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Five of the Greatest Rivalries in Formula 1

F1’s greatest rivalries

With the 2022 season well underway, the fight for the title looks like it will be a season-long battle between Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

So far, their battle has been exciting and clean, but will it remain that way?

Since it started in 1950, there have been more than 1000 races and over 70 championships competed for in Formula 1.

Rivalries take shape in many forms. Some have been fair, some not so much. Whether it’s a championship battle, teammates looking to be number one, or drivers who don’t like to share the same piece of tarmac, there have been plenty of rivalries that have generated excitement and got fans talking.

We take a look at five of the greatest Formula 1 rivalries and what makes them stand out in the history of the sport.

Number 5: Mika Hakkinen vs Michael Schumacher

Schumacher is no stranger to an intense rivalry, and we could have included them in a list of their own. However, unlike some of his other battles, the one with Hakkinen never became acrimonious and there was a mutual respect despite them racing hard to win Formula 1’s greatest prize.

Hakkinen won the 1998 season and again in 1999, but only after Schumacher suffered a broken leg at the British Grand Prix. Schumacher returned to win the 2000 championship, which marked the beginning of his and Ferrari’s dominance in the sport.

Hakkinen possessed the speed to overcome Schumacher but did not share the German’s racecraft. Schumacher has admitted his great admiration for Hakkinen and that he was the only opponent that he feared.

Their rivalry became well known for a brilliant overtake by Hakkinen at Spa-Francorchamps in 2000. At over 200mph, Hakkinen clinched victory on that day when he passed Schumacher as they both lapped Ricardo Zonta.

Michael Schumacher

Number 4: James Hunt vs Niki Lauda

Lauda and Hunt came through the junior categories together and had a good relationship away from the track. That didn’t stop them from pushing each other to the limit though.

It was their battle for the championship in 1976 that has become so well known. It was a season full of drama, so much so that it was turned into a movie many years later.

Lauda looked on course to win the championship after a run of good results, but this all changed following his near-fatal crash at the Nürburgring.

Hunt was able to take advantage and moved to the top of the standings, but the title would go to the last race in Fuji after Lauda made a remarkable comeback, only six weeks after his accident.

Lauda deemed that the race conditions were too dangerous and retired after two laps. With Hunt needing to finish in the top four, he managed to get the result he needed after a frantic race.

Number 3: Nigel Mansell vs Nelson Piquet

Piquet joined Williams in 1986 as a double world champion and believed he would automatically be the team’s number one. However, Mansell had other ideas.

Both of them were evenly matched throughout the season and had been given the freedom to race by their team. Piquet disagreed with this and responded to this by refusing to share technical information with his team-mate.

The internal battle ultimately cost them both the championship that year as they dramatically lost out to Alain Prost at the final race in Adelaide.

Piquet was able to win the championship in 1987 but with tensions continuing to grow, he left the team at the end of the year.

Number 2: Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen

Much like Schumacher, Hamilton has had his fair share of rivalries during his career. However, his battle for the 2021 championship with Verstappen became one of the most fiercely contested for many years.

Verstappen was the young pretender who appeared to have nothing to lose. As a seven-time champion, Hamilton knows what is needed to be victorious over a full season of racing.

Their fierce rivalry developed as the season went by and had many talking points. The first major incident took place at Silverstone when a collision between the pair ended with Verstappen in the wall. Further incidents at Monza, Interlagos and Jeddah soon followed, and the championship was played out against a backdrop of bitterness between the drivers and their teams.

Their battle went to the final lap of the final race at Abu Dhabi. In the end, it was Verstappen who took his maiden championship win but only after a controversial call from the race stewards.

With Mercedes currently struggling for form in 2022, it remains to be seen whether the pair will lock horns again.

Number 1: Alain Prost vs Ayrton Senna

The battle between Prost and Senna is probably the most famous in Formula 1’s history. They were two of the sport’s greatest champions but had contrasting characteristics. Senna looked to win at any cost whereas Prost was meticulous and more measured in his approach.

Their rivalry started to develop when Senna joined Prost at McLaren in 1988. With a car capable of challenging at the front, it was inevitable that the teammates would be battling each other for race wins and championships.

Senna won his first championship that year, but their relationship had started to deteriorate after some controversial moments.

They famously clashed on two occasions at Suzuka in Japan, both in championship-deciding races. In 1989, Prost turned in on Senna as the Brazilian tried to pass at the chicane. Prost was forced to retire but Senna managed to continue. After Prost’s protestations about the way that Senna rejoined the race, Senna was subsequently disqualified. Despite objections from Senna, Prost was crowned champion and then left McLaren to join Ferrari.

At the same track 12 months on, their rivalry intensified once again. Senna took them both out at the first corner knowing that this would give him the world title.

Although their battle continued into the following seasons, relations began to improve between the pair before Senna’s death at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994.

We hope you enjoyed the article ‘Five of the greatest rivalries in Formula 1’. Which has been the greatest rivalry in Formula 1 history? Let us know in the comments below.

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Simon Goodrum
Simon is a keen writer who has always had a strong interest in sport. His particular passions are motorsport and soccer which he frequently writes about.

Simon is a keen writer who has always had a strong interest in sport. His particular passions are motorsport and soccer which he frequently writes about.

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