The World Championship showdown in 1964 took place in Mexico City on October 25 that year on the Magdalena Mixhuca circuit, now known as the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. There were three British drivers all with a chance of winning the title. Graham Hill in a BRM led the points standings with 39, five ahead of Ferrari’s John Surtees with Lotus’s Jim Clark with 30 points. At that time Championship points were scored only by the first six cars, with a 9-6-4-3-2-1 system. It was the first time that three constructors went into the last final round of the championship all with a chance of winning the Constructors’ title: Ferrari having 43 points, BRM 42 and Lotus 37.
Clark had won three races, but had been winless since the British GP in July, while Surtees and Hill had each won two, as had Brabham’s Dan Gurney, although he was not in the running for the title. The other victory had gone to Surtees’s Ferrari team-mate Lorenzo Bandini.
Clark took pole position with Gurney alongside and the two went off into the lead with Hill dropping back to 10th because of problems with broken elastic on his goggles. He fought up to third by lap 12 and seemed to be set to win the title until he came under attack from Bandini, who made several attempts to pass the BRM before he made an overly-optimistic lunge on lap 31 and the two cars made contact. Hill spun backwards into the barriers but both cars were able to rejoin, although Hill had a damaged exhaust which meant he was losing power. He made a lengthy pit stop for repairs. His only hope was that Clark would not win the race.
With Hill out of the points, the title was suddenly within Clark’s grasp. Surtees had to be second in order to beat him and with Gurney firmly in second, Surtees was in trouble, even if Ferrari ordered Bandini to drop back and let him pass. On lap 64 of 65 Clark’s engine failed. Gurney took the lead with Bandini second and Surtees third. Hill was back in a championship winning position with 39 points to Surtees’s 38. As the last lap began, Ferrari signalled frantically to Bandini, ordering him to let Surtees overtake. Fortunately, the Italian understood the message and duly allowed Surtees to pass, which meant that he gained two extra points and that gave him 40 points to Hill’s 39.
Clark was classified in fifth place, a lap down, but this meant that the Constructors’ Championship also went to Ferrari with 45 points to BRM’s 42, whereas Lotus would have won it if Clark had won the race.
After the race some suggested that Bandini’s move on Hill had been foul play but not even BRM boss Louis Stanley believed the stories. Bandini, Ferrari team manager Eugenio Dragoni and chief engineer Mauro Forghieri all went to visit Stanley after the race to apologise, and Stanley reported that the driver was almost in tears.
It would remain the most exciting World Championship showdown until 1976, but even the amazing finish at Fuji could not beat the finale of 2008 when Lewis Hamilton took the title from Felipe Massa on the very last lap.