It’s motorsport’s cardinal sin: whatever you do, don’t hit your team-mate. The trouble is, as much as racing people love to espouse how this is a team game, the reality is all racing drivers are ultimately out for themselves.
When team‑mates collide: six of the best
And when a pair of drivers find themselves in identically competitive cars, all of that humble togetherness can be momentarily forgotten, as these cringe-inducing examples show.
1. Antonio Felix da Costa and Alexander Sims
The latest in this ignoble tradition played out on Saturday on the streets of Marrakech when BMW’s team-mates cost the manufacturer a glorious one-two in the second round of the new Formula E season.
Saudi Arabia winner Da Costa looked set for consecutive glory to give BMW a perfect start to its new FE adventure, with impressive rookie team-mate Sims right on his tail as the race entered its closing stages.
In hindsight, it was a perfect storm. Sims was clearly quicker and for some reason the team had chosen not to intervene with a ‘hold station’ order…
As they approached Turn 7, Sims jinked to the outside and both were hard on the brakes when they touched, da Costa then nosing into a barrier. Sims recovered to finish fourth, but it had been a monumental head-in-hands moment.
Surprisingly, da Costa shouldered the blame and thus took the heat out of the situation, admitting Sims had been faster and that he should have let him past.
What he didn’t say – but really didn’t need to – was giving the lead away to your team-mate, no matter the circumstances, flies in the face of naturally selfish pure racer instinct.
2. Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel
The Turkish Grand Prix of 2010 is one of the best examples of a good old-fashioned intra-team bust up, and on that occasion Red Bull had no hope of Webber and Vettel taking the heat out of anything.
It was the future four-time champion who would spark both the collision and the juicy fall-out with an aggressively optimistic lunge for the lead. Webber could have given his team-mate more room, certainly, but that was never going to happen.
An avoidable collision? They were moths to a flame.
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3. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg
The competitive tension had fermented at Mercedes between the former childhood friends. Hamilton tended to have the upper hand, but to his annoyance Rosberg’s threat had grown in potency by the time they got to Barcelona during the early stages of the 2016 season.
The German was leading the championship having blitzed the first four rounds and now here he was again, showing his rear wing to Hamilton. For Lewis, it did not compute.
Then a chance: Rosberg made a mess of his settings and was slow out of the circuit’s long Turn 3. Hamilton instinctively pounced – and Rosberg instinctively blocked. The contact resulted in humiliation and handed Max Verstappen, on his debut for Red Bull, a maiden Formula 1 victory.
The fall-out almost split apart the greatest team of the modern era. As for the drivers, the frost between them now developed into an ice age that has still yet to thaw.
4. Julian Bailey and Will Hoy
Time for something completely different – but in its way, no less humiliating. And for ex-F1 driver Bailey, a moment that would come to define his time in the crash-bang-wallop golden era of the British Touring Car Championship.
At the highest profile round of the year, the British Grand Prix support race at Silverstone, 1991 BTCC champion Hoy looked set to lead Toyota to a dream one-two – only for Bailey to turn it all into a nightmare.
His blood up after a great move on Keith Odor’s Nissan for second, Bailey went for glory with a hopelessly optimistic move – and torpedoed the other Carina on to its roof. One moment Hoy was set for a gigantic win – the next his world had been literally turned on its head.
5. David Coulthard and Mika Häkkinen
Here’s another classic own goal, made worse by the apparent open goal McLaren had to aim at. On this day, David Coulthard blazed over the bar…
At Silverstone, Michael Schumacher’s 1999 title hopes had ended with a broken leg. Now here at the A1-Ring in Austria, reigning champ Häkkinen and team-mate Coulthard locked out the front row. Who could stop McLaren cantering to victory and from here on, clinching a comfortable world crown?
There was a slight gap as they approached Turn 2, but it would have taken one hell of an assertive move to pull off the pass. Instead, Coulthard’s was half-hearted and the ham-fisted Scot nudged Häkkinen into a spin. Cue silent screams on the pitwall.
The bodge did at least inspire one of Häkkinen’s greatest comebacks as he fought up to third behind his embarrassed team-mate. But from an open goal, calamity at McLaren gifted Ferrari an unlikely victory and gave oxygen to an Eddie Irvine title battle that surprised everyone – inlcuding the man himself.
6. Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna
Finally, the most famous of them all. Suzuka 1989: the clumsy climax to a season of huge tension between two of the titans.
After all that had come before, leader Prost was never going to let Senna make a move – and with only the chicane a realistic place to try it, all he had to do was cover his line, lap after mesmerising lap.
But on the 46th time around, Prost was taken by surprise as Senna lunged. Alain instinctively turned in, the McLarens locked together and slid straight on. It had happened.
Prost walked away muttering “I can’t believe he tried it”, Senna put in a furious charge to seemingly win – and was then disqualified, officially for cutting the chicane in his recovery, to hand the world title to his bitter rival.
The ramifications would rumble into history. But neither would emerge from the cardinal motor sport sin unblemished. When two team-mates collide, no one ever does.
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