The Biggest Formula 1 Rivalries

The ongoing feud between fellow Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has kept Formula One fans at the edge of their seats, breathing fresh excitement into a sport that was in danger of becoming stale. They are currently separated by just three points in the Driver’s Championship, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how this one is going to end up come the end of the season.

From collisions to rumours of favourable team instructions, and neither party apparently talking to the other, it has got all the makings of a classic, but how does it compare with the sport’s greatest duels? We take a look at three of the best tug-of-wars Formula One has witnessed over the years…

Carlos Reutemann v Alan Jones
The pair made-up an initially harmonious partnership at Williams, which saw Jones become World Champion and the team Constructor’s Champion in the 1980 season, the following year saw things turn ugly. Reutemann disobeyed team orders to let Jones past in the 1981 Brazillian Grand Prix, eyeing the Driver’s Championship for himself. Jones never forgave him, even going so far as to respond to a suggestion to ‘bury that hatchet’ with “yeah, in your back.”

James Hunt v Niki Lauda
A rivalry so intense that it inspired its own Hollywood adaptation. Rush. The two were a perfect personality clash – McLaren’s Hunt a laid-back playboy with a flamboyant driving style and Ferrari’s Lauda a dedicated and meticulous tactician. Things came to a head in the 1976 season. Lauda raced into an early lead in the Championship, with Hunt the only driver coming close to matching him. Lauda then suffered a terrible crash at Hockenheim which damaged his lungs and left his face severely burnt. Ever the racer, he was back on the track just five weeks later, but Hunt had managed to claw back the lead to just three points by the time of the final race in Japan. Lauda retired after just two laps as Hunt rallied from a puncture to take third place and the Championship by a single point.

Ayrton Senna v Alain Prost
The definitive Formula One rivalry. The pair were signed to McLaren as part of a dream team in 1988, and Senna would go on to win the Championship that year. Tensions between the two were visible early, highlighted by their aggression towards one another on the track. It boiled over in 1989, starting with a Grand Prix where Senna ignored a pre-race agreement not to overtake Prost if he was leading. The gloves were firmly off at that point, and, like all good racing narratives, the Championship came down to the last round, with Prost holding a marginal lead on points. As Senna came to overtake into a chicane, Prost turned in, taking both cars off the track. Senna got his car started again and took the race win, however was disqualified in highly controversial circumstances, which he believed Prost – a favourite of the FIA – played a part in the decision.

The Championship came down to the final race again the following season in near-identical circumstances, though Prost had moved on to Ferrari. In a role reversal, Senna ploughed his car into Prost’s in the first corner, ending both of their races and ensuring he was World Champion. Though they would never see eye-to-eye, they most certainly had a mutual admiration for the other’s abilities. After Senna’s tragic death in 1994, Prost would be a pall-bearer at his funeral, such was his respect for the Brazilian.