Top Ten: Team mate rivalries

Top Ten

Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Hungary, 2007 | Daimler ChryslerThe delicate relations between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso broke down spectacularly at the Hungaroring.

But it’s two girls pulling each other’s hair in the playground compared to some of the inter-team mayhem F1 has seen in the past.

Here’s ten of the biggest and best tiffs between team mates who were anything but buddies.

Alain Prost vs Ayrton Senna
McLaren, 1988-1989

The mother, father and great-aunt-twice-removed of all inter-team rivalries, and one of the bitterest battles ever seen between two individuals in any sport.

Senna joined McLaren in 1988 and quickly got the upper hand on his French team mate. But when Prost started to put Senna under pressure late in 1988 the Brazilian responded by squeezing his team mate dangerously close to the wall at Estoril.

Senna took that year’s title – and the battle resumed with even greater ferocity in 1989. At Imola Senna reneged on a pre-race pact and passed Prost at the start to win. Even though Senna suffered a string of car failures that gave Prost the advantage in the championship, the Frenchman became convinced that Senna was getting preferential treatment.

Prost declared his intentions to move to Ferrari in 1990. At Suzuka, as Senna tried to pass him at the chicane, Prost caused a collision that took them both out (Senna resuming but later being disqualified) and made him champion.

The feud continued long after they stopped being team mates.

Alain Prost biography
Ayrton Senna biography

Alain Prost vs Nigel Mansell
Ferrari, 1990

It didn’t get any better for Prost at Ferrari. New team mate Nigel Mansell suspected that Prost was getting the better equipment and claimed that his team mate even took his chassis and had the number on it changed to disguise it from Mansell.

The Briton announced his retirement halfway through the year and badly compromised Prost’s race at Estoril by blocking him at the start, allowing both McLarens past.

Mansell later rescinded his retirement decision and moved to Williams, but his intense dislike of Prost saw him quit the sport in 1992 rather than be team mates with the Frenchman again in 1993.

Nigel Mansell biography

Alain Prost vs Rene Arnoux
Renault, 1981-2

Anyone spotting a pattern here?

Prost moved to Renault in 1981 and out-scored Arnoux, but his compatriot came back at him strong in the next year. They were running first and second in the French Grand Prix when Arnoux decided he’d rather win the race for himself than yield to Prost as per team orders.

Arnoux left the team for Ferrari at the end of the year.

Rene Arnoux biography

Carlos Reutemann vs Alan Jones
Williams, 1980-1

It had been a similar story at Williams the year before. Reigning champions Jones was furious when Reutemann refused to let him by under team instructions at Brazil.

Two battled all season long, Reutemann eventually losing the championship to Brabham’s Nelson Piquet. With Jones heading into retirement Reutemann suggested that they bury the hatchet.

“Yeah,” replied Jones, “In your f*****g back, mate.”

Alan Jones biography

Gilles Villeneuve vs Didier Pironi
Ferrari, 1981-2

Given how badly things had worked out at Williams in 1981 it is perhaps surprising that any team would want to impose team orders.

Nevertheless they did and when Pironi refused to obey them at Imola in 1982, beating and humiliating team mate Villeneuve in the process, the incensed Villeneuve swore never to speak to Pironi again.

He didn’t – he crashed and was killed two weeks later in Zolder, Belgium, trying to beat Pironi’s qualifying time.

Gilles Villeneuve biography

Ralf Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya, Magny-Cours, 2003 | Lorenzo Bellanca / LAT PhotographicRalf Schumacher vs Juan Pablo Montoya
Williams, 2001-4

They may have gotten on well, but they still stayed together for four years in which neither decisively established an advantage over the other.

There was little warmth, however least of all at Indianapolis in 2002 when Schumacher spun into Montoya as the Columbian was passing him.

Juan-Pablo Montoya biography
Ralf Schumacher biography

Nigel Mansell vs Nelson Piquet
Williams, 1986-7

A common theme in these rivalries, as with Hamilton and Alonso today, is ‘established talent meets talented young upstart, fireworks ensure’.

So it was with Piquet and Mansell. The Brazilian clearly didn’t expect any trouble from the Briton, who had taken over 70 starts to register his first win, and assumed he would have number one status within the team anyway.

He was wrong on both counts. Mansell handed out some humiliating defeats to Piquet, mainly on British soil in 1986 and 1987. They took so many points off each other in 1986 it let Prost through to become champion.

Piquet was champion the following year, thanks in no small part to Mansell’s mechanical misfortune, and then stormed off to Lotus to enjoy number one status in a team no longer capable of winning anything.

Nelson Piquet biography

James Hunt vs Jochen Mass
McLaren, 1976-7

‘Hermann the German’ was how Hunt derisively referred to Mass. He generally had the beating of his team mate but there was animosity between the two after an embarrassing team gaffe at the 1977 Canadian Grand Prix.

Hunt was in the process of lapping Mass when the German moved left while the Englishman was already committed to passing him on that side. The two collided, Hunt went into the barrier and was out. He stayed at the spot for several laps, shaking his fist at Mass, before eventually punching a marshal for which he was later fined.

James Hunt biography

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren-Mercedes, Suzuka, 2005 | Daimler ChryslerJuan Pablo Montoya vs Kimi Raikkonen
McLaren, 2005-6

Montoya eventually left Williams for McLaren but there was only ever going to be fireworks between the brash Columbian and the taciturn Finn.

Even before Montoya flounced off to NASCAR in the middle of 2006, Raikkonen had already said of him: ?????ǣMaybe he should concentrate on staying on the road before the race, maybe that would help so he wouldn’t have to talk so much.??????

For Montoya’s part, he was unhappy at having spent most of 2005 supporting Raikkonen’s unsuccessful championship bid, and was further angered at Melbourne in 2006 when he was forced to queue behind his McLaren team mate in the pits while the Finn had a nose cone replaced. Sound familiar?

Kimi Raikkonen biography

Fernando Alonso vs Lewis Hamilton
McLaren, 2007

Who knows whether in years to come we’ll look back on the events of the past days as the start of an epic rivalry, or a one-off?

Despite McLaren best efforts to give their drivers parity, Hamilton undid that by refusing to give way to Alonso in qualifying at the Hungaroring, and Alonso made it even worse by blocking Hamilton’s later attempt to set one last qualifying time.

Was that their Estoril moment? Are they the new Prost and Senna?

Lewis Hamilton biography
Fernando Alonso biography

Photos: Daimler Chrysler, Lorenzo Bellanca / LAT Photographic, Daimler Chrysler

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12 comments on Top Ten: Team mate rivalries

  1. I certainly hope it’s only the start of something bigger, we need a bit of excitement to make up for the lack of decent ontrack action!

  2. Richard C said on 9th August 2007, 16:09

    Of equal interest is the duel between driver and team principal, I was amazed at Hamilton’s reported comments to tell Ron Dennis to ‘go swivel’. It’s a bit premature to be so ungrateful.
    Dennis knows he has the best car in the paddock 2007 and anyone would love the drive for 2008 . The ebb and flow in the Championship may have gone towards Hamilton after Hungary but it is far from over and Alonso will not be squeezed out easily. This one will run and run and there will be tears shed soon….

  3. Richard C – Is it a bit early? Or has Hamilton already done enough to establish that he could, if he had to, survive quite happily without Mclaren? I’m sure he could find alternative employment. All the same, I see what you mean. Not sure what either driver did in Hungary was clever….Had either one played their cards right, i think they could have won the team over to their cause.

    Anyway, an interesting list, Keith. The Senna/Prost rivalry really was one of the most intense and fascinating two-way clashes there has ever been, in any sport. I’m surprised there has not yet been a really great book written about it.

  4. This article is interesting for me.
    I learn about other tiffs.
    I hope the relationship between Alonso and Hamilton become better asap.
    I just want to see good race.

  5. There is one more little tiff between drivers that actually has some parallels with the Alonso/Hamilton thing. How about Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet in 1979? Lauda was the definite number one and it was Piquet’s first full season in F1. But the fact that Piquet tended to out-qualify and out-race Lauda began to get to the double champion and, at the second last GP of the season, Canada, he quit abruptly, saying that he no longer wanted to go round and round in circles.

    I wonder if something similar could happen again… ;)

  6. Nathan Jones said on 10th August 2007, 8:38

    at estoril in ’88 prost squeazed senna at the start! that is y senna then put prost up against the pit wall at the end of lap one! for some reason, nobody ever talks about this?

  7. Dennis said on 22nd October 2007, 3:42

    I’m starting to think, for all his highlighted bingles, M Schumacher actually did alright with team mates. At least they knew they were No. 2 :P

  8. Sumedh said on 1st October 2008, 17:15

    You may add no. 11
    Massa vs Kimi

    Having 2 probable world champions in their side, next year; is suicidal.

  9. Chippie said on 29th March 2010, 17:07

    Alonso Hamilton moment was in Hungary qualifying? No!

    For me the defining moment – The ‘Estoril’ moment – was the fourth corner in Interlagos, two teammates who hated each other so much that by crashing into one another they accepted – mutually – that they would be happier to see Raikonen win than to see their own teammate take the championship.

  10. dazman said on 8th August 2013, 17:09

    It’s a shame everyone views Prost as the baddy and Senna the Saint.
    Forget that Senna Movie…it’s always easier to saint someone when they`re dead. Fact is, though a brilliant driver, he was a dirty one too. If people are upset at the injustice of his death, welll, I`m upset with the injustice of Elio De Angelis’ death.

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