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Formula 1

Six F1 title fights that turned into war

While Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton's title fight is tense, it hasn't turned into all-out war just yet. Here are six occasions where championship rivals completely fell out in their quest for the ultimate prize.

Column
To news overview © Angelo Orsi

Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell (1986-1987)

Two of the most stubborn drivers of their era, the rivalry between Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell turned sour quite quickly when they teamed up at Williams.

As the 1983 World Champion, Piquet moved to Williams alongside Mansell believing he would be the team leader. But this didn't really happen, and the rivalry quickly turned acrimonious as Piquet made some personal comments about Mansell's wife, Rosemary.

A battle at Brands Hatch in 1986 saw Piquet refuse to take up Mansell's offer of a handshake on the podium and, despite Mansell's dominance of the middle part of the season, the British and the Brazilian driver's feud ended up costing them both the title as Alain Prost snuck past to clinch it at the final race.

In 1987, with Williams as the fastest car, it was a similar story. Mansell pulled off one of the most famous moves of the modern era as he wrong-footed Piquet at Stowe at Silverstone, hardly improving the relationship between the pair.

Piquet would win the '87 title after Mansell injured his back in a crash at Suzuka, with Piquet promptly leaving to join Lotus. Since then, there's been very little public acknowledgement of the other, aside from the odd occasional TV appearance.

The nature of their relationship meant that, had either driver been at Williams by themselves in 1986 and 1987, they likely would have walked to the titles. Instead, their unwillingness to work together cost Williams the Drivers' Championship in both seasons.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg (2013-2016)

It's a toss-up whether to include Lewis Hamilton's acrimonious 2007 season alongside Fernando Alonso or the friendship that turned bitter with Nico Rosberg, but the latter is probably the more interesting, simply due to how long it went on for and how toxic it got.

Friends throughout their childhood and junior careers, Rosberg and Hamilton being teamed up at Mercedes in 2013 had some tense moments. While Hamilton had a World Championship under his belt and plenty of wins, Rosberg was still in the 'potential' phase of his career and had put in several years of legwork at Mercedes prior to Lewis' arrival.

But it was the change in regulations to the new hybrid era that saw all hell break loose. Now in dominant machinery, the battle for the title was between Hamilton and Rosberg only, and things quickly turned sour.

Their friendship cooled after the 'Duel in the Desert' in Bahrain, and then turned bitter in Monaco when Rosberg parked his car at Mirabeau in the closing stages of qualifying to ensure pole position. Later that year, there was the famous 'Nico hit me' moment at Spa-Francorchamps as Rosberg made contact, intentionally, with Hamilton's car and gave his teammate a puncture.

Barely able to look at each other by the end of 2014, the title was decided in Hamilton's favour. The following season was a much calmer affair, aside from an amusing hat-throwing incident in the United States, as Rosberg failed to get on terms with Hamilton, but 2016 saw a renewed vigour from Rosberg.

There were several on-track moments that season, with the most dramatic being the Spanish Grand Prix when the pair collided at Turn 4 and took each other out of the race. In Austria, there was last-lap drama again as Rosberg tried to push Hamilton wide at Turn 3, which Lewis weathered to win, while Rosberg picked up damage and a dressing down from Toto Wolff.

That season culminated in Hamilton doing his best to back Rosberg into the competition in Abu Dhabi, with a stoic Sebastian Vettel sitting back to give Rosberg the title. Having finally won the crown, Rosberg promptly retired from Formula 1.

Since then, the pair's friendship hasn't repaired, but the ice has shown signs of thawing with Rosberg now away from the cutthroat world of the competition.

Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher (1994-1995)

Damon Hill rose to be Michael Schumacher's main championship rival during the 1994 season, with the Briton taking over as lead Williams driver after the tragic death of Ayrton Senna.

With Schumacher somewhat struggling as Formula 1's new leading man following Senna's death, and the retirements of Prost and Mansell, it was a hot-tempered weekend at Silverstone in 1994 that really ignited the title fight between Hill and Schumacher as Benetton fought off allegations of cheating throughout that season.

With Hill pulling himself slowly but surely into contention, Schumacher deliberately overtook Hill on the parade lap at Silverstone and, following a reset for a blown engine further back on the grid, proceeded to do the exact same thing to Hill on the second parade lap. It resulted in Schumacher being shown the black flag.

Later that season, in the infamous title showdown, Schumacher made a mistake while leading at Adelaide. With a damaged car, Schumacher was about to be overtaken by Hill but, instead, turned in on him. The resulting collision took both drivers out and gave Schumacher the title.

1995 was a much more dominant affair from Schumacher as he began to establish himself as one of the sport's greats, but that didn't stop another flashpoint at Silverstone.

In the closing stages of the race, Hill attempted an audacious pass at Priory. With Schumacher turning in unaware of the Williams' dive, the pair collided and both were out as they stomped away from each other. A tremendous scrap also happened at that year's Belgian Grand Prix, one of Schumacher's most famous wins as he defended against Hill while on the 'wrong' tyres.

With Hill getting his title in 1996 as Schumacher fought in a less competitive Ferrari, there were very few incidents in the remaining years of Hill's F1 career. But a friendship never developed between the rivals, with Hill telling the F1 Nation podcast that Schumacher enjoyed making his opponents stew after a race or an incident.

"I didn't have his phone number, anyway," Hill said.

"I mean, Michael was very good at turning off any kind of ability to communicate with him. He was quite icy as an individual in the paddock."

Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel (2010-2013)

Red Bull teammates Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel didn't start off on a bad foot. With Webber being a seasoned veteran in F1 by the time a precocious but rough around the edges Vettel was promoted to Red Bull in 2009, the pair worked well together as the team became frontrunners that season and claimed their first victories.

But, in 2010, with a championship on the line, and Vettel improving with every showing, Webber was starting to struggle to keep up with his young teammate.

That didn't stop Webber from taking back-to-back wins in Spain and Monaco, and heading to Turkey on the crest of a wave. But Webber would leave Istanbul feeling isolated and questioning Red Bull's loyalties, after a collision between himself and Vettel late in the race.

With Webber and Vettel told to turn down and save fuel, Vettel had more fuel onboard and set about attacking Webber. Lining him up through Turn 10, Vettel managed to get alongside but moved over too quickly, hitting his teammate. Both would spin off, with a furious Vettel climbing out and making the 'crazy' finger gesture for the benefit of the TV cameras. Webber would go on to finish in third, but both Christian Horner and Helmut Marko backed Vettel's move in the press.

Webber and Vettel managed to get by for a further two seasons, with Vettel winning the titles in 2010, '11, and '12, before the infamous 'Multi-21' incident at Sepang.

With Webber leading the Malaysian Grand Prix, both drivers were told to hold station. This was an order Vettel outright refused to obey, attacking Webber relentlessly and with obvious aggression, until Vettel took the lead. Webber would swerve his car at Vettel's and show him the middle finger as they crossed the line, with tension and anger extremely obvious between the pair in the cooldown room afterwards.

Vettel would later reveal that he had wanted payback for Webber failing to help him in the title showdown at Interlagos in 2012, chopping in front of Vettel before the spin that almost cost Vettel a chance at that year's title. Vettel would go on to win the 2013 title in style, with Webber leaving F1 behind.

Since then, their relationship has improved immeasurably to the point of friendship, with their marked age difference no longer delineating their different mindsets. With Vettel maturing and softening, too, in the intervening years, it's meant that the pair no longer appear to have any animosity towards each other, with Webber's autobiography Aussie Grit explaining that he understood the team dynamic at Red Bull that led Vettel to choose such an aggressive approach.

Didier Pironi and Gilles Villeneuve (1982)

This short-lived rivalry didn't end happily, for either driver.

Teamed up at Ferrari, Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi initially got on well after the French driver's arrival at the Scuderia. But an incident that Villeneuve viewed as a betrayal from Pironi at Imola in 1982 saw the rivalry turn bitter.

The two Ferrari drivers found themselves leading the race 1-2 after the two unreliable Renaults retired. Ferrari ordered both drivers to slow their pace and hold station, with Villeneuve out in front.

But Pironi was to attack and pass the French-Canadian, initially without much resistance, as Villeneuve believed Pironi to be putting on a show for the home fans, with Villeneuve re-passing his teammate. Pironi felt he was allowed to fight for the win and, getting past again, held firm to take the victory.

Fuming afterwards, Villeneuve swore to never speak to his teammate again. This was an oath he kept in tragic circumstances, with Villeneuve being killed in a qualifying crash at Zolder two weeks later as he attempted to beat the time set by Pironi.

Villeneuve's death meant Pironi had a good chance of winning the title, but he himself would suffer severe leg injuries in a crash at Hockenheim later that season. He would never return to F1 racing, despite some tests in 1986, and, instead, turned to powerboat racing. He was killed in an accident off the Isle of Wight in 1987.

Pironi's son, Gilles, now works for Mercedes-AMG and stood on the podium as the Mercedes representative at last year's British Grand Prix for Hamilton's victory.

Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost (1988-1990)

The most famous example of F1 teammates who fell out, Senna and Prost's rivalry is still regarded as the most bitter and the most romantic due to their incredible, albeit polarising, skillsets.

While Senna was the ragged-edge, ultra-aggressive driver who would never take no for an answer, Prost was smooth, serene and patient. Prost was also the proven quantity by the time the pair were teamed up at McLaren in 1988.

The two men dominated that season, with McLaren's MP4/4 winning 15 of the 16 races. The championship was to be decided in Senna's favour, having made the most of his existing relationship with Honda to win internal favour with the engineers, as well as dominating in terms of the qualifying battle.

But it was 1989 where the battle really started to turn sour, as Prost was annoyed by Senna ignoring a team agreement not to fight for victory when Prost led into Tosa at the San Marino Grand Prix. Heading for a title showdown at Suzuka, the first of their infamous collisions happened when Senna attempted to overtake heading into the Casio Triangle chicane.

With Prost closing the door, the two McLarens tangled and came to a stop. Prost jumped out, assuming both cars were eliminated from the race, but Senna managed to get his car moving and continued to get repairs and finish on the podium, before being disqualified.

The title was decided in Prost's favour that day, but Senna got revenge at the same venue the following year.

With Senna leading on points ahead of Prost, who was now with Ferrari, he knew that a non-score for Prost would give him the title. Taking pole position on Saturday, Senna was annoyed that his grid slot was on the inside line for Turn 1, away from the grip. His protests to have the sides swapped fell on deaf ears, and Senna duly lost position to Prost when the lights went out. But Senna decided to keep the boot in and promptly rammed Prost off the track, winning the title in the process.

Their rivalry never reached the same level of vitriol again, with Prost stepping away from Formula 1 in 1992 before a '93 return. Dominating that season with Williams, Senna's Ford-powered McLaren was no match for Prost, with the French driver electing to leave again after winning the title.

Senna made his ill-fated switch to Williams for 1994 but, just as it appeared the bitter feud might be about to turn into an unlikely friendship, the Brazilian driver was killed in a crash at Imola.

Lewis Hamilton claimed his 100th Grand Prix win to move into the championship lead, but it's Red Bull and Max Verstappen who will be happiest after the Russian Grand Prix.

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