Rivals on track, friends off it: 7 of F1’s greatest ever ‘bromances’
The red-hot heat of competition between drivers in Formula 1 means that the paddock is not a natural breeding ground for friendship – after all, this is a sport where even your team mate is the first person you have to beat.
But these days it seems the drivers are friendlier than ever with each other –happy to pose for selfies on each others’ Instagram accounts and bantering back and forth on Twitter.
So is this a new era of affection among the drivers? Well, perhaps not. Over the years – even stretching right back to the 1950s – a handful of F1 racers have struck up some touching ‘bromances’ amongst themselves. Here are seven of the sport's most iconic duos.
1. Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins
F1’s original, and tragic, bromance was formed by Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins, two freewheeling Englishmen thrown together at Ferrari for the 1957 and 1958 seasons. The handsome, urbane Collins was a fine foil for the more country squire-ish Hawthorn, a man who liked to plot his drive home from Goodwood after a day’s racing via his favourite pubs, and who famously referred to Collins as mon ami mate.
The legend of the pair’s friendship is enshrined in F1 mythology in their spirited efforts to stop Juan Manuel Fangio taking his barnstorming win at the 1957 German Grand Prix – and their chivalrous, sporting reaction to the great Argentine’s victory afterwards on the podium. Read all about that here.
At the same race 12 months later, though, Collins would crash his Ferrari 246 at the Nurburgring’s Pflanzgarten corner while pursuing Tony Brooks, dying later that day from head injuries sustained when he hit a tree. Hawthorn would take the world championship a few months later, before immediately announcing his retirement from the sport, only to lose his own life in a road accident in early 1959.
2. Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart
Originally a posse of three drivers – along with Jim Clark – Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart became something of a double act following Clark’s death in 1968. Stewart had famously turned down a Lotus drive for his rookie 1965 season, preferring to learn his craft alongside the avuncular Hill at BRM rather than be played off against Clark – and a warm friendship duly formed between the two.
Hill and Stewart regularly holidayed together, while the pair were often spotted on British television screens, as they charmed the public with their sparring banter. In one appearance, Hill asks Stewart, sat in his 1969 championship-winning Matra: “What particular advantage does this car have over, say, the car I was driving?” “Well it’s faster, Graham,” retorts Stewart.
In another, Hill teases Stewart after the Scot came close, but ultimately failed, to break Clark’s record of most wins in one season. “Seven Grands Prix is the sort of record,” Hill deadpans, “you were obviously hoping for this. Where do you think you could have done it and it didn’t happen?”
Once more, however, this bromance story doesn’t end happily, with Hill losing his life when he crashed his plane in 1975.
3. James Hunt and Niki Lauda
While most people think of Hunt vs Lauda as one F1’s great rivalries, the pair were, in Lauda’s own words, “open, honest-to-God pal[s]”.
Aside from a brief coolness between them at the start of the 1976 season – when Lauda’s Ferrari team protested McLaren’s five-eighths of an inch too wide car – Lauda and Hunt remained friends throughout their time in F1, with Hunt gallantly saying at the end of his title-winning ’76 season – which saw Lauda sidelined for two races after his horrific German Grand Prix crash: “I felt I deserved [to win the championship], but I also felt Niki deserved to win the championship, and I just wish we could have shared it.”
Lauda would go on to help Hunt extract himself from the clutches of alcoholism during the 1980s, even helping his friend financially after Hunt turned up to one of the pair's reunion lunches in London barefoot, and having ridden to the rendezvous on a bicycle with a flat tyre. “People always think of us as rivals,” Lauda's character says in the movie Rush, based on that troubled 1976 season. “But he was among the very few I liked – and even fewer that I respected.”
4. Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson
Mario Andretti was said to be less than pleased when Ronnie Peterson returned for his second stint at Lotus in 1978. “Tell me where it’s written we need two stars in this team,” he’d reportedly grumbled, annoyed that he’d done the testing legwork to develop the ground effect Lotus 79 only for it to be handed over to an artist of Peterson’s calibre.
But any bitterness between the two evaporated in the face of the Swede’s easy-going nature, as the team mates formed a friendship that, in the words of veteran F1 journalist Nigel Roebuck, was “as firm as any I have known between drivers”.
A largely happy 1978 season – during which Peterson even cadged an invite to Andretti’s lake house, only to accidentally destroy his 14-year-old son Michael’s dirt bike in a crash – saw them both vying for the title, leading to a showdown at Monza.
Andretti was classified sixth in the race, enough to give him the championship. Any sense of joy was short-lived, though, with Peterson losing his life as a result of complications from a horrible start-line shunt in the race.
“Unfortunately,” the newly-crowned Andretti summarised at the time, in one of the sport’s most hauntingly stark phrases, “motor racing is also this.”
5. Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger
By 1989, the relationship between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna at McLaren was so toxic, there was no question of the two drivers continuing as team mates. A swap of sorts ensued, with Prost departing for Ferrari as Gerhard Berger went the other way – and the clouds were lifted at the team.
Berger soon settled into his role as number two – “when I joined McLaren I thought I could beat Senna, otherwise I would not have gone there,” he once told Motor Sport Magazine, “but he was so quick, so determined…” – but more surprisingly, he helped bring out a lighter side to the hyper-intense Senna that had rarely been glimpsed.
The infamous story of Berger throwing Senna’s briefcase out of a helicopter in mid-air is true – as is the story of Berger and Ron Dennis’ then-wife Lisa helping to distribute frogs around Senna’s hotel room in Australia. “Did you find the snake?” was Berger’s stony-faced opening gambit to Senna at breakfast the next day...
As Berger was fond of saying, Senna taught him how to drive – he taught Senna how to laugh.
6. Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel
Perhaps the unlikeliest friendship on this list, the hard-partying Kimi Raikkonen and the nerdy, Monty Python-loving Sebastian Vettel initially bonded over a mutual love of badminton. Yes, really.
Bromance ensued, with the pair ultimately paired together for four harmonious seasons at Ferrari – with rumours suggesting that Vettel played a key part in Raikkonen staying on as long as he did at the team.
Vettel was understandably upset when the Finn was eventually shipped out of the Scuderia in favour of Charles Leclerc, telling the media: “With Kimi, it has been zero [bull****] from the start… it's sad to know that Kimi is not there anymore because I think we get along, even though we are different.” Don’t worry though, because the friendship still endures, with Vettel and Raikkonen often travelling to races together.
7. Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris
And to bring us up to date, a bromance that, in the eyes of F1 fans at least, started with a GIF. In the clip (watch it below), taken from McLaren’s behind the scenes Unboxed series, as Sainz is walking into the McLaren garage to get ready for the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, Norris pirouettes in front of the camera before cheekily overtaking his team mate, with Sainz throwing a quick punch at Norris as he jogs away.
Had it been Senna and Prost in 1989, or even Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in 2007, the footage might have been enough to signify all-out warfare at McLaren. As it was, it neatly summed up the new spirit of harmony prevailing at the team.
McLaren will hope that continues into 2020 and beyond, despite Norris’ recent warnings that he expects some “tense” and “iffy” moments for the pair in the coming seasons, as McLaren fight their way back to the front of the grid. For now though, let’s just keep enjoying those GIFs...