title race, and now the 2021 Formula 1 drivers’ championship; it could really be that close.
The closest intra-team championship in the last five years came in 2017, when Lewis Hamilton overcame a stiff Ferrari challenge in the form of Sebastian Vettel by 46 points.
With four races left in this latest chapter of Formula 1, Dutchman Max Verstappen in his Red Bull leads seven-time title winner Hamilton by 19 points.
The championship is by no means over but, so close to the now-traditional season closer in Abu Dhabi, Red Bull have never been in such a strong position in the hybrid era.
Formula 1 renaissance
And what a season it has been so far. Action at every turn, overtaking, collisions and superb scenes from some of the stands.
Formula 1 is built on money, and a lot of it. But in the last few race weekends, we have seen how fan-led experiences are changing the sport.
It’s not new to see a packed out Silverstone or Monza, but in Mexico and the US, Formula 1’s rapid popularity growth has been laid bare and on show. What a sight.
The stadium bowl of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was rammed at the weekend; fans cheering, screaming, shouting.
Home country hero Sergio Perez became the first Mexican to lead a race in the capital, and the first to stand on a podium there too.
The fans turned this otherwise mundane grand prix into an event. It may not have been a race for the ages but the scenes more than made up for it.
Here lies the problem
Alas, Formula 1 is all about the money and it’ll be a shame to watch one of the closest battles in recent seasons unfold in the relatively sedate surroundings of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Tracks built to order, like flat-pack sports stadiums, offer little to the imagination. In an era of environmental concern, oil-rich countries are desperate to have a slice of the Formula 1 media pie.
Grands Prix are no longer merely two-hour races, they’re three-day spectacles. The British Grand Prix hosts concerts like its Glastonbury, the US does so like its Coachella.
It’s more than just a race, no matter how close the battle is on the track.
Once upon a time, Interlagos, Brazil was the climax of the season. Site of Hamilton’s dramatic first title on the final lap, and where titles have been won or lost.
Up next in the calendar, the race should offer the last chance at traditional racing this season. The swooping turns and rise and fall at altitude is what American motorsport is all about.
Verstappen’s car should be the favourite in the thinner Brazilian air, but Hamilton’s history here makes him a threat.
From thereon in, it’s not the event spectacle to look forward to; it’s the unknown.
New circuits in the Middle East offer a blank cheque to drivers who can find hidden gains. And in Abu Dhabi, track changes should offer a similar challenge.
This title race is as close as any have been for years, and fans have been treated to an outstanding season of ups, downs and storylines.
But when the lights go out in the remaining races, the scenes we saw in Mexico simply will not be replicated. Formula 1 is a business, a product, but fans matter too.