F1 feuds that led to some questionable driving
If you think Formula 1 is always a gentlemanly sport, you’re wrong. At the end of the day, F1 drivers are humans too, so when something (or someone) really rubs them the wrong way it can result in some bad decisions being made.
If you think of how dangerous road rage can be to the average driver, imagine that same intense rage but at 150 mph inside of an open-top 4-wheeled land rocket. The track can be a battleground of physical and psychological warfare. Here are some examples of how clashing rivals can be a very dangerous thing.
Gilles Villeneuve vs Didier Pironi
This one is a tragic story with no real happy ending. Although it’s up for debate, many believe that the fierce feud between the two of these great drivers indirectly led to Villeneuve’s death and Pironi’s career-ending crash that broke his legs.
In 1982, Peroni beat Villeneuve at the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix. This made Villeneuve incredibly angry as he was in the lead for most of the race and as he let his guard down, Peroni stole his victory at the last moment. After the race, Villeneuve said that he would never speak to Pironi again.
Soon after at the qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit Zolder, Villeneuve did everything he could to ensure he wouldn’t lose to his arch nemesis again and pushed himself to work at 110%. On a cool down lap, Villeneuve took a corner at incredible speed and upon exit, crashed into the driver in front, Jochen Mass. Gilles’ car was launched into the air and violently tumbled around, destroying the car completely and ejecting Gilles from the seat, leading to fatal injuries. Some say that he was driving so extremely because Peroni was ahead of him, some say that he always drove hard like that.
As for Pironi, a few races later he hit Prost in practice and broke both of his legs in the accident. He recovered, but he never raced in Formula 1 again. Pironi then took to powerboat racing but died in 1987 due to a catastrophic accident. After his death, his girlfriend gave birth to twins and names them Gilles and Didier, in honour of the two rivals.
Alain Prost vs Ayrton Senna
This famous duo was known for their fearsome competitiveness, which often translated to reckless behaviour on the track. It’s a miracle that they only collided a couple of times, given all the races where we saw the clash of these two titans through aggressive chases, intense overtakes and some occasional off-track drama. In
1989, the two collided at a corner during the Japanese Grand Prix. Senna took the inside of a corner while Prost, on the outside, turned into him. It’s still debated today who was at fault. Some say Prost braked early and made a large gap that he knew Senna would take, effectively baiting Senna and then turning into him to take him out. Others say Senna deliberately blocked Prost’s turn by undertaking him on a corner
They collided again in the following year in a more dangerous incident. They were travelling much faster and this crash was clearly a direct result of their rivalry. Senna took justice into his own hands and wiped out Prost from the race. Clearly an act of revenge but even if many of us do believe Prost deserved it, it was still a very dangerous thing to do. Driving angry is never a good thing to do when behind the wheel of an F1 car.
Lewis Hamilton vs Nico Rosberg
We all know how most of these feuds start. Driver 1 often thinks he’ll always be number 1, whereas driver 2 wants to prove to the world that they can be just as good, if not better, than driver 1. The interesting thing about Hamilton and Rosberg is that they were teammates back when they were just 15 years old. Sharing laughs and dreaming about being on the same F1 team, working together to be the best. That dream turned into a reality but instead they were working against each other, not with each other.
They remained good friends for a long time, even when Hamilton joined Rosberg at Mercedes in 2013 they were still getting along like they did when they were teens. Things quickly changed in 2014 when Rosberg appeared to deliberately block Hamilton from overtaking at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Later that same year, the two had a little collision at Spa. Rosberg’s front wing was broken but that was it. A sure sign of how the friction between the two is building, with the two often disregarding safety and focussing purely on one-upping each other. Even though it was a very minor collision that seemed like a rather genuine mistake, they were both rather salty about it and were in no mood to forgive each other.
At the beginning of 2016 at the Spanish GP, the two had another track disagreement. Rosberg defended his position as Hamilton tried to overtake, forcing him onto the grass. Hamilton then slid out of control and into Rosberg, taking both of them out of the race.
Shortly after at the Austrian GP, the two had a major falling out on the very last lap. Rosberg aggressively defended his 1st place position once again by blocking Lewis on a turn. Hamilton refused to be forced off the track for a second time and turned into Rosberg, causing Rosberg to fall back to 4th place due to damage, leaving Hamilton to finish in 1st.
Other than the dramatic collisions, the two would often be found inches away from each other. Driving dangerously close and blocking each other’s overtakes would happen time and time again. Like other rivals, they would momentarily forget about being safe and prioritise beating their rival. Whether it was taking them out on purpose or refusing to swallow your pride and get out of the way of a dominant teammate.
Luckily F1 is safer than it’s ever been and the collisions that the two had ended without injury. However, when you’re travelling at those speeds in skimpy cars made of paper mache, things can easily escalate. Cars can flip, walls can be hit and bones can be broken. Mercedes even threatened to rip up their contracts if they saw a repeat of the 2016 Spanish GP.
Thankfully, Rosberg has retired meaning that the two can no longer battle it out. This is probably best for both of them, because who knows what could have happened if the two kept at it like this for any longer…
So those are some of the most dangerous racing rivalries in Formula 1. Think we’ve missed an even more dangerous conflict? Let us know!