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Teammate tensions: The fiercest intra-team rivalries in F1

With the possibility of a bubbling rivalry unfolding between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in 2023, Red Bull might want to bear in mind some past examples of teammate tensions boiling over.

With Red Bull seemingly holding a clear edge over their rivals in the opening stages of 2023, much attention has turned to the possibility of a fight between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez for the title. While the relationship between the two has seemed harmonious in the past, there were hints of tension after the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix over the matter of who set the fastest lap. Verstappen seemingly ignored the team's request to reduce his pace in the latter stages of the race, resulting in him claiming the extra point for the quickest lap and ending the event ahead of Perez – who won the race – in the championship standings. Perez, meanwhile, expressed his hope that the team would review the situation after the Grand Prix after suggesting that he was given "different information", something that team boss Christian Horner seemed to contradict . The incident follows on from Verstappen refusing a request to let Perez by on the final lap of the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix, the penultimate race of the season. While Horner stated after that case that the drivers' relationship remained intact, the team will surely be hoping that the intra-team rivalry does not escalate like some have in the past...

Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg

For an example of a bitter teammate relationship unfolding within a dominant F1 team, one does not have to look very far back in history. The pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes turned increasingly sour between 2013 and 2016. Signs of tension had started to arise during their first seasons together at the Silver Arrows, despite the duo having been childhood friends in their karting days. By 2016, the situation reached boiling point. Rosberg won all four of the opening races of the campaign but, at the fifth event of the year in Spain, the German infamously collided with Hamilton on the first lap, putting them both out of the Grand Prix. The two continued to trade blows on track in a close battle for the title, while relations between them off the circuit were creating a tense atmosphere in the Mercedes camp, with Toto Wolff later speaking of the impact of such "negativity". It was ultimately Rosberg who triumphed in the championship fight, taking his first and only title in F1 after making the shock decision to retire at the end of the season.

McLaren: Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna

Teammate rivalries in Formula 1 don't come more famous than that between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna at McLaren-Honda between 1988 and 1989. Much like the Mercedes during the Hamilton and Rosberg era, McLaren had the dominant package at this time. The team won 15 out of 16 races in 1988, with seven going to Prost and eight belonging to Senna, while Senna held the edge in qualifying. It was Senna who claimed the title, with the Brazilian having previously formed a strong relationship with Honda whilst driving for Lotus. The tensions between the teammates particularly escalated in 1989. Prost was annoyed by Senna ignoring a team agreement not to fight for victory when Prost led into the first corner at the San Marino Grand Prix. Things came to a head at the title showdown in Japan. Prost initially took the lead of the race but, on Lap 46 of 53, Senna attempted to overtake the Frenchman. Prost closed the door and the drivers collided, resulting in both coming to a stop. While Prost jumped out of his car, Senna managed to get his car moving again and received repairs in the pits before finishing on the podium. However, Senna was disqualified for re-entering the track illegally, meaning that the title went to Prost. The rivalry as teammates was brought to an end by Prost moving to Ferrari for the 1990 season, but their feud remained. A similarly controversial season finale played out between them again, this time going in Senna's favour.

Ferrari: Didier Pironi and Gilles Villeneuve

The brief but fierce rivalry between Didier Pironi and Gilles Villeneuve at Ferrari in 1982 has recently been the subject of a documentary film. It was the San Marino Grand Prix that sparked the incident which led to the dispute. When Villeneuve was leading Pironi on Lap 44 in a potential 1-2 result for the Scuderia, the team ordered the pair to slow their pace. While Villeneuve believed that this also meant to hold station, Pironi overtook the Canadian. Villeneuve then passed Pironi a few laps later, having thought that the latter was trying to entertain the team's home crowd. On the last lap, Pironi made a move again and went on to win the race. Villeneuve was furious, believing that Pironi had disobeyed the team order. He vowed never to speak to his teammate again. Tragically, Villeneuve was killed in a qualifying crash at the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks later as he attempted to beat the time set by Pironi.

Red Bull: Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber

Amid the 10-year anniversary of 'Multi-21' , it seems fitting to remember a previous occasion where Red Bull were faced with an occasionally tumultous driver pairing. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber joined forces at the team in 2009, but things started to go awry when the two collided at high-speed during the Turkish Grand Prix in 2010, throwing away a potential 1-2 result. While Vettel went on to clinch every Drivers' Championship between 2010 and 2013, it was in his and Webber's final season as teammates that the most infamous moment of their rivarly occurred. Webber was leading Vettel in the Malaysian Grand Prix when the code 'Multi Map 21' was given to both drivers, essentially asking them to hold the order of car two – Webber – remaining ahead of car 1 – Vettel. However, Vettel decided to battle for the lead and ultimately took victory. A visibly annoyed Webber told Vettel "Multi-21 Seb, Multi-21" in a rather tense cooldown room after the race. Webber retired from the sport at the end of the season, while the championship victory proved to be Vettel's last, with the German himself walking away from F1 at the end of 2022.

McLaren: Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton

It may have only lasted for one season, but the pairing of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton at McLaren in 2007 remains memorable. Both drivers were new to the team yet came with different backgrounds; Alonso arrived fresh off the back of two World Championship wins with Renault, while Hamilton was making his much-anticipated debut after impressing in the junior categories. Alonso claimed the squad's first win of the campaign at the second race of the year in Malaysia, but Hamilton was not far behind and soon found himself fighting for the title alongside his teammate. Amid growing tensions within the team, things seemed to have escalated to a new level in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix. Both drivers were due to pit for a fresh set of tyres to make their final runs, with Alonso arriving into the pit box first. However, the Spaniard did not depart as quickly as expected, with Hamilton waiting impatiently behind. Alonso eventually left the pit box after more than 10 seconds, giving him just enough time to bid for pole, while Hamilton could not make it out with enough time to put in a final lap. Team boss Ron Dennis was furious, and Alonso was given a five-place grid penalty after qualifying for holding up Hamilton. Relations continued to sour in the squad for the rest of the year and both drivers missed out on the title by one point to Kimi Raikkonen. Alonso departed the team and returned to Renault, though made a surprise return to McLaren between 2015 and 2018.

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