There’s something unique about F1’s competitiveness, and it’s not solely down to the pace, the number of opponents or its mechanics. No, for us, it’s the competition between drivers, especially within teams, which makes it such a intensely divisive sport. There have always been big rivalries in Formula One and now we look at some of the very biggest.
1. Lewis Hamilton vs Nico Rosberg
An ongoing battle, and one that only really started this season, the Mercedes teammates used to be childhood friends before their hunt for glory wedged itself between them. Their duel at the Bahrain Grand Prix towards the beginning of the year should have raised alarm bells, but their relationship continued to worsen after bust-ups at Monaco and other races. Their partnership continues to be fraught with difficulty after Rosberg allegedly blocked Hamilton and sent him limping out of the Belgian Grand Prix. Only time will tell how this story ends, but one thing’s for certain: we’re in for a hell of a ride.
2. Ayrton Senna vs Alain Prost
Perhaps the greatest driver in history, Ayrton Senna certainly had a lot of rivals, but his battle with Alain Prost is the most frequently discussed, and for good reason. Both drivers came to a head at the peak of their careers, leading to what is often called the greatest rivalry in Formula One history. The championships of 1989 and 1990 are the most remembered, with both titles being decided by collisions on Japan’s Suzuka Circuit. A rivalry built out of mutual respect rather than pettiness, Prost remarked after Senna’s death, ‘he was the only opponent I truly respected.’
3. Jim Clark vs Graham Hill
The two were Lotus teammates who together dominated a large portion of the 1960s. Both drivers with tremendous talent, their rivalry is odd in that they remained great friends as well as cooperative teammates, a refreshing story amidst all this modern day acrimony. Unfortunately for the sport, both true gentlemen were lost prematurely, with Clark losing his life in a Formula 2 race and Hill passing away as the result of a plane crash.
4. Damon Hill vs Michael Schumacher
Both automotive legends in their own right, Hill and Schumacher’s rivalry came at a golden age for Formula One in the 1990s. Of their numerous crashes and battles, perhaps the most famous came in 1994, where Schumacher pipped the British legend to his maiden championship by a solitary point. Controversy arose in the race when Schumacher crashed into Hill, taking them both off the road and guaranteeing the German his victory. Whether the move was intentional remains a mystery.
5. James Hunt vs Niki Lauda
A rivalry so influential that it formed the basis of Hunt’s 2013 biopic, Rush, this is one to be remembered. A legend of British racing, James Hunt was an exciting gentleman whose driving prowess and lifestyle were the envy of men everywhere. He may not have won his only title if his main rival, Niki Lauda, had not crashed at Nurburgring in 1976, leaving him scarred for life. No one knows what would have happened if Lauda’s campaign hadn’t come to such an abrupt end, but Hunt didn’t win another championship before his retirement in 1979.