The already-delicate relationship between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber broke down in spectacular fashion at last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix, with Vettel famously ignoring team instructions to hold station behind Webber, instead claiming victory for himself.
Few teammates in Formula 1 have perhaps ever enjoyed anything more than a merely cordial relationship, but for some driver pairings, it has been almost all-out war.
Quite where the Vettel-Webber stoush will rank in the annals of history remains to be seen, but it’s a perfectly topical opportunity to see if it qualifies among ten of the biggest bust-ups between Formula 1 teammates from the years gone by…
10. Thierry Boutsen vs. Érik Comas, 1991-1992 (Ligier)
A common theme in this countdown is “established driver is paired with young, promising upstart – cue fireworks”.
Never was this perhaps more apparent than in the two years that Thierry Boutsen and Érik Comas spent together at Ligier in the early 1990s. Boutsen joined the French squad after two successful seasons at Williams, while Comas was France’s next hot thing, fresh from winning the Formula 3000 title.
However, it would be anything but rosy, and heading into their second year as teammates, it went south just three races in at the Brazilian Grand Prix. With a solid haul of points up for the taking (which would have been the team’s first since 1989), Boutsen tried an incredibly ambitious move on Comas as the pair battled with Johnny Herbert…
“I was doing my job and the rest was Boutsen’s problem. It was a bit optimistic to try to overtake two cars in such a small corner,” Comas would later recall.
It wouldn’t be the last time the pair would come to blows. Later in the year at Hungary – following another strong qualifying performance – the pair came together once again, this time on the opening lap of the race. This time it was Comas’ fault, with the Frenchman snapping into oversteer exiting Turn 1 and T-boning the Belgian – both were out on the spot (pictured top).
By the end of the year, the pair was barely on speaking terms. Comas would head to Larrousse, while Boutsen saw out the final year of his F1 season with Jordan.
“Comas was terribly good at confusing the team in his way of setting up the car and developing it,” Boutsen would later recall in an exclusive interview with RichardsF1.com.
9. Fernando Alonso vs. Lewis Hamilton, 2007 (McLaren)
An ongoing dispute between a driver and team ultimately manifested itself into all-out war between McLaren teammates Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
While the pair have long since patched up their differences and are now almost bosom buddies, it was anything but peachy during the single season they spent as teammates in 2007.
Alonso had joined the squad after winning back-to-back Drivers’ Championship crowns with Renault, while Hamilton completed an all-new driver line-up as the team’s protégé, whom it had backed since his days in karting.
While Alonso may have assumed he’d automatically get number-one status as the team’s more experienced driver, the team’s refusal to instigate team orders in his favour led to an increasing rancour between the Spaniard and team management, which would ultimately cost both drivers the Drivers’ Championship title.
Ultimately it blew over at the Hungarian Grand Prix in qualifying. Hamilton refused to follow a team instruction to give Alonso track position, and the Spaniard repaid the favour by baulking Hamilton in pit lane in the closing minutes of the session.
The FIA took a dim view of these antics and that further soured when Alonso leaked information against the team when the infamous ‘Spygate’ saga was brought to its head that year.
His position at the team was untenable and he would return to Renault after just a single year of his multi-year deal with McLaren, but not before both he and Hamilton lost out in the Drivers’ Championship title by a single point to a bemused Kimi Raikkonen…
8. Ralf Schumacher vs. Juan Pablo Montoya, 2001-2005 (Williams)
Despite being team-mates for four seasons at Williams, neither Ralf Schumacher nor Juan Pablo Montoya could be described as the best of mates, and it’s highly unlikely they’d feature on each other’s mutual Christmas Card lists!
What certainly won’t have helped matters were two separate collisions between this driver pairing – much to the chagrin of the team’s management, which is loathe to such antics – at the 2002 United States and 2004 European Grands Prix:
|Not a great way to build team harmony: Schumacher tags Montoya at the 2002 US GP (left) and Montoya gets his revenge with this clumsy piece of driving at the Nurburgring two years later (right)!|
Blame was split one-apiece for causing the respective accidents, but Schumacher and Montoya had both more than enough of the Williams environment – and vice-versa, in might be fair to assume! – with moves to Toyota and McLaren, respectively, for 2005.
7. Alain Prost vs. René Arnoux, 1981-1982 (Renault)
After a promising debut with McLaren in 1980, Alain Prost joined the Renault team the following year as René Arnoux’s teammate. He promptly outscored his compatriot, and was in the hunt for the Drivers’ Championship crown, only for unreliability to let him down.
Not wanting to be outshone by this younger upstart, Arnoux rose to the challenge in 1982, and he wasn’t averse to pulling out a few tricks from his own armoury along the way.
The team’s home race proved to be one of the rare occasions all year when the yellow cars held together for the entire race distance. Running in a comfortable 1-2 formation, Arnoux – who hadn’t scored a single point since his third-placed effort at the South African season-opener – elected to ignore the team orders that stipulated he yield the win to Prost, who was still very much in championship contention.
Ultimately, Prost wouldn’t win the title (as he would narrowly fail to do as well in 1983 and 1984), and Arnoux found himself sacked by Renault at the end of the season and off to Ferrari…
6. Alain Prost vs. Nigel Mansell, 1990 (Ferrari)
Two regular protagonists in this teammate wars countdown were paired together, and it’s hardly surprising that their partnership lasted just a single year.
Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell – never two individuals whom you would describe as ‘team players’ – were partnered at Ferrari in 1990, with Alain joining the team after two torrid seasons spent as Ayrton Senna’s team-mate in what was undoubtedly the most unhealthy driver pairing in the sport’s history.
Almost immediately, Mansell started to complain of unfair treatment, even going so far to suggest that Prost pinched one of his race chassis’ and had the compliance plate changed to hide it from him!
In typical histrionics, Mansell announced he was quitting the sport mid-season, and spent the rest of the season trying to ruin Prost’s own championship ambitions, with the low point being trying to block Prost off the line at the Portuguese Grand Prix. Mansell ultimately won that race, and couldn’t shield his delight at the fact that Prost’s sole title rival, Ayrton Senna, had finished in second place ahead of the Frenchman.
Mansell typically rescinded his retirement decision and joined Williams for the next two seasons, opting to quit the sport at the end of his championship-winning 1992 season instead of face Prost as a teammate at the team in 1993.
5. Sebastian Vettel vs. Mark Webber, 2010-2013 (Red Bull Racing)
Warring teammates tend to be able to survive one another’s company for one – or perhaps two – years at best, so Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel are the exceptions to that: the pair’s on-off war has been running for four seasons!
It would appear that the 2013 season will be the pair’s last as teammates after Vettel pinched the Malaysian Grand Prix win from under Webber’s nose, and while the German may have apologised to all and sundry, forgiving and forgetting are very different things indeed.
The bad blood between the pair as teammates goes back as far as the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix, when senior figures on the team refused to offer any substantial support to Webber after he and Vettel collided while disputing the lead of the race. Anyone with two eyes and half a brain could tell that Vettel was completely at fault in the incident…
Issues were further compounded a few months later at the British Grand Prix when the team came up with a new front wing design for the race. Both drivers had one wing apiece, but Vettel broke his in Saturday practice and the team took Webber’s and gave it to the German for qualifying and the race. The Aussie happened to win the Grand Prix, and famously remarked afterwards that his performance was “not bad for a number-two driver”.
So there was certainly plenty of history between the pair leading up to the events in Malaysia…
4. Alan Jones vs. Carlos Reutemann, 1981 (Williams)
“It’s not for nothing that the cars have those numbers on them!” said Alan Jones in unbridled frustration after Williams teammate Carlos Reutemann disobeyed team orders to win the 1981 Brazilian Grand Prix. Jones, as the reigning World Champion, bore the number ‘1’ on his car, while Reutemann had the number ‘2’…
“I’d won the first race at Long Beach, and I think Carlos was pissed off because he was leading but ran wide, and I snuck up the inside of him to take the lead and win the race,” Jones told RichardsF1.com in his very first interview with us.
“I never attempted any risks in Brazil for that very soon, and I expected Frank to give him the sign [to let me through] and everything would be hunky-dory. It was just the second race of the season, and if he was better than me, he could win the next ten! And of course, Carlos didn’t honour the agreement.”
Before the end of the season, Jones would confirm his retirement from the sport, prompting Reutemann to suggest that the pair bury the hatchet.
“Yeah, in your f*****g back, mate,” Joned shot back.
Reutemann headed into the season finale at Caesars Palace simply needing to finish ahead of Piquet to claim the championship. But Reutemann suffered a dramatic dip in form after qualifying on pole, fading to an eighth-placed finish while an exhausted Piquet staggered over the line in fifth place to win the championship by one point. Fittingly, Jones claimed victory.
3. Nigel Mansell vs. Nelson Piquet, 1986-1987 (Williams)
As the established star of the early 1980s. Nelson Piquet doubtlessly would have expected he’d face little trouble from new Williams teammate Nigel Mansell.
How wrong he was. Incorrectly assuming he’d be given number-one status as the more senior driver, the Brazilian was shocked to find himself being given a run for his money.
The pair spent too much time squabbling and pinching points off each other in 1986, and it ultimately cost either of them the Drivers’ Championship as a disbelieving Prost slipped through to claim the title.
By 1987, the relationship between the pair had completely broken down, and Piquet didn’t help foster any kind of team harmony when he called Mansell’s wife Roseanne, “ugly”, nor when he pinched all the available loo paper during the Mexican Grand Prix after Mansell was struck down with a bout of Montezuma’s Revenge!
That year, Williams’ dominance proved too great for the rest of the field. Mansell may have scored twice as many wins as Piquet, but it was the Brazilian who proved the more consistent (and blessed with the more reliable car) to sneak through and claim the title. His title was cemented when Mansell suffered a heavy accident at the penultimate race in Japan.
2. Didier Pironi vs. Gilles Villeneuve, 1982 (Ferrari)
The 1982 San Marino Grand Prix will go down in infamy, not least of which for the politics that dogged the event, but also for the feud sparked between Gilles Villeneuve and Ferrari team-mate Didier Pironi that the enigmatic Canadian would take to his grave just two weeks later.
It was a race that saw just fourteen cars start, and after the works Renaults predictably retired from an early lead, Villeneuve and Pironi to stage a battle for the lead in front of their adoring fans.
In the closing laps, the pair ran nose-to-tail, with Villeneuve leading himself to believe that Pironi would play the role of dutiful number-two in the end and that the Frenchman was simply trying to put on a show for the fans.
Pironi passed Villeneuve for the lead, and Villeneuve retook him.
On the final lap, Villeneuve left a car’s width gap going into Tosa, and that was all the invitation that Pironi needed to slip through for the lead and the win.
While the Frenchman claimed the win, Villeneuve was furious at the apparent betrayal and sulked on the podium, vowing never to speak to Pironi again.
Two weeks later at the Belgian Grand Prix, Villeneuve would be killed attempting an impossible last-gasp flying lap trying to beat Pironi’s provisional pole time in qualifying. He collided with Jochen Mass’ March and was thrown from the car, killing him instantly.
1. Ayrton Senna vs. Alain Prost, 1988-1989 (McLaren)
Several books have been written on the Senna-Prost rivalry, which stretched beyond the pair’s two seasons at McLaren right up to the Brazilian’s death in 1994.
Putting such a competitive duo together always had the potential to be a recipe for disaster, and outright competitiveness of the 1988 and 1989 Honda-powered McLarens would simply serve as the stage for the ‘The Professor’ and ‘The Pretender’ to stage the greatest rivalry in Formula 1 history.
Things started to come to the boil in the final stages of the 1988 season. At the Portuguese Grand Prix, Prost tried to overtake Senna for the lead and found himself squeezed to within inches of the pit wall by the Brazilian.
The relationship between the pair worsened in 1989. At San Marino, Prost accused Senna of breaching an agreement the pair had devised that whoever was leading at Turn 1 would be left to run untroubled to the flag.
McLaren team boss Ron Dennis was found incapable of managing this fiery pairing, and it quickly disintegrated completely: Prost accused Senna of receiving more favourable treatment and announced he was quitting the team at the end of the season.
In the end, the final chapter of the 1989 season would be played out at Suzuka, where Senna tried to take the lead from Prost at the Casio Chicane, only for the pair to collide. Prost retired and Senna continued after a little help from the marshals, but his eventual disqualification gave Prost the title.
The following year, Prost would drive for Ferrari and the title battle would again come to a head at Suzuka. This time it would be Senna who’d emerge victorious, but only after deliberately ramming Prost into the Turn 1 gravel at the start of the race…