NOV 04th 2015

Famous Five... Team‑Mate Tensions

Senna Prost team mate

Body language experts must be rubbing their hands with glee now that the already chilly atmosphere between Mercedes-Benz F1 team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has finally iced over.

BJ Baldwin on road promo

The tension between the two 30-year-olds has increased in recent races, following aggressive on-track jousting by the dominant pair during the Japanese and US Grands Prix. On both occasions Rosberg came off worse and was miffed about it – witness his tossing of a baseball cap in the post-race green room and refusal to applaud Hamilton’s race and title victory during the podium ceremony in Austin.

Relationship souring between two competitive racers armed with the same equipment is not a new thing, and the latest mega-star moodiness in F1 got us thinking about other high-profile squabbling at the sport’s top level. Which drivers didn’t really like each other, which had several on-track spats and which positively despised each other?


Australian Webber had been at Red Bull for two years when wunderkind Vettel arrived in 2009, quickly taking the upper hand. Things turned nasty when they took each other off during the 2010 Turkish GP – each blaming each other and Vettel twirling his finger around his temple in Webber’s direction as he walked away from his broken RB6.

The two were wary of each other thereafter, with any sort of trust finally extinguished in Malaysia during what would be Webber’s final season in 2013. Vettel ignored the coded message ‘Multi 21’ to hold station behind Webber and snuck past to snatch victory. Cue a furious Australian (above) and the end of any friendly banter between them.


They were only team-mates for two seasons, in 1986 and 1987, but Williams duo Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet never got along. The mischievous Brazilian and the sensitive Englishman were a world apart culturally and double world champion Piquet used that to his advantage – particularly out of the car. He even took to insulting Mansell’s wife in his bid for one-upmanship. On track, Piquet’s nose was put out of joint when Mansell proved a match for him in the class-leading Honda-powered FW11; Piquet believed he’d joined the British squad – after two titles with Brabham – as clear number one but had to work hard to outscore ‘Our Nige’. He came out on top, albeit behind McLaren’s Alain Prost, in 1986 after Mansell’s infamous Adelaide blowout and lifted a third title a year later after Mansell crashed and hurt himself at Suzuka. On both occasions, though, Mansell won more races.


Acerbic Australian Alan Jones and politically astute Argentinian Carlos Reutemann were paired together at Williams in 1980 and ’81 – a time when the team had finally became a potent force. Between them, they won six races in 1980, securing Frank Williams his first constructors’ crown, with Jones taking the drivers’ title. At the start of 1981, Reutemann lost victory to Jones at Long Beach and headed to round two in Brazil looking for redemption. Despite his contract stipulating that if he and Jones were running one-two he must cede the lead to his rival, he disobeyed team orders – and the repeated use of a pitboard – to win. Jones’ reaction to the deceit and his thoughts on Carlos are not repeatable here.


Who can ever forget the image of Ferrari duo Didier Pironi and Gilles Villeneuve on the podium after the San Marino GP at Imola in 1982? Pironi celebrated his victory in the 126C2, while an enraged Villeneuve looked the other way, leaning on the railing, face like thunder. Ferrari’s instruction to slow its drivers – they were running a comfortable one-two in a field depleted by boycotts – in a bid to maximise reliability would cause one of the most bitter feuds in F1 history. Villeneuve believed the order also implied that they should remain in formation, although Pironi thought otherwise and passed the French-Canadian to take the victory.

Villeneuve refused to speak to Pironi from that moment on and, to add tragedy to the turmoil, crashed to his death during qualifying for the next race in Belgium – while trying to better Pironi’s earlier benchmark.


It’s hardly surprising that pairing two of the best drivers of their generation together in the best team led to high-profile problems. When Ayrton Senna joined Alain Prost at McLaren in 1988, the world held its breath at the prospect of the cerebrally fast double world champion Frenchman going head-to-head with the gifted young pretender from Brazil who’d already dragged sub-standard Lotus cars to several victories.

Armed with the all-conquering McLaren-Honda MP4/4, Prost and Senna would win all but one of the year’s 16 Grands Prix, with early signs of the breakdown of their relationship coming at Estoril in Portugal that September. Senna ruthlessly squeezed Prost against the pitwall at top speed while being passed for the lead, Prost later expressing his displeasure.

Things deteriorated at Imola the following April when Senna duped Prost at the restart, the 1985/’86 champion believing they had a gentlemen’s agreement to hold station once their customary one-two off the grid had sorted itself out.

A bitter war of words and on-track collisions, in Japan at the end of ’89 and again, after Prost had joined Ferrari, in ’90, continued the drama of one of F1’s greatest soap operas – one fuelled by an intense self-belief, will to win and a global following.

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