Pick your classic F1 season finale
First, an admission. Figuring that the world championship battle would go down to the wire for the fourth time in a row, we had planned the final edition of this year's classic races series to be about great title deciders - and now Jenson Button has gone and messed it all up!
It is a bit late to change our plans now, though, so we're going to press ahead. As it happens, four of the five choices are, like next weekend's Abu Dhabi race, the last race of that particular season as well as - unlike Abu Dhabi - a title decider. And all of them are true classics, whichever way you look at it.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to include one of the races we wanted to - the 1997 title decider at Jerez in Spain, when Michael Schumacher infamously tried to take rival Jacques Villeneuve out of the race. The tape we were sent by ITV has had the post-race interviews recorded over the first two-thirds of the race, so it's impossible to cut a proper highlights package of it.
We will look into finding a full version of that race at a later date. In the meantime, we have chosen the final event of 1980, the US Grand Prix East, as its replacement.
In a way, this is appropriate, as - like Abu Dhabi this year - although it was the final race of the season, it was not a title decider. Just as Button has now in 2009, Williams driver Alan Jones clinched the world championship at the previous race, which was in Canada.
It was, though, a drive befitting Jones's new status. The Australian qualified fifth, but ran wide on the first lap and finished it in 14th place, whereupon he embarked upon a quite brilliant recovery to win the race.
Who knows? Now Jenson Button has been freed from the pressure of the championship, perhaps he will produce something similar on 1 November.
That 1980 race also marks an important watershed in F1 history, as it was the last at the superb Watkins Glen road circuit in upstate New York. After that, 'the Glen' lost the race, and various US Grands Prix rotated around a selection of temporary tracks in cities before the race dropped off the calendar altogether after 1991.
Lauda enjoys an embrace with his wife after winning the 1984 title as team-mate Prost looks on
It came back in 2000 at a purpose-built track at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but even that has now fallen by the wayside.
One hopes that when F1 finally gets a US GP back on the calendar - as all the teams are determined it will - it will be held at a track as deserving of such an important event as was Watkins Glen.
That brings us neatly on to our second choice - the Las Vegas Grand Prix in 1981. It was the first of two F1 races on a track constructed, believe it or not, in a car park of the Caesars Palace Hotel. In fact, "constructed" is too complimentary a word - the track layout was simply marked out by concrete blocks.
This unprepossessing site was the scene for a quite remarkable title decider.
Argentine Williams driver Carlos Reutemann headed into the race with a one-point lead over the Brazilian Brabham driver Nelson Piquet, with Frenchman Jacques Laffite, of Ligier, a further five points adrift.
And when Reutemann qualified on pole, with Piquet fifth and Laffite down in 12th, the championship seemed to be his for the taking.
But Reutemann, who is now a leading politician in his home country, was arguably the most enigmatic of all great grand prix drivers.
He finished the first lap in fifth place and, increasingly unhappy with his car, lost a further place to Piquet on lap 17. He then slipped out of the points - which then went down to sixth place - when Alfa Romeo's Mario Andretti passed him a lap later.
In the closing laps, Piquet was visibly on the verge of collapse, his head lolling around in the cockpit as the desert heat got to him, but still nothing could rouse Reutemann and he limped across the line in seventh place. And as Brabham team members spent 15 minutes trying to revive Piquet, Reutemann slipped away almost unnoticed. To this day, he has never satisfactorily explained his performance.
Our next choice, the 1983 South African Grand Prix, also ended with Piquet as champion, but in completely different circumstances.
Unlike Caesars Palace, the old Kyalami was a truly great track, and it was a fitting place for a title showdown.
Alain Prost and Renault were the dominant force in 1983, but as the season came to its climax, the Frenchman cut a haunted figure - insisting to his team even after a win in Austria gave him a 14-point lead with four races to go that they would lose the title if the team did not develop their car.
Sure enough, Prost was right and Renault were wrong. Brabham's performance improved dramatically in the final four races of the season and Prost went into the final race with only a two-point advantage over Piquet. Ferrari's Rene Arnoux was also in with a slim chance, seven points behind his countryman.
Prost's optimism was not increased when Piquet qualified second, behind Ferrari's Patrick Tambay, with the Renault only fifth, and his worst fears were realised when Piquet streaked away into the distance in the opening laps. It was soon obvious the Brazilian would win the race if he needed to.
On lap 35, that need was removed when Prost retired with turbo failure, and Piquet, now requiring only a fourth place, backed off and allowed team-mate Riccardo Patrese to claim the victory.
A few days later, Renault, looking for scapegoat, sacked Prost, a decision that ranks with Honda's abandonment of F1 at the start of this season as one of the worst in F1 history.
For Prost, though, it turned out well, as our next selection, the 1984 Portuguese Grand Prix, proves.
Out of a drive at Renault, Prost was snapped up by McLaren, where he became team-mate to Niki Lauda and formed one of the all-time great partnerships.
McLaren dominated the season and while Prost was nearly always quicker, he also had by far the worse of the luck, and the two men arrived at the final race of the season in Estoril with Lauda leading Prost by three and a half points.
Prost, as expected, won the race easily, and the main interest focused on whether Lauda, who qualified a lowly 11th, could get up to the second place he needed to pip his partner by half a point.
With 20 laps to go, Lauda had hauled himself up to third, still agonisingly short of what he needed and with no apparent prospect of catching the Lotus of Nigel Mansell, which separated the Austrian from his team-mate. But then Mansell retired with brake failure, Lauda was promoted to second, and the title was his.
Consoling a distraught Prost on the podium, Lauda said: "Don't worry, next year you'll win it." And he was right.
The final choice is also an all-McLaren affair. It is the only one of our five not to be the final race of a season - but what a race it was.
McLaren, now with Ayrton Senna as team-mate to Prost, dominated 1988 even more comprehensively than they did 1984 and the two men arrived in Japan for the penultimate race with the Brazilian in with a chance of clinching his first world title.
Senna duly qualified on pole, with Prost alongside, but Senna stalled on the grid. Fortunately for Senna, Suzuka's downhill pit straight enabled him to bump-start the engine, but not before he had dropped to 14th place.
There began one of the great comeback drives. Senna began to scythe through the field and his cause was helped when it started to drizzle on lap 14.
Always brilliant in wet/dry conditions, Senna's advantage over the rest of the field was magnified and by lap 27 he was with his team-mate, passing him as they attempted to lap a train of three backmarkers. Prost hung on for a while, but with the rain coming down increasingly hard Senna was not to be denied.
So there you have it - five great races, four of them all-time great title deciders, and one a great season finale with a title already wrapped up.
As ever, let us know your views on your favourite - and any you think we should have included. Next week, in the run up to Abu Dhabi, we will publish short, five-to-nine minute highlights package of all of them. And for the race we choose to select - a decision that is informed by the views of respondents on this blog - we will show the full half-hour 'Grand Prix' highlights programme from the time as well.
I look forward to reading your responses.