Ranking Formula 1's Bitterest Rivals, Enemies, and Nemeses
It seems something of a shame that the 2013 season was not a little bit closer, not only to give viewers an exciting finish to the season, but because no real rivalries developed.
After the “Multi-21” team orders controversy at the start of the season, it looked as if we were in for a fierce battle between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. And a few races later it appeared that Fernando Alonso would re-ignite a rivalry that was starting to catch fire at the end of 2012.
Alas, 2013 turned into a one-man show and aside from Lewis Hamilton v Fernando Alonso in 2007, there have been few bitter rivalries to talk of since.
With new regulations in place set to level the playing field further in 2014, there is hope that these rivalries may finally develop into something serious to match those of years gone by.
For now, we can only hope what may be and look back at some former clashes between teammates, team bosses and authority figures that have made the sport so thrilling.
One pantomime villain shines brightly in the rivals and enemies list and that is Michael Schumacher.
Having ended Damon Hill’s 1994 title chances by appearing to turn his crippled Benetton in on the passing Williams, Schumacher lost many more fans with his failed attempt to take Jacques Villeneuve out of the race during the 1997 title-decider at Jerez.
A year later he stormed into the McLaren pits to confront David Coulthard after hitting the back of the Scot in appalling conditions at Spa, assuming he had been deliberately brake-tested.
Coulthard had, in fact, slowed to make it easier for Schumacher to pass but the German thought it a deliberate ploy by McLaren to help Schumacher’s title-rival Mika Hakkinen and he had to be restrained from physically assaulting Coulthard.
A somewhat more gentlemanly rivalry existed between quintessential English gentleman Graham Hill and the quiet but intense Scotsman Jim Clark. Hill, driving for BRM, edged out Lotus’ Clark for the championship in the final race of the 1962 season and after the Scot won easily in 1963 and 1965, the pair joined forces at Lotus in 1967.
Who knows what a great championship battle may have developed in 1968 had Clark not been killed in a Formula Two race at Hockenheim at the start of the season as Hill went on to take his second title.
10. James Hunt and 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.
Although the movie paints a picture of two very different personalities constantly at war with one another, it appears the animosity didn't spread beyond the racetrack and the two had a positive effect on one another.
Indeed, shortly after the release of the film, Lauda said in an interview with The Telegraph that they spent time together and he even visited Hunt in his London flat.
There are good drivers and bad ones and then there are the really talented ones who are difficult to beat and James was one of them. We respected each other very much because in the old days, to drive 300 kilometres an hour side by side towards a corner, if someone makes a mistake, one or both are killed. Hunt was someone you could rely on to be really precise. The sad thing is that he isn't here now. I wish he could have seen the movie because I know for sure he would have enjoyed it.
9. Ron Dennis and Max Mosley
It is fair to say that even before the “Spygate” scandal of 2007, FIA President Max Mosley and McLaren team boss Ron Dennis never saw eye to eye.
Dennis enjoyed enormous success with McLaren during a spell of almost 30 years but often clashed with Mosley over regulation changes and events he saw as singling out his team for punishment.
A long-running joke in motorsport circles has it that FIA stands for “Ferrari International Assistance” and some saw Mosley’s friendship with Jean Todt as an important factor.
Conspiracy theories aside, what is true is that when Ferrari accused former employee Nigel Stepney of passing on important technical data and the case went to court, McLaren were slapped with a record $100 million fine and excluded from the constructors’ standings.
As reported on f1fanatic.com, Mosley joked the fine was “$5 million for the offence and $95 million for Ron being a twat”.
The animosity continued a year later when an ally of Mosley accused Dennis of being involved in the tabloid investigation of FIA president Max Mosley, an accusation Mosley strongly denied.
8. Flavio Briatore and Nelson Piquet Jr.
It seems shocking now that a young driver lost his seat at the highest table of motorsport for agreeing to do something that his team boss ordered him to do.
After a poor qualifying session that left him 15th on the grid at the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix, Renault’s Fernando Alonso was the first driver to make a routine pit stop for fuel and tyres on lap 12, rejoining the race at the back of the field. Two laps later, Alonso’s teammate, Nelson Piquet Jr., crashed into the circuit wall at Turn 17, bunching the cars up behind the safety car before the pit lane opened.
Most of the leading cars ended up behind Alonso after their stops, and the Spaniard went on to win the race after Piquet’s timely accident.
Having being dropped by Renault following the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, Piquet revealed that he had been asked by the team to deliberately crash to improve the race situation for Alonso, and the FIA promptly charged Renault with conspiracy.
Renault stated that they would not contest the charges and announced that the team's managing director, Flavio Briatore, and executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, had left the team.
Briatore was suspended from all F1 and FIA-sanctioned events indefinitely, while Symonds received a five-year ban. Their bans were subsequently overturned by a French court, although they both agreed not to work in Formula One or FIA-sanctioned events as part of a later settlement reached with the governing body.
Piquet now drives in NASCAR for Turner Motorsports and it’s fair to say he will not be exchanging Christmas cards with Briatore this year, a man he described as driving him to the “lowest point” in his life as reported by The Guardian at the time.
I found myself at the mercy of Mr Briatore. His true character, which had previously only been known to those he had treated like this in the past, is now known. Mr Briatore was my manager as well as the team boss, he had my future in his hands but he cared nothing for it. By the time of the Singapore GP he had isolated me and driven me to the lowest point I had ever reached in my life. Now that I am out of that situation I cannot believe that I agreed to the plan, but when it was put to me I felt that I was in no position to refuse.
7. Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel
“Multi-21 Seb”, scowled Mark Webber to his teammate in the wake of the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix after Vettel deliberately disobeyed a direct team order to maintain position behind the Australian.
The drivers had clashed before, notably in Turkey in 2010 when Webber was leading Vettel but on a lower engine map setting to conserve fuel. Vettel challenged on the long back straight but the Australian defended and the pair touched, putting Vettel out of the race and Webber down to third.
Next came Silverstone when Webber was furious that Vettel had been handed his new spec front wing after he had damaged his own during practice. Vettel took pole but Webber drove a superb race to win before pointedly remarking "Not bad for a number-two driver."
The wounds never really healed and when Vettel deliberately disobeyed team orders in Malaysia to fight Webber for the victory, it looked as if fans were in for a tantalising new chapter.
Vettel apologised afterward saying that it had not been fair on Webber but later retracted it by saying on BBC Sport, “I don’t apologise for winning. I think that's why people employed me in the first place and why I'm here. I love racing and that's what I did. The bottom line is I was racing, I was faster, I passed him, I won.”
Webber announced his retirement from F1 shortly before this year’s British Grand Prix and admitted on an appearance on BBC’s Top Gear programme shortly afterward that he wouldn’t miss Vettel "a huge amount".
6. Carlos Reutemann and Alan Jones
After an extremely successful 1980 partnership that saw Alan Jones win the drivers’ title and Williams the constructors’ title with a then-record 120 points, the teammates went into the 1981 season in high spirits.
But relationships soured when Reutemann disobeyed the team’s orders to concede the lead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, ignoring messages from his pit board to do so.
Reutemann arrived in Las Vegas for the final round of the season leading the championship by a point but Jones was still fuming about what had gone before and refused to give his support to the Argentine’s title push.
Reutemann went on to finish eighth, losing the title by a point to Nelson Piquet and Jones retired at the end of the season. But he still felt he needed to settle their differences and Autosport’s Nigel Roebuck quotes Jones as responding to Reutemann’s offer to bury the hatchet by saying, "Yeah, mate! Right in your bloody back!"
5. Nigel Mansell V Nelson Piquet and Alain Prost
What made Nigel Mansell such a tough competitor was that he never had it easy with his teammates.
When Piquet joined Williams as Mansell’s team-mate in 1986, he claimed he’d been guaranteed number one status in the team. But that was news to Mansell who put up a strong challenge for a title that came down to the final race of the season at Adelaide.
Mansell looked on course for the title until a spectacular tyre blowout cost him dear and McLaren’s Alain Prost beat both of them to the title. The pair fought tooth and nail again in 1987 as relationships soured further, but this time Piquet triumphed in his title bid.
Prost and Mansell sustained multiple rivalries through their careers. There appeared to be no team favoritism between the two from the outside, but an atmosphere of mistrust always existed with Mansell suspecting that Prost was getting preferential treatment in terms of machinery.
Mansell even claimed that Ferrari gave Prost his chassis on one occasion and had the number swapped to cover up the switch. A bitter Mansell announced his retirement halfway through the season and even compromised Prost’s race at Estoril by blocking him at the start. Mansell took back his decision to retire and joined Williams, winning the title in 1992.
4. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton
Reigning world champion Alonso had won the previous two titles and may have expected an easy ride against his young team-mate on his debut season in Formula One.
But the lightning fast Hamilton had been groomed by McLaren since his childhood and was not content to play a supporting role to Alonso in his quest to win a third successive drivers’ title.
Hamilton was frustrated by team orders forbidding him to challenge Alonso in Monaco and in Hungary Alonso appeared to sabotage Hamilton’s final qualifying run and was stripped of pole position.
There was little to separate the team-mates during their tempestuous season and indeed they finished tied second on points at the end of the campaign.
But Alonso feared Hamilton was being given preferential treatment towards the end of the season and returned to Renault.
To make matters worse, Hamilton suffered racial abuse from a minority of Alonso fans shortly afterwards at a testing session in Barcelona.
The incident—when a group of people with their faces painted black wearing t-shirts adorned with the words "Hamilton's family"—caused outrage and prompted the FIA to launch an anti-racism initiative titled EveryRace.
3. Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi
Many fans of the great Gilles Villeneuve still blame Didier Pironi for contributing to his tragic death.
Villeneuve felt duped when his French Ferrari teammate defied team orders to overtake him during the closing laps and win the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix and he vowed afterwards never to talk to him again.
Sadly, he would never get the chance as two weeks later a still enraged Villeneuve was killed in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix whilst trying to beat his team-mate’s pole time.
2. Ayrton Senna V Alain Prost and Jean-Marie Balestre
If Alain Prost can be described as Ayrton Senna’s bitterest rival, then former FIA President Jean-Marie Balestre can go down as an enemy of the Brazilian.
Senna’s fierce battles against Prost are well documented, notably during the controversial title-deciding battles of 1989 and 1990.
But the Brazilian also famously clashed with the other Frenchman who he viewed as an ally of Prost after he was disqualified from the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix.
Senna went on to win the race but was excluded for rejoining the circuit via the slip-road with marshals' assistance although Senna argued it would have been dangerous to rejoin directly onto the circuit.
The following season, Senna felt disadvantaged when pole position was moved to the dirtier side of the circuit claiming that pole should always be on the racing line and not the dirtier side of the track.
Senna's request to be moved to the favourable side was rejected by Balestre, so when his rival Alain Prost passed him at the start, Senna took out Prost on the first corner to secure the world championship.
1. Fiamma Breschi V Peter Collins and Mike Hawthorn
Hatred is a very strong word but it is exactly how Fiamma Breschi, the girlfriend of Italian driver Luigi Musso, described her feelings toward British drivers Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins.
Musso, Collins and Hawthorn were all team-mates at Ferrari but Breschi blamed the death of her beloved on the two Englishmen and went as far as saying she felt liberated when they too both died in car crashes.
Lying third in the championship standings, Musso was chasing leader Hawthorn at the 1958 French Grand Prix when he lost control, struck a ditch and somersaulted.
Musso succumbed to his injuries later that day and years after his death, Breschi revealed in a television documentary, The Secret Life of Enzo Ferrari, that she hated the English drivers.
Whichever of them won, they would share the winnings equally. It was the two of them against Luigi, who was not part of the agreement. Strength comes in numbers, and they were united against him. I had hated them both. First because I was aware of certain facts that were not right, and also because when I came out of the hospital and went back to the hotel, I found them in the square outside the hotel, laughing and playing a game of football with an empty beer-can. So when they died, too, it was liberating for me. Otherwise I would have had unpleasant feelings towards them forever. This way I could find a sense of peace.