The 10 Formula 1 Drivers That Fans Love to Hate
Winning four world titles on the bounce at the tender age of 26 and being on the brink of winning nine consecutive races in a single season is one of the greatest achievements in the history of Formula One racing.
But Sebastian Vettel’s total dominance of the 2013 Formula One season has not gone down well with many fans across the globe, and some have voiced their disapproval by booing during his podium speeches.
It’s difficult to say why he has almost as many haters as admirers. Some of it could be down to his frosty relationship with "nice guy" Mark Webber, while some fans might just be bored with his dominance.
Whether you’re a Vettel fan or not, he is not the first driver and won’t be the last that fans love to hate.
Here are 10 drivers who have incurred the wrath of fans over the years. It is, of course, a highly contentious topic, so please feel free to have your say in the comments section.
Honourable Mention: Niki Lauda
Just how much is to be believed from Ron Howard’s excellent movie Rush is a matter for debate.
On more than one occasion during the film, James Hunt tells Lauda that nobody likes him, and Lauda responds that he doesn’t care.
Of course, it would have been hard for Lauda to shine against playboy Hunt in the fan popularity stakes at the time, but the Austrian was perhaps even more of a stickler to detail and attention than any other driver.
It’s also a good excuse to play this great clip from the movie.
10. Eddie Irvine
Eddie Irvine has courted controversy throughout his F1 career, but things got off to an inauspicious start after he incurred the wrath of Ayrton Senna and his millions of fans for unlapping himself from the race leader during his grand prix debut at Suzuka in 1993.
A furious Senna sought out Irvine after the race in the Jordan motorhome, and after a verbal exchange, he knocked the Ulsterman off the table he was sitting on.
Never frightened to speak his mind during and after his F1 career, Irvine appears an arrogant kind of fella in the minds of many fans. He still continues to court controversy, from calling Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso “million dollar babies” on Virgin Media in 2007 to saying that Hamilton would murder Jenson Button during their first season at McLaren, per The Guardian.
9. Andrea De Cesaris
Such was Andrea de Cesaris’ penchant for causing accidents that James Hunt called him :an embarrassment to himself" in a biography by Gerald Donaldson.
De Cesaris gained such a reputation for causing accidents and ruining the races of others that he gained the nickname "Andrea de Crasheris," as reported by ESPNF1.
Things eventually came to a head in 1985 when he was sacked by Ligier after a massive accident at the Australian Grand Prix.
Not disheartened, the Italian continued to prove a backfield menace for nine more seasons before retiring to the relief of fellow drivers and fans alike at the end of 1994.
8. Nigel Mansell
There is no question that Nigel Mansell was one of the bravest and most exciting drivers of his generation, so much so that the Tifosi nicknamed him "Il Leone" (The Lion).
Yet the biggest criticism that many F1 fans had of him was that he was, well, too boring.
The hunched shoulders, dull monotone voice and tendency to criticise his team when things were going poorly did not endear him to everyone.
His reputation for being a moaner was perhaps unwarranted but part of the reason why he left Ferrari. The final straw came at the 1990 British Grand Prix when he discovered that his car had been swapped for teammate Alain Prost's following a complaint by the Frenchman that Mansell had the superior car.
He announced his retirement from F1 before the end of the season but was tempted back by former employer Frank Williams.
7. Ayrton Senna
This is perhaps a controversial entry at No. 7, but then again, Ayrton Senna was a controversial driver.
Arguably the greatest of all time and with many more fans in F1 than otherwise, Senna was still not everybody’s cup of tea, especially if you were an Alain Prost fan.
During his tumultuous title battles with the diminutive Frenchman, Senna often challenged the authority of FIA President Jean Marie Balestre on a number of issues including the infamous pole position placement at Suzuka in 1990.
His absolute single-minded dedication to his profession and powerful religious beliefs distanced himself to many fans, who found it difficult to relate to the Brazilian.
But for this reason alone, and for a great many F1 fans, he is still quite simply the greatest.
6. Alain Prost
It’s hard to put Senna in the top 10 without having his old adversary Alain Prost alongside him. After all, they were inseparable for a long part of their F1 careers—and not in a good way.
Naturally, Senna fans of the time and much of the Brazilian population had what can only be described as hatred for the Frenchman.
But Prost was also unpopular in many circles due to his criticism of his own team. After pushing Senna all the way in 1990, Prost was sacked before the final race of the 1991 season.
What is true is that the Ferrari in 1991 was not a patch on the 1990 car, and Prost could only manage five podiums. He is quoted on Autosport (subscription only) as being openly critical of the car and even referring to it as "like a horrible truck to drive," after what would be his final race for the team in Japan.
He did everything he could to squeeze performance out of the 643, but Ferrari team director Claudio Lombardi said the sacking was down to other factors.
"His behaviour during this season has not been at the level that Ferrari would like from a top driver. His behaviour inside and outside the team meant that Ferrari had to stop the relationship."
5. Nelson Piquet
The second Brazilian entry on this list of lovable villains, Nelson Piquet was the embodiment of Latino fire.
Not afraid to speak his mind, he disparagingly labelled fellow Brazilian Senna the "Sao Paulo taxi driver" and also had his share of run-ins with Williams teammate Nigel Mansell.
But perhaps the greatest example of Piquest’s explosive temper came at the 1982 German Grand Prix, when he launched into Eliseo Salazar after colliding with the Chilean when leading the race.
4. Lewis Hamilton
Few people expected Lewis Hamilton to make such a significant impact during his debut season in the sport, apart from the man himself.
Up against two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, Hamilton came within a whisker of winning the title in his first year in F1 during a season of infighting between the two drivers.
Hatred toward the Englishman reached new lows when a minority of Spanish fans racially abused Hamilton and his family during a testing session at Barcelona the following season and again in Brazil later in the year, as reported in The Telegraph.
Mindless bigotry aside, he has often been accused of arrogance. The Daily Mail quoted Nigel Mansell in 2011 as saying that Hamilton has an attitude problem, whilst Sir Jackie Stewart branded Hamilton as "arrogant" in The Sun (subscription only).
Undoubtedly quick and unquestionably talented, Hamilton still has his fair share of critics out there.
3. Fernando Alonso
Sticking with the theme of the "arrogant F1 driver," only Fernando Alonso incites as much debate as Lewis Hamilton on many F1 forums.
Perhaps you need an element of arrogance to be successful in any sport, and some might accuse Tiger Woods, Usain Bolt or Roger Federer of possessing a certain arrogant streak as well.
As a double world champion, Alonso is perhaps entitled to have a modicum of cocky self-assurance. But even Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo felt the Spaniard needed to be put down a peg or two after publicly criticising the team after the Hungarian Grand Prix, as reported on ESPNF1.
"I didn't like some attitudes, a few words, some outbursts. And I said so…I reminded everyone, including the drivers, that Ferrari comes before everything, the priority is the team."
2. Sebastian Vettel
If this list was drawn up before the beginning of the season, Vettel may have struggled to make it.
But for whatever reason, the German has played the role of pantomime villain this season and has been the favourite of the boo boys during his victory celebrations.
Perhaps like Michael Schumacher before him, Vettel has become a victim of his own success. It surely can’t be because he’s German too!
Despite putting a brave face on it, Vettel says he has been hurt by the reception he has received on the podium at times this season, as quoted on BBC Sport: "It's very difficult for me personally, to receive boos, even though you haven't done anything wrong, At the time it hurts not to get the reception you expect but I think I'm clever enough to understand why they do it. I'm not blaming them."
1. Michael Schumacher
The ultimate F1 pantomime villain, Michael Schumacher is as close to a real embodiment of "Dick Dastardly" from the Wacky Races cartoon as you can get. All he needed was a moustache, and the resemblance would have been striking.
If fans are tired of Vettel’s success in today’s F1 racing, back in the early 2000s, they were switching off in droves as Schumacher and Ferrari dominated for five successive seasons.
But what puts him far above Vettel in the villain stakes is the way he won his first world title in 1994 and the way he attempted to win his third title in 1997.