Prost vs Senna, Mansell vs Piquet and more – F1's fiercest team mate rivalries
When Haas announced they had signed Nico Hulkenberg to race for the team in 2023 alongside Kevin Magnussen, plenty of F1 fans wondered how the two drivers would get on, after they famously clashed on track and off it back in 2017.
The two drivers drew headlines in Hungary that season after tangling towards the end of the race, leading Magnussen to call his German rival "nasty".
The pair also clashed in the post-race interview pen as the Danish driver uttered a choice – but now immortal – insult towards Hulkenberg. No doubt the two of them have buried the hatchet by now before they join forces for next year, while boss Guenther Steiner will be hoping they don't end up like these warring F1 team mates...
Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna
Where do we start with this one? The image of two McLarens sitting at the edge of the final chicane at Suzuka summed up one of the fiercest rivalries in F1 history, but there were plenty of flashpoints well before the 1989 title decider.
Perhaps the fuse had been lit in 1984 after then-Toleman driver Senna was denied a stunning victory in a prematurely-halted Monaco Grand Prix, before politics began to split the McLaren team mates in 1988. That year's battle came down to the Japanese Grand Prix, where Senna won over Prost in a stunning showdown.
Racing etiquette caused further tension in 1989 when Prost felt Senna had reneged on a pre-race agreement at San Marino, and of course, the pair collided at the Casio Triangle at the end of the season. The crash remains the key image of the pair's rivalry, but in reality Senna was penalised for cutting the chicane on re-joining the circuit rather than that incident.
Team mates no more, the pair still managed to collide in the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix and the Frenchman (by then at Ferrari) branded his ex-team mate "disgusting"; Senna calling Prost a "coward" in '91. In 1993, pair shared the podium for the final time with Prost having secured his fourth championship.
Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet
In 1986, Piquet joined Williams as a two-time champion, and his status as top dog in the team was seemingly consolidated when Mansell crashed out in chase of Senna on Lap 1 of race one, in Brazil. But Mansell was just as stubborn, and just as tenacious as his new team mate. The man from Birmingham bounced back from a winless start to ’86 with a terrific run that set him up for title glory – which was only dashed by a puncture in the season finale in Adelaide, where Prost sealed the championship instead.
Piquet and Mansell would continue to spar, Mansell sparking ‘mania’ as he passed Piquet for victory at home in 1987. But the Brazilian still came out on top, taking his third title.
The following year the outspoken Piquet called Mansell a “blockhead”, also making derogatory comments about Nigel’s wife Rosanne – the Briton later calling those comments “out of order” in his autobiography. The pair did however later reconcile… reuniting to advertise the Brazilian-spec Ford Fusion, in 2013.
Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel
A rivalry that is far more than ‘Multi 21’, this stint began in 2009 but erupted when the team delivered a title-worthy car in 2010. In qualifying for that year's British GP, Webber's new-spec front wing was handed over to Vettel. The Aussie slammed down a can of Red Bull in frustration in the press conference on Saturday – and then won the race to drive home the point.
Not bad for a number two driver indeed. And that was after the pair crashed in the fight for the lead of the 2010 Turkish GP. Vettel ended up winning the title by four points, and the following year in the 2011 British Grand Prix Webber disobeyed orders to hold station behind his team mate.
Team orders would only rear their ugly head once again, this time in Brazil 2012 when Webber cheekily asked which switch “Multi 12” was. Of course, there was no switch – Multi 12 was simply an order to move over for Vettel. In Malaysia 2013, Multi 12 became Multi 21. This time, Vettel disobeyed the orders and was called “silly” by Team Principal Christian Horner, while Webber was left fuming as the German passed him to win, on the way to his fourth title.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg
The Rosberg vs Hamilton rivalry powered up at the dawn of the hybrid era in 2014. Bahrain was a spirited battle but Monaco saw Rosberg lock up at the end of qualifying and deny his rivals the chance of challenging for pole position, which frustrated Hamilton. Clashes at Hungary, Belgium and Italy in 2014 only increased the tension but Hamilton came out on top.
In 2015, China and Japan provided further flashpoints but Hamilton wrapped up the title in Austin. It was there that the Briton threw the runner-up driver's cap at Rosberg in the cool down room after the race, only to find it flung back at him. Rosberg then won the final three races of that season.
Max Verstappen won on his debut for Red Bull as the Mercedes pair took each other out in Spain, 2016, while Monaco saw Rosberg obey team orders to let Hamilton past. In Austria, they pushed the limits and clashed on the final lap, before the title battle boiled down to Abu Dhabi, the deciding race, where Rosberg needed P3 to seal the title. Hamilton put on a sullen display as he won but attempted to slow the pack down to leave Rosberg vulnerable, but there was nothing doing; he won the race but could not change the outcome.
Rosberg’s shock retirement at the end of the season only left us wanting more of this rivalry.
Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi
Canadian driver Villeneuve was signed by Ferrari late in the 1977 season, and was joined at the team by Frenchman Pironi in 1981. Villeneuve had exhibited his unflinching will to win previously, famously battling with Rene Arnoux for P2 in the 1979 French Grand Prix, and in Pironi he found another worthy adversary.
Heading to the 1982 San Marino GP at Imola, Prost led the standings and Ferrari were desperate for a win at the Italian circuit. Indeed, when the Renaults retired, the Scuderia had the lead.
The Ferrari drivers were ordered to go slow by the pit board, a sign that Villeneuve took to mean ‘hold station’. Instead, on the final lap, Pironi sped past the Canadian, leaving Villeneuve furious and vowing never to speak to his team mate again.
It was a promise he would keep in the most tragic of circumstances.
Imola would be Villeneuve’s final race; in the next round at Zolder, he died after crashing during qualifying.
Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton
F1’s quintessential champion-meets-newcomer rivalry. In 2007, reigning two-time champion Alonso was joined at new employers McLaren by hotshoe F1 rookie Hamilton, who made an instant impact by passing Alonso at Turn 1 in Australia, his very first Grand Prix after stepping up from GP2.
Pole and victory for Alonso in Monaco led Hamilton to imply that he was ordered to refrain from attacking his team mate, but in Canada, Alonso watched his young team mate take his maiden Grand Prix victory. And in the USA, Alonso made his feelings clear having – during the race – swerved to the pit wall to signal frustration over a seemingly immovable Hamilton ahead.
Hungary was where tensions really boiled over, Hamilton having refused to cede track position to Alonso in qualifying; Alonso pausing in the pit box to prevent Hamilton from completing a final Q3 lap in retaliation (see the video below).
The 'Spygate' scandal only added to the chaos and, in Belgium, the pair went wheel-to-wheel up Raidillon – with team boss Ron Dennis astonished by the scenes unfolding out on track. Alonso left McLaren at the end of the season and went on to race for Renault in 2008, the year that Hamilton took his maiden title.
Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann
It might be last in our list, but Jones vs Reutemann might be one of F1's most fiercest rivalries.
Jones was champion in 1980, but the following year tempers flared in only the second race of the season in Brazil: Reutemann was shown pit boards and told to move over for Jones, but Reutemann stayed in the lead and incensed the Australian. A war of words erupted – Jones calling his team mate “short-sighted” – and a rift within Williams opened up.
The pair collided in Imola, leaving Jones even more frustrated – and he would arrive at the Las Vegas season finale out of contention for the title. The Australian driver made it clear that he was “not there to help [Reutemann]” and, in Sin City, Reutemann’s championship hopes then derailed.
Piquet took the title, against the odds. Jones had little sympathy and retired at the end of the season while Reutemann lasted two races of 1982 before turning to politics.