Five toxic F1 feuds from ‘ugly wife’ insult in Playboy mag to deliberate crashes
Formula 1 is gearing for what fans hope will be a repeat of the dramatic 2021 season rather than another 2022 campaign of one-driver domination.
Intense driver feuds have been central to the most memorable years in the sport’s history, with Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen in 2021 scoring particularly high on the rivalry rater following a series of collisions and barbs in the media.
With the new F1 season just a month away, Daily Star Sport looks at five other intense rivalries, starting with British hero Nigel Mansell and his controversial Williams teammate in the 1980s…
READ MORE: 10 Formula 1 drivers you completely forgot about – and what they are up to now
Mansell vs Piquet
Piquet, whose daughter Kelly is in a relationship with Verstappen, caused outrage last year by using racist language while talking about Hamilton. But the Brazilian, a three-time world champion, is no stranger to making unacceptable comments, even towards one of his teammates.
During 1986 and 1987, he engaged in a stormy rivalry with Williams colleague Nigel Mansell as they fought for the drivers’ title. As they battled for supremacy in the dominant team of the era, their rivalry became intensely personal, with Piquet overstepping the mark several times.
On one occasion, in an interview with the Brazilian edition of Playboy in the late 1980s, Piquet blasted Mansell and even took aim at his wife Roseanne.
“Mansell is argumentative, he's rude and he's got a really ugly wife,” said Piquet at the time. “He's arrogant, and after he started winning races he started treating everyone really badly. Besides which, he's written off piles of cars. No one wanted him to win.”
Writing in his most recent autobiography, Staying On Track, Mansell admitted he and Piquet never got on. Recalling Piquet’s arrival at the start of 1986, Mansell wrote: “It’s fair to say that I didn’t exactly see eye to eye with my new teammate – let’s just say he is an ‘indifferent person’, to put it politely.”
Mansell added: “He played a lot of psychological games. He criticised me on many occasions. He would also go on to say the most insulting things, and was even once very nasty about my wife. That’s out of order.”
Senna vs Prost
The rivalry which all other F1 feuds are measured against. There have been books written about it while acclaimed film about Senna’s life, released in 2011, focused heavily on his toxic relationship with the Frenchman, known as ‘The Professor’.
The pair came together as teammates in 1988 as Senna joined the McLaren from Lotus. Senna went on to win his first world title that year when their relationship, while frosty, was not out of control.
1989 was when things really kicked off. Prost’s consistency gave him the edge over Senna’s speed. At the penultimate race of the season in Japan, Senna tried to overtake his nemesis for the lead in the closing stages. Prost slammed the door shut and the pair collided. Prost climbed out of his car but Senna restarted, pitted for a new front wing and then passed the Benetton of Alessandro Nannini for lead to keep his title hopes alive, or so he thought.
Senna was subsequently disqualified for missing a chicane as he rejoined the track following his shunt with Prost. McLaren argued in Senna’s favour but the FIA came down in Prost's side.
So tired of being in the same team as Senna, Prost had already signed for Ferrari for the following season. Again, they battled tooth and nail for the title, and again it was settled in Japan, but this time in Senna’s favour.
The Brazilian took pole position at Suzuka but was unhappy, claiming the pole spot was on the wrong side of the track. At the start, Prost got the jump on him and led into the first corner, only for Senna to spear into the side of the Ferrari. With both cars out of the race, Senna was confirmed as world champion.
A year later, Senna effectively admitted he had taken Prost out on purpose.
He said: "I said to myself: 'OK, you try to work cleanly and do the job properly and you get f***** by stupid people. If on Sunday, at the start, because I'm in the wrong place, Prost beats me off the line, at the first corner I will go for it, and he better not turn in because he is not going to make it.'"
Hamilton vs Rosberg
The rivalry between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg was strung out over four years. It’s easy to forget they were teammates in 2013 when Mercedes were building up to becoming the all-conquering team they became.
It was in 2014, when the duo were pitched into a title fight against each other, when it really kicked off. There were rows on and off the track, with the pair colliding at the Belgian Grand Prix and barely on speaking terms by the end of the season.
Hamilton was generally quicker but Rosberg took the title battle all the way to Abu Dhabi, where double points were controversially on offer. Hamilton won the race to secure his long-awaited second world title but he was made to work hard for it.
2015 was far more straightforward for Hamilton, who took the title with three rounds to spare. However, the angst between duo was still high, demonstrated by a cap-throwing incident following the championship-clinching United States Grand Prix.
Rosberg regrouped to win the final three races of that season and then the first three of 2016. That sequence of wins ended in drama when they took each other out on the first lap of the Spanish Grand Prix, allowing some upstart called Max Verstappen to win his first race since being promoted to the senior Red Bull team.
Hamilton chased his rival down over the second half of the season but an engine failure while leading in Malaysia dealt a severe blow to his title chances. He won the final four races and there was huge tension in Abu Dhabi as he tried to back Rosberg, who only needed to finish third, into Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari and the Red Bull of Verstappen.
The plan didn’t work as Rosberg, despite winning seven races to Hamilton’s 10, clinched the title. His spell with Hamilton had taken so much out of him, the German shocked the sport a few days later by retiring.
Hamilton vs Alonso
Hamilton and Fernando Alonso spent just one year together as McLaren teammates but there was enough drama in 2007 to fill an entire decade.
Alonso arrived at McLaren as a double world champion and expecting to be the team’s number one, with rookie Hamilton performing the job of compliant understudy. However, that expectation was blown apart at the first corner of the first race in Australia as Hamilton boldly swept around the outside of his teammate to pinch second place.
Hamilton reeled off podium finish after podium before securing his maiden victory in Canada and then quickly making it two in the US. Tensions between the two drivers could not be contained, with Alonso deliberately holding Hamilton up in the pit-lane during qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix, meaning the Brit couldn’t get in one final fast last.
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Alonso was penalised with a grid penalty and Hamilton won the race. On the same weekend, with the infamous ‘Spygate’ scandal rumbling on – with McLaren accused of obtaining confidential Ferrari documents – a disgruntled Alonso had threatened to send incriminating evidence on his own team to the FIA. He later withdraw the threat but the saga made his long-term position at McLaren untenable.
Hamilton should have secured the title at the penultimate race in China, only stay out too long on intermediate tyres and then slide into the gravel trap as he finally came into the pits.
Going into the final race in Brazil, it was between Hamilton, Alonso and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. A mysterious car problem dropped Hamilton down the field. Although his McLaren righted itself, Hamilton couldn’t recover enough places and Raikkonen won the race and the title. Hamilton and Alonso finished level on points with the same number of wins, with the Spaniard slopping back to Renault following a bruising season.
Vettel vs Webber
Looking back on the inter-team rivalry between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, the phase ‘multi-21’ is unavoidable.
During their years as teammates at Red Bull, they were never the best of mates, with Webber often feeling aggrieved at what he saw as the preferential treatment his young stablemate received.
That simmering animosity blew up at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix. Going into the closing stages of the race, Red Bull were heading for a one-two with Webber out in front. The pair were given the instruction ‘multi-21’ – translated as ‘hold your position and don’t fight’.
However, Vettel, with three straight world titles in his back pocket, wasn’t having any of that and engaged in a thrilling fight for the lead. Team principal Christian Horner even got involved over team radio, telling Vettel ‘come on Seb, this is silly’.
But Vettel didn’t obey the order and went on to win the race. In the cooldown room afterwards, with the cameras on them, Webber remonstrated with Vettel, reminding him of what ‘multi-21’ meant.
Speaking on the podium, a seething Webber said: “Seb will be protected as usual.” At the next race in China, an unrepentant Vettel said icily: “I was quicker, I passed, I won.”
Vettel clinched his fourth title that season while Webber retired at the end of the year.
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