5 Biggest F1 Teammate Rivalries

In the world of Formula 1, the biggest benchmark a driver has is with their teammate. The only other driver on the grid to be operating with the exact same car and machinery, it is the first test you have to clear in order to prove your worth on the track. However, with the stakes in the garage so high, that has led to some pretty infamous spats over the course of F1’s history. Check out SinkorSwimSports as we run you through the 5 biggest f1 teammate rivalries! 

1989 Japanese Grand Prix
Is there a more controversial team race than the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix?

5. Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi, Ferrari 

This is the shortest F1 teammate rivalry on our list, but undoubtedly one of the most intense the sport has ever seen. 

Ferrari came into the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix with a win presented on a silver platter. The  Formula One Constructors’ Association’s boycott meant only 14 cars started the race, with the Prancing Horse’s drivers Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi qualifying third and fourth respectively, with only two unreliable Renaults ahead of them. 

The two Renaults would eventually retire by Lap 44, leaving the Ferraris clear to coast home for a 1-2. The pair were instructed to slow down and save fuel, with Villeneuve slowing by over two seconds believing the racing to be over between him and his teammate. 

Pironi, however, didn’t have the same interpretation of the ‘Slow’ message the Ferrari pitwall were showing, passing his teammate to eventually take the win. Villeneuve was livid, only facing the podium after pressure from his wife and declaring: ‘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.’ 

Sadly, F1 fans were denied a tasty-looking scrap between the pair as the Canadian was killed during qualifying the following round at Zolder. 

1982 Imola Grand Prix
Villeneuve vowed to never speak to his teammate again after the Imola GP

4. Nelson Piquet vs Nigel Mansell, Williams

Many F1 rivalries begin when a talented young prospect defies the older, more experienced number-one driver. And that was certainly the case with Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell at Williams in 1986. 

Having joined the team from Brabham already as a two-time World Champion, there was no doubt in Piquet’s mind that he would be the side’s number one driver. But it was Mansell who outperformed the Brazilian during the opening rounds of the ‘86 season, winning five races to Piquet’s four. 

Despite Williams winning the Constructors in both years the pair were teammates and Piquet taking the 1987 title, the two drivers were constantly taking points off each other, leading to some infamous moments in F1 history. 

Piquet would leave Williams in 1988, famously remarking that Mansell was: ‘an uneducated blockhead with a stupid and ugly wife.’

3. Sebastian Vettel vs Mark Webber, Red Bull

Another case of a young prodigy coming into a team and ruffling some feathers, the first case of tensions brewing between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber came in 2010 when Red Bull were finally able to deliver a Championship-winning car. 

The first signs of trouble came at the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix, where the team blew an easy 1-2 when Vettel collided with his teammate when going for an overtake. When Vettel was given Webber’s new front wing spec at that year’s British Grand Prix. the Aussie won the race and delivered his famous ‘not bad for a number two driver’ line, but things were far from settled. 

A year later, Webber disobeyed team orders at Silverstone, but it would prove to be just the prelude to a far more memorable moment in Sepang. During the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix, a radio message to Vettel told him to hold position behind Webber with the now-infamous ‘Multi 21’ command.

Vettel ignored the team order and, after a thrilling bit of racing between the pair, won the race. He was branded ‘silly’ by Team Principle Christian Horner, became the villain of Formula 1, but would finish the season winning his fourth consecutive World Championship. 

Vettel Webber Malaysia 2013
Tensions were often present between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel

2. Lewis Hamilton vs Nico Rosberg, Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had been longtime karting friends before the pair jumped to Formula 1. And even during their opening years in the pinnacle of motorsport, their friendship stayed intact, with the pair sharing the podium during Rosberg’s first finish in the top three. 

Fuelled by Mercedes stepping out into the V6 turbo era in 2014 as the dominant force, Hamilton and Rosberg’s relationship almost immediately began to sour. A thrilling race in Bahrain pushed the pair to the brink of fair play, however, in Monaco scrutiny was put on whether Rosberg had deliberately ruined his qualifying lap to prevent Hamilton from getting pole position. Over the remainder of the year, the pair would collide in Austria and Belgium, and Hamilton would steal the win from Rosberg in Hungary after disobeying team orders. 

Hamilton would beat his teammate by 67 and 59 points in 2014 and 2015. Hamilton won his third World Championship at the 2015 US Grand Prix, resulting in a deliciously tense exchange in the cooldown room with his teammate where he tossed the 2nd place cap at Rosberg, only to have it lobbed back at him.

In 2016, things hit a fever pitch. Rosberg won the first four races of the season, but only five more over the calendar, with Hamilton firing back in imperious style. Mercedes would win 19 out of 21 races that year, though at Spain both drivers would find themselves with a DNF after colliding with each other on the opening lap. 

Rosberg would become the second son of an F1 champion to win the Championship at the end of the season, winning by 2 points and announcing his retirement just days after beating his rival (in equal machinery).

Hamilton Rosberg Cars
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had one of the fiercest teammate rivalries from 2013-2016

1. Aryton Senna vs Alain Prost, McLaren 

The fiercest rivalry from arguably the greatest era of Formula 1, the rivalry between Aryton Seen and Alain Prost had its roots in the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix. With torrential rain hammering the track, Jacky Ickx made the controversial decision to red-flag the race. Senna, who had dragged his uncompetitive Toleman up to 2nd from 13th was closing in on Prost in the lead, and actually passed him on the finish line, but the red flag meant he was classified as 2nd. 

By 1988, Senna had joined McLaren to partner Prost. In one of the most dominant F1 seasons, McLaren won all but one of the races on the year’s calendar, with Senna pipping Prost to the title by just three points.

It would be in 1989 that the relationship between the pair would completely evaporate. A combination of team politics and racing etiquette soured things before the title decider in Suzuka. Senna needed to beat Prost but, when attempting a move down the outside the Casio Triangle, the two McLarens hit each other, eventually leading to the Frenchman winning the title. 

Prost left McLaren at the end of 1989, claiming that the team were favouring Senna and that he found it ‘impossible’ to work with the Brazilian. Remarkably though, the pair would find themselves colliding again at the very same circuit just a year later. Bemoaning having to start the race on the dirty side of the track, Senna vowed not to let Prost (now driving for Ferrari) past the first corner if he were ahead and, true to his word, collided with the Frenchman for a double DNF. 

Senna won the championship with the move, his second of three World Championships. Prost would brand his ex-teammate as ‘disgusting’, whilst the Brazilian delivered his legendary ‘if you no longer go for a gap’ interview afterwards. 

Aryton Senna Alain Prost Suzuka 1989
Senna and Prost came together at Suzuka in 1989 and 1990

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