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Motorsport is unique in plenty of aspects, but one of the most significant ones is the relationship between teammates. Despite being in the same team and working towards the same goal, more often than not a driver’s biggest rival is his teammate. This is why the top F1 teammate rivalries are so special.
Alan Jones versus Carlos Reutemann
An underrated rivalry is the one between Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann at Williams, which lasted just two seasons. The 1980 season produced success for the team, which dominated the constructors’ championship, while Jones won the drivers’ one.
But in 1981, it all changed, pretty much from the start. In the second race of the season, with Williams running first and second, Reutemann was instructed to let his teammate through and give up the win. The Argentine refused and Jones was furious, refusing to attend the podium ceremony.
Their rivalry grew over the season as they fought over becoming the leading driver of the team. Williams made a few questionable calls, like giving Reutemann’s engine to Jones in Germany, despite the Argentine being the championship leader.
Reutemann entered the championship finale one point ahead of Nelson Piquet. Jones, who had decided to retire from F1 after the conclusion of the season, was not in the fight, but declared he would not help his teammate. Piquet would come away with the championship, defeating Reutemann, who stepped away from F1 just two races into 1982, because of the Falklands War.
Gilles Villeneuve versus Didier Pironi
In another of the most infamous rivalries, Didier Pironi joined Gilles Villeneuve at Ferrari in 1981. Their first season was unremarkable, with the Canadian having the better season, as he scored a couple of victories in a car that was off the pace.
It is the 1982 season that’s etched in everyone’s memory. At Imola, with a lot of teams missing the race for political reasons, the Ferraris were left at the top of the field, with Villeneuve ahead. The team told both drivers to hold position, but Pironi ignored the order and fought for the win. After exchanging positions plenty of times, the Frenchman came out on top.
Villeneuve vowed to never talk to his teammate again and, tragically, that’s what happened. On the next race weekend, he crashed and lost his life during qualifying. Pironi led the championship three quarters into the season, when his career also ended after a serious accident in Germany.
Ayrton Senna versus Alain Prost
The most infamous teammate rivalry in Formula 1 history is the one between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. The pair were teammates at McLaren for just two seasons, but they were enough to create havoc.
The 1988 season progressed with little drama, the exception being a controversial block from the Brazilian to the Frenchman at the Portuguese Grand Prix, which angered the latter. Senna would come out on top and claimed his second championship.
But the following season, everything was turned up a notch. At Imola, an agreement that whoever led into the first corner was disregarded, when made an overtake later on the opening lap.
The landmark moment in the rivalry came in the penultimate race of the season, which Prost was leading as he tried to seal his third title. Senna tried to overtake in order to keep his championship hopes alive, but they collided. Prost retired on the spot, but his teammate rejoined the race, using the run-off area. This got him disqualified after the race and the Frenchman was crowned.
At that point, Prost had already decided to leave for Ferrari, growing tired of Senna’s driving and claiming the Brazilian was receiving preferential treatment from Honda, McLaren’s engine supplier. Their battle continued into 1990, when Senna took revenge by securing his second title after crashing on purpose into Prost.
Fernando Alonso versus Lewis Hamilton
Another tumultuous partnership was the one between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. The former was coming off two championships, while the latter a rookie. The relationship started with no signs of tension.
At Monaco, Alonso was leading into the final stint and slowed to manage his car to the finish. Hamilton caught him, but was instructed not to overtake. The rookie’s camp accused McLaren of giving preferential treatment to the Spaniard and the rivalry began. In qualifying at Hungary, Hamilton was supposed to let Alonso through before they stopped for fresh tyres, which he ignored.
Alonso reacted by holding him up in the pits. With Hamilton unable to make it to the line in time to record a time, the Spaniard stole pole position. This was investigated by the stewards, who handed the defending champion a five-place grid penalty, while McLaren would score no points towards the constructors’ championship. Alonso now felt that McLaren was supporting Hamilton.
In the end, the intra-team fight cost them the championship, as Kimi Raikkonen overhauled both by a single point to become champion. The season was also marred by the Stepneygate spying scandal, which got McLaren disqualified from the constructors’ championship. After the season, Alonso left the team.
Lewis Hamilton versus Nico Rosberg
The most recent notable teammate rivalry includes Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. In 2013, the two drivers were friends, having raced karts together in their childhoods. That would change as Mercedes produced a dominant car for 2014.
The first crack in the relationship appeared in Monaco, when Hamilton accused his teammate of going off the track on purpose to bring the yellow flags out and secure pole position. In Belgium, the pair touched, causing a disastrous puncture for Hamilton and front wing damage for Rosberg, who was able to recover to third.
Hamilton took the title though and the pair shared a moment before the podium in the last race. The same could not be said for when the Brit secured the 2015 title, as the tension became evident when Rosberg threw his second-place cap at Hamilton.
2016 was their most intense season. The most iconic moment was their crash at the start in Spain, which eliminated both. Four races later, in Austria, Rosberg led coming into the last lap, but when Hamilton tried to pass, they collided again. Hamilton was able to win, while Rosberg fell to fourth without a front wing.
The championship was settled in a nail-biting finale, during which Hamilton tried everything to drop his teammate into the clutches of the cars behind. It didn’t work and Rosberg emerged as the champion and shockingly left F1 just days after.
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