Ranking Formula 1's 10 Biggest in-Team Feuds

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2015

Ranking Formula 1's 10 Biggest in-Team Feuds

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    TSUGUFUMI MATSUMOTO/Associated Press

    Formula One is at its best when two drivers fight head-to-head, even more so when those drivers battle within the confines of the same team.

    Unlike most other sports, in which team-mates work together and establish a mutual understanding to achieve collective success, Formula One drivers are out for themselves and their team-mates are the first, if not the only, obstacle to personal triumph.

    This concept—the idea of a team being split in two and sometimes rupturing from within—has been at the root of the most iconic rivalries in the sport's history, which include Ayrton Senna versus Alain Prost at McLaren, and the all-too-short-lived spat between Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi at Ferrari.

    As the rivalry between Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton shows signs of revival in 2015, here are the 10 biggest in-team feuds in F1 history, many of which revolve around the same themes: clashes of personality, struggles for supremacy and, quite often, a certain Mr Prost.

Honourable Mention

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    Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

    There was never an outbreak of civil war when Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were team-mates at McLaren between 2010 and 2012, but there was a fair amount of tension between the pair over their three seasons together.

    Button was regarded as foolish when, after winning the title with Brawn GP in '09, he made the move to McLaren, where Hamilton had enjoyed No. 1 status ahead of Heikki Kovalainen.

    However, he soon won over the team with his charm and on-track performances, which only made Hamilton increasingly disillusioned within his own natural habitat.

    Lewis was spooked at Turkey 2010 when, having been instructed to save fuel, he was momentarily passed by Jenson, and the pair collided in Canada the following year, forcing Hamilton to retire as Button went on to claim his finest win.

    In 2012, weeks before his signing with Mercedes, Hamilton upset Button and McLaren by tweeting an image of the drivers' telemetry after being beaten by his team-mate in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.

10. James Hunt and Jochen Mass, McLaren (1977)

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    James Hunt won the world championship by a single point over Niki Lauda in the celebrated 1976 season, but his title defence was a limp affair.

    The British driver won just three races over the course of 1977, finishing a distant fifth in the standings, and his lacklustre season was epitomised by what, according to ESPN's Martin Williamson, was the worst incident of his career at the penultimate grand prix in Canada.

    Two weeks after winning at Watkins Glen, Hunt had an exclusive scrap with Mario Andretti as the pair disappeared into the distance. Little more than 20 laps from the chequered flag, the front-runners had lapped every driver apart from Jochen Mass, Hunt's McLaren team-mate.

    In his efforts to pass Mass, Andretti ran wide and conceded the lead to Hunt, who then collided with "Hermann the German"—as Hunt would "affectionately" refer to Mass, according to McLaren's official website—as he tried to get by and was eliminated from the race.

    "I was right up his chuff," Hunt said of the incident, according to Williamson. "I was forced to go left…then he suddenly moved across to the left, hit the brakes and waved me through on the right. But I was committed and couldn't avoid him…I hit him right up the a--e."

    Upon climbing from the cockpit, the reigning world champion walked in the direction of the track and, in the heat of the moment, punched a marshal, above, for which he was later fined. 

    Hunt continued to make no effort to conceal his frustration, however, shaking his fist at Mass every time his team-mate drove by as he returned to the pits.

    Mass was scared off to the ATS outfit for 1978 as Hunt's fall from grace continued.

9. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, Mercedes (2013-Present)

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    Friends as youngsters and team-mates in karting, the relationship between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg changed dramatically when Hamilton replaced Michael Schumacher at Mercedes for 2013.

    Tensions between the pair were evident in their second race as F1 team-mates, when Rosberg was ordered to hold position behind Hamilton by team boss Ross Brawn in Malaysia, although the German went on to set pole position in three of the next four races, winning in Monaco.

    Hamilton responded by producing a pole-setting streak of his own, winning in Hungary soon after Rosberg's second victory of the season at Silverstone, before Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull dominated the second half of 2013.

    With the introduction of the V6 turbo regulations, Mercedes found themselves with a dominant car of their own for 2014 and a two-horse race for the title elevated the drivers' rivalry to a whole new level.

    Hamilton's retirement from the season-opening Australian Grand Prix gave Rosberg the early advantage, but a career-best run of four wins—including Bahrain, where the Mercedes drivers enjoyed a race-long duel—saw Hamilton regain the initiative.

    In Monaco, Hamilton was denied pole after Rosberg's mysterious off-track excursion at the Mirabeau corner, with the German's win the following day marking a shift in momentum.

    A mix of silly mistakes and misfortune shook Hamilton out of his rhythm at the mid-season stage as Rosberg secured a number of poles and assured victories at Spielberg and Hockenheim. The German was on course for another win in Hungary until the safety car period, which proved to be the turning point of the season.

    Rosberg was outraged when Hamilton refused to obey team instructions and carried that anger into the following round in Belgium, where a collision on Lap 2 resulted in the British driver's retirement.

    The fallout of the incident only inspired Hamilton along to another career-best winning streak, this time of five races, as Rosberg became increasingly error-prone.

    Rosberg congratulated Hamilton as he sealed his second world title in the double-points Abu Dhabi race, appearing to mark the end of the rivalry, but the old wounds were reopened in this season's Chinese GP.

    Who knows how the Hamilton-Rosberg feud will rank among F1's greatest rivalries when their stint as team-mates comes to a close?

8. Rene Arnoux and Alain Prost, Renault (1981-82)

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    Rene Arnoux was the established force at the works Renault team in 1980, recording two wins and scoring 20 more points than team-mate Jean-Pierre Jabouille, who triumphed at the Osterreichring despite finishing just two races all season.

    That changed, however, when Alain Prost joined the team in '81. The pair didn't see eye-to-eye from the off and Prost dominated his countryman, recording three wins and scoring 43 points in total as Arnoux could only register 11 points and a solitary podium finish.

    Although Prost began 1982 in style, claiming two successive wins in South Africa and Brazil, Renault's patchy reliability record meant the drivers were more evenly matched.

    Arnoux refused to obey team orders when the Renaults were leading on home soil at Paul Ricard following Nelson Piquet's retirement, above, which put his relationship with Prost beyond repair and tainted the French manufacturer's first one-two finish.

    In a closely fought title race, in which the top-four drivers were ultimately separated by just 10 points, it proved to be a costly move as Keke Rosberg won the championship despite winning just one grand prix all year.

    With the relationship untenable, Arnoux headed for Ferrari to replace Didier Pironi and was central to the team's manufacturer's title triumph, taking three wins.

7. Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann, Williams (1980-81)

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    SECKENDORF/Associated Press

    Williams drivers Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann won a combined total of six races in 1980 as the latter sealed his only title and the team secured their first constructors' title having scored almost twice as many points as second-placed Ligier.

    At that point, the Jones-Reutemann alliance was one of the most productive partnerships as the former chased success and the latter perfected the back-up role, scoring regular podiums and winning when Jones failed (Monaco 1980).

    It was a willingness to have his own day in the sun, however, that tore the relationship apart as Reutemann ignored team orders to win at the second round of the 1981 season in Brazil.

    A furious Jones, who'd won the opening race of the season at Long Beach a fortnight earlier, refused to stand on the podium and, rather tellingly, went 14 races without a win as Reutemann secured his second win in four races at Zolder.

    The loss of the team's clear structure proved costly as Reutemann and Jones fought between themselves, taking points away from each other.

    This allowed the famously crafty and cunning Nelson Piquet to take the '81 title by a point from Reutemann, with Jones a further three points behind despite returning to winning ways at the final race of the season at Las Vegas.

    According to Autocar's Alan Henry, Reutemann offered to bury the hatchet as the drivers came to part ways, with Jones responding: "Yeah, in your f-----g back, mate."

6. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, Red Bull (2009-13)

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    Vincent Thian/Associated Press

    The rivalry between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber began over a year before they became team-mates at Red Bull Racing, when they collided behind the safety car at the wet 2007 Japanese Grand Prix, an afternoon when both drivers stood a strong chance of claiming a maiden win.

    Webber made his feelings abundantly clear in the immediate aftermath of that incident, but any hard feelings were put to one side when Vettel graduated to Red Bull in 2009, when the pair won six grands prix between them—including four one-two finishes—to secure a comfortable second-place in the constructors' standings.

    They were content enough to serve the team throughout '09, but Vettel and Webber were very much out for themselves as Red Bull produced the fastest car on the grid for 2010.

    After winning with ease in Spain and Monaco, Webber was on course for his third victory in succession in the Turkish GP when Vettel, having nudged slightly ahead of the Australian on the back straight, edged across the track and made contact with Webber, eliminating the German on the spot.

    Their relationship was never the same again and slumped to another low in qualifying at Silverstone, where the team removed an updated front wing from Webber's car and gave it to Vettel.

    Despite leading the standings for much of the second half of the season, Webber opted to challenge Vettel on a day when second place would have been enough and paid for it by spinning out in Korea, effectively losing the title with two rounds to spare.

    Unable to recover, Webber came a distant third in the championship as Vettel stole the crown from under Fernando Alonso's nose and that theme continued throughout the following season as the German waltzed to his second title, leaving Webber to take just the one win despite having 2011's dominant car at his disposal.

    A resurgence of sorts for Webber in 2012 saw him take two wins, but his title charge ran out of steam just as Vettel's hopes were revived. The Australian, though, tried his best to jeopardise his team-mate's chances at the title decider in Brazil, squeezing Vettel on the inside of Turn 1, which indirectly resulted in the German's spin just three corners later.

    Vettel recovered to win his third title, but perhaps that incident was still fresh in his mind when he disobeyed team orders to pass Webber for the win at the second round of 2013 in Malaysia.

    "The bottom line is I was racing, I was faster, I passed him, I won," was how Vettel memorably explained his actions at the following round in China, as per Sky Sports' Pete Gill, and that summarised his rivalry with Webber until the Australian's retirement at the end of 2013.

    Sebastian was forever one step ahead of Mark, but there were always fireworks when the Red Bulls came together on track.

5. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, McLaren (2007)

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    Just two months after the close of his first title-winning season with Renault in 2005, Fernando Alonso signed a deal to join McLaren for 2007. 

    And while Alonso spent the 2006 season scrapping with Michael Schumacher en route to his second consecutive crown, a young British kid was busy conquering all before him in GP2. That kid was Lewis Hamilton, who after impressing McLaren in testing at Silverstone that September became the shock choice to partner Alonso for '07.

    To the surprise of many, Alonso included, 22-year-old Hamilton made a seamless transition to the pinnacle of motorsport, passing his team-mate around the outside of the first corner on debut in Australia and reaching the podium in each of the opening nine races of his career.

    Hamilton created a mini-storm over team orders in Monaco, where he was denied the chance to challenge Alonso for victory, but made up for that disappointment by taking his first win in Canada, the scene of Alonso's worst performance of the year. The Spaniard made his frustration clear the following weekend at Indianapolis, gesticulating toward the pit wall as he chased Hamilton down.

    The Alonso-Hamilton relationship slumped to a new low in Hungary, where the latter—annoyed by the rookie's reluctance to follow team instructions—sabotaged the British driver's final qualifying effort, above, for which he received a grid penalty.

    It was on the morning of the Budapest race when Alonso, as per BBC Sport's Andrew Benson, threatened McLaren boss Ron Dennis with emails regarding the infamous "Spygate" affair in a bid to secure No. 1 status, burning his bridges with the team's hierarchy.

    Three rounds later, Alonso ran Hamilton off the track on the exit of La Source in the Belgian Grand Prix, but the Spaniard's title hopes suffered a blow at the next race at Fuji Speedway, where he aquaplaned and crashed out on an afternoon when Hamilton walked on water to claim victory.

    That result left Hamilton on the brink of becoming F1's first-ever rookie world champion, but a disastrous final two races—he slid into retirement at the Chinese GP before suffering a gearbox glitch in Brazil—left him tied on 109 points with Alonso as Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen took the title by a single point.

    Less than a fortnight after the season finale, Alonso left McLaren after just one season and returned to Renault for 2008.

4. Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell, Ferrari (1990)

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    HIDEYUKI YAMAMOTO/Associated Press

    Despite a patchy reliability record, Nigel Mansell established himself as Ferrari's team leader in 1989, recording two victories, reaching the podium in every race he finished and scoring 27 more points than team-mate Gerhard Berger.

    The British driver, though, was the biggest victim of the Ayrton Senna-Alain Prost war and when McLaren signed Berger for 1990, Mansell was the one who had to put up with Prost.

    With Prost a newly-crowned, three-time world champion and Mansell, despite coming within touching distance of the title in 1986 and '87, still a multiple race winner, the Frenchman was given No. 1 status and Mansell handled it poorly.

    Prost enjoyed a strong start to 1990, winning in Senna's backyard in Brazil and embarking upon a run of three consecutive victories at the mid-season stage.

    The last race of that run, at Silverstone, marked the final straw for Mansell as he discovered, per ESPN, that Prost made the team swap cars without his knowledge, with the Briton announcing his retirement that weekend. 

    At Estoril, Mansell edged his team-mate toward the pit wall off the start line, forcing Prost to lose positions and, indeed points, in his title battle with Senna, which ended at the first corner in Japan.

    Mansell retracted his decision to retire and returned to Williams the following year and did everything to avoid being partnered with Prost again, passing up the opportunity to defend his 1992 title by fleeing to IndyCar for '93.

3. Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi, Ferrari (1982)

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    The feud between Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi at Ferrari was the most short-lived in the history of grand prix racing, but it carried as much intensity as any other.

    Without a podium in the opening three races of 1982, the Prancing Horse were offered a golden opportunity to register their first victory of the season in the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, where only 14 cars started the race as a result of the Formula One Constructors' Association's boycott of the event.

    Villeneuve and Pironi qualified third and fourth respectively behind the fast but fragile Renaults of Rene Arnoux and Alain Prost, who retired from the race. 

    Arnoux's withdrawal after 44 laps left the Ferraris at the front with minimal threat from behind, with the team instructing the drivers to ease their pace to save fuel and guard against reliability problems.

    Under the impression that this marked the end of the racing between the pair, Villeneuve slowed his pace by two seconds but Pironi believed the competition was still alive and duly passed the No. 27 car.

    Villeneuve interpreted his team-mate's actions as a bid to provide some entertainment for the watching tifosi and joined in the fun, retaking the lead, but the battle turned nasty on the final lap as Pironi muscled the Canadian aside at Tosa, snatching the win.

    After being persuaded to face the podium ceremony by his wife, Joann, Villeneuve immediately flew by helicopter to Monaco. According to Gerald Donaldson's book, Gilles Villeneuve: The Life of the Legendary Racing Driver, the Canadian was quoted by Autosport magazine's Nigel Roebuck as stating:

    I left because otherwise I would have said some bad things. He (Pironi) was there, looking like the hero who won the race and I looked like the spoiled b-----d who sulked... I haven't said a word to him and I'm not going to again—ever! I have declared war. I'll do my own thing in the future. It's war. Absolutely war.

    His vow would prove to be eerily prophetic as Villeneuve was killed, aged 32, after colliding with Jochen Mass in qualifying at the following round, the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder.

2. Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet, Williams (1986-87)

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    When Nelson Piquet left Brabham to partner Nigel Mansell at Williams for 1986, there was only going to be one winner in this intra-team battle.

    After all, Piquet had already established himself as a two-time world champion and a great of the sport, while Mansell was forced to wait until the 72nd time of asking to take his first grand prix win at the end of '85, by which time he was 32.

    Although Piquet reinforced his self-appointed status as the team's No. 1 driver by winning on debut for Williams in his home race at Jacarepagua, the Brazilian was outperformed by Mansell across 1986 as the British driver recorded five victories to Piquet's four.

    While this helped Williams seal the constructors' championship, Piquet's and Mansell's habit of taking points away from one another proved detrimental to their individual title hopes in a four-way battle for the drivers' crown. 

    Both men just missed out to McLaren's Alain Prost in the season-ending Australian GP, a race most memorable for Mansell's spectacular tyre failure.

    The title race was far more exclusive in '87 as Williams won nine of a possible 16 grands prix, with Mansell again having the edge by claiming six victories including Silverstone, where the British driver performed that iconic dummy on his rival, above.

    A crash in qualifying at Suzuka, however, sidelined Mansell from the final two races in Japan and Australia with a back injury, allowing Piquet—who himself was forced to miss the second round at Imola after a huge accident at the dreaded Tamburello corner—to win the title for a third time.

    Piquet moved to Lotus for the following season, but the fallout of his years alongside Mansell continued until the eve of his title defence in '88 when, as per BBC Sport's Andrew Benson, he famously referred to the Brit as "an uneducated blockhead with a stupid and ugly wife."

1. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, McLaren (1988-89)

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    Ayrton Senna's feud with Alain Prost remains not only the greatest rivalry in the history of Formula One, but one of the most fierce battles in sport.

    Having decided Lotus were no longer strong enough to compete for world championships at the end of 1987, Senna moved to McLaren, where Alain Prost was the undisputed No. 1 after winning two titles for the team in '85 and '86.

    Senna, though, was on the pace immediately and at just his third event for McLaren produced what many believe to be the greatest qualifying lap in F1 history, beating Prost to pole by almost 1.5 seconds behind the wheel of the most dominant car in history, the MP4/4.

    What the Frenchman lacked in outright speed, however, he made up in racecraft, upping his pace just as Senna, with a comfortable gap, eased his own, frightening the Brazilian into a race-ending crash the following day to take the win.

    Horrified by his mistake, Senna bounced back by winning six of the following eight races and, as the title race grew ever more intense, the on-track battles between the pair became feistier.

    The Brazilian tried to intimidate Prost by edging his team-mate toward the pit wall in Portugal before fighting through the field to win his maiden title at Suzuka. 

    The pair's relationship went beyond the point of no return in the second round of the following season at Imola, where Senna defied a pre-race agreement to pass Prost at the Tosa corner after the race was restarted.

    The 1989 title was once again decided at the penultimate race in Japan, where, after snatching the lead at the start, Prost moved across the track to block Senna's overtaking effort at the final chicane, above.

    Prost's race ended there and then yet Senna produced a ferocious comeback drive to claim the win, but was later disqualified for passing through the escape road as he rejoined the track following the collision, with the stewards' decision sealing the Frenchman's third crown.

    Their rivalry would continue until Prost hung up his helmet at the end of 1993, but not as team-mates as the Frenchman fled to Ferrari for '90, where he was, of course, warmly welcomed by Nigel Mansell.


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