From the people in the factory to the people in the garage and finally the two drivers themselves, it certainly takes a village to make an F1 team run smoothly.
However, that isn't a guarantee for smooth sailing, particularly on the driver's side. We have to remember that these drivers are some of (if not) the most competitive people on the planet, which often leads to intense intra-team rivalries.
We take a trip down memory lane and look at F1’s most famous and notable teammate rivalries.
1. Nigel Mansell vs. Nelson Piquet (Williams 1986-1987)
This one got ugly. When Mansell and Piquet were both at the peak of their careers, they were driving for the then-dominant Williams F1 team.
But what caused the friction between the legends? At the beginning of the season, Williams insisted that there was no clear “number 1” driver, meaning both drivers received equal treatment. While, in principle, it sounded like a good idea, it was a recipe for disaster. That is especially true when you have two alphas behind the wheel.
Whenever either Mansell or Piquet outperformed the other during the race, they demanded to be given preferential treatment.
For the 1986 season, neither driver claimed the championship, both losing out to Alain Prost. However, the 1987 season saw Williams win a majority of the races. Both Piquet and Mansell giving it their all. It was to be an anti-climactic ending though as Mansell had to miss the last few races of the season due to an injury sustained during a crash. Ultimately Piquet won in 1987 and moved teams for 1988.
You’d think moving teams would put out the fire between both, but when asked in 1988 what Piquet thinks of Mansell, he didn't have kind words for the latter. He called him “an uneducated blockhead with a stupid and ugly wife”. We did say this one got ugly and very personal.
2. Aryton Senna vs. Alain Prost (Mclaren 1988-1989)
One of the most iconic rivalries in sports history has to be the fabled Senna vs. Prost. Both are widely regarded as part of the best drivers of all time. Between them are 7 Drivers World Championships, 3 for Senna, and 4 for Prost.
Prost had already been at Mclaren when Senna burst onto the F1 scene. Senna had a penchant for driving the wheels off any car given to him with the ability to take mediocre cars to podium finishes. Mclaren team boss Ron Dennis thought it would be a great idea to pair both Senna and Prost, so he did so at the start of the 1988 season.
Things got off to a relatively okay start, both drivers engaging in healthy competition. But throughout the season, incidents by both drivers here and there started to cause a rift between them.
The bad blood boiled over at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix. Both drivers were duking it out for the title, but at the final chicane, Senna tried to make a move for the lead. However, Prost blocked him, ending up in a collision. It ended the race for Prost, but Senna restarted his car and won the race, thinking he won the championship.
In a controversial move though, Prost appealed the win to the FIA stewards. The stewards eventually deemed Senna’s win illegal, due to him using the chicane to restart his race. It cost him the win and his 2nd championship.
Senna returned the favor when Prost moved to Ferrari for the 1990 season. Everyone remembers the Brazillian taking out the defending champion even before the first turn at Suzuka. That sealed the deal for Senna's second title. At that point, it seemed their relationship was irreparable. Eventually, though, the two mellowed down and became friends. Prost was even a pallbearer during Senna’s funeral after the latter's death at Imola in 1994.
3. Fernando Alonso vs. Lewis Hamilton (Mclaren 2007)
Coming off his back-to-back titles (2005 & 2006). Fernando Alonso was, at the time, the hottest property on the grid. When Mclaren signed him for the 2007 season, all seemed well. What they didn’t anticipate was his new teammate's performance.
After dominating the junior leagues, Mclaren gave a young rookie his first F1 stint. That rookie was Lewis Hamilton, who immediately made his talent evident. The (then) young driver scored podiums in the first nine races of the season. Things started to get tricky when during the Monaco Grand Prix. The rookie was questioning why the team wouldn’t let him challenge his teammate for victory.
Things came to a head during the Hungarian Grand Prix. Alonso was fed up with Hamilton's disregard for team orders, so he took matters into his own hands. Alonso deliberately compromised Hamilton’s qualifying lap. The blatant move was obvious enough that it earned him a grid penalty for his actions.
Suffice it to say, Hamilton won out. Even before the season ended, Alonso announced a return to Renault for the 2008 season.
4. Lewis Hamilton vs. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes-AMG 2013-2016)
Hamilton seems to have a penchant for drawing the ire of his teammates. What makes this rivalry interesting is that he and Rosberg both came up to F1 together as childhood friends. They even claimed they were best friends growing up.
They even stayed good friends during their early years in F1. Hamilton even gave Rosberg a big hug after the German scored his first podium. Both were very much excited at the prospect of being teammate at Mercedes-AMG. What changed? The hybrid era.
2014 saw F1 switch from naturally aspirated engines to hybrid-powered cars, and no team was more ready for that change than Mercedes-AMG, who displayed winning form from the get-go.
The hybrid era also saw the reborn and rejuvenated form of Lewis Hamilton, who struggled to win a championship after his first in 2007. Rosberg, on the other hand, saw this as his opportunity to bring glory back to the Rosberg name. After all, his father, Keke, was a former world champion.
With the two drivers hungry for the title, things started to get tense and icy between the former BFFs. Much like Senna and Prost, it began with healthy competition, but incidents were again causing the rift.
It came to a point where fans were anticipating fireworks or an eventual crash. They got what they asked for, with both drivers trampling on each other on multiple occasions with both not wanting to give up an inch to the other.
One of the most iconic battles though was their battle during the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix, which saw one of the best close-quarter battles in F1’s history. Hamilton and Rosberg engaged in close-quarter, wheel-to-wheel combat. From a fan's point of view, it was exciting. That said, Toto Wolff, Mercedes-AMG's team principal, was probably palpitating at the time.
However, the results of their rivalry speak for themselves. From 2013-2016 Hamilton won the championship twice and Rosberg once (Rosberg retired after winning the title in 2016). What makes it incredible is despite Mercedes’ sustained dominance in the sport, no other driver has challenged or even beaten Hamilton. And even though Nico Rosberg was beaten twice, he can claim to be the only person to edge his legendary teammate fair and square.
These days, the paddock seems quieter with not much in the way of teammate rivalries. After all, teams want to avoid that as much as possible. Nobody wants to work in a highly toxic and stressful environment. Still, the Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry won't be the last. Looking at the 2021 driver line-up, it doesn't seem that way, but we're certain something will brew up as the season moves forward.