Formula 1 is a crazy sport. Debates about the racers and F1 title rivalries of all time are pretty mundane. Time is a fast component in everyone’s life. However, these racers seem to defy all odds and compete against time.
With all the attention and brilliant skills on display, the sport sometimes becomes grotesque. Rivalries arise because of their respective ego conflicts and jealousies. In addition to rivalries between title contenders of different outfits, clashes between teammates are also prominent.
Let’s take a look at the 10 most intense F1 title rivalries of all time:
#10: Fernando Alonso vs. Sebastian Vettel – Alonso’s greatness or Vettel’s rise?
First, let’s take a look at one of the most intense rivalries in Formula 1. The rivalry revolves around Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, two of the all-time greats you’ve ever seen on the racetrack.
Alonso, a Spaniard, is widely credited with putting an end to Michael Schumacher’s dominance in the first half of the century. On the other hand, Sebastian Vettel has etched his name in the annals of Formula One with his four world championships.
Sometimes rivalries in the world of Formula 1 do not always arise from clashes on the track, but from the magnitude of the drivers’ performances. This rivalry between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso is one of them.
The rivalry began just before the 2010 season, when Alonso swapped forces to become a race driver for Ferrari. The world expected Alonso to improve his world championship record (2005 and 2006), but it did not happen. In 2010, the German’s rise marked the beginning of Red Bull’s dominance.
Although the Spaniard gave everything on the track, he conceded four world championship defeats to Vettel. Although Adrian Newry (Formula 1 car engineer) tried to improve the then underperforming Ferrari, it was not enough. Alonso could only score points and podiums when the Red Bull team or the German driver faltered.
The bitterness of the rivalry came out in a press conference after the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix. Better blurted out that Alonso never liked him.
#9. Alan Jones vs. Carlos Reutemann – the fiercest F1 title rivalry.
The rivalry between Argentine Carlos Reutemann and Australian Alan Jones is the perfect example of how the tide can turn.
Served in 1980 is an excellent representation of the calm before the storm. In 1980, Williams achieved the feat of winning both titles. While Alan Jones triumphed in the drivers’ championship in 1980, Williams won the constructors’ championship by a margin of 54 points.
1981 didn’t start off quite as sourly as possible for the two drivers in the Williams outfit. Things got even worse at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Thanks to Reutemann. He refused team orders to let the Australian pass, which made Jones quite normatively furious.
The rivalry intensified with each race during the 1981 season, as both Williams drivers tried to pass each other. To Williams’ dismay, they kept stealing points from each other. Brazilian Nelson Piquet acted smartly and took advantage of the feud between the two teammates. Piquet went on to win the championship by a single point.
Although the Argentine left at the end of the season, the intensity of the rivalry did not subside. Reutemann decided to continue at Williams. But just two races into the following season, the Argentine bid farewell to Williams and Formula One.
After Jones retired, things got worse when Reutemann suggested the pair buy the hatchet. Jones sneered, “Yeah. In your (explicit) back, mate.”
The rivalry between Reutemann and Jones is still considered one of the most intense F1 title rivalries of all time.
#8 Damon Hill vs. Michael Schumacher.
Can you ever imagine Michael Schumacher as a bad guy? Yes, you heard me right. After the 1994 controversies, the media labeled Schumacher as the new villain of F1.
The 1994 season happened to be one of mixed emotions in the world of Formula One. The death of Ayrton Senna at Imola filled Formula 1 with grief. Since life must go on, Damon Hill was given the responsibility of leading Williams to the world championship title.
Damon Hill set his sights on his first world title. Interestingly, Michael Schumacher, one of Formula 1’s brightest prodigies, was also chasing his first title.
The duo continued to push each other to the wire. In the final race, it was do or die. In the final race in Adelaide, a crash occurred between Schumacher and Damon Hill. Schumacher accidentally hit the hill and damaged his car. Then he quickened his pace when he saw Hill gaining the position and Schumacher collided with Hill. Neither of them could finish the race, which made Schumacher the champion due to his better points score.
The next season, Michael also finished first, while Damon finished second. This season was also full of collisions.
In a recent interview, Hill commented that he would never have overtaken Schumacher if he had known that his rival’s Benetton was damaged.
#7 Lewis Hamilton vs. Fernando Alonso
Reigning two-time world champion Fernando Alonso was under the influence that he would become the team’s number one. However, the British rookie driver had other thoughts.
Lewis Hamilton made it difficult for the Spaniard right from the start. Alonso was selfish that he completely raved Hamilton’s timing in Hungary. He simply wouldn’t stand to be beaten by his teammate.
Rumor has it that Alonso even threatened the McLaren boss with leaving the squad. However, Ron Dennis (the McLaren boss) would not let any superstar racer leave the time. Therefore, both Alonso and Hamilton stayed, which was not good for the brand.
The constant tussle between the two McLaren teammates for the title. The Italian powerhouse constructor Ferrari slipped past amid all the ensuing controversy and emerged victorious. Kimi Raikkonen was crowned Formula One Grand Prix champion in 2007.
This rivalry shed light on the bitter side of Formula One drivers. It focused on how the sport contains teams that are internally crippled.
Both drivers appearing twice in the list emphasize their strong controversy. This makes this one of the greatest F1 title rivalries of all time.
#6. Mika Häkkinen vs. Michael Schumacher – Flying Finn or German Speedstar?
The two technical maestros of the game clashed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This rivalry is one of the most fascinating and greatest F1 title rivalries of all time.
Throughout his career, Michael Schumacher had plenty of tough competition. However, the one from the “flying Finn” Mika Häkkinen stands out (not even Damon Hill comes close).
The rivalry is different from the others and is mainly based on cooperation and mutual respect. The respect of each driver for the abilities of the other is a completely different dogma.
Mika Häkkinen and Michael Schumacher have raced against each other since their F3 days. The rivalry has to its credit the greatest overtaking in the history of Formula 1, which has left an indelible impression in the memory of all fans. It shows Hakkinen overtaking the German at Spa and winning the Belgian Grand Prix in 2000.
It was in 1998, however, that everything was cranked up a notch. Schumacher was trying to put Ferrari on the Formula 1 map as a serious title contender. Hakkinen and McLaren were riding high when the Finn won the title that season by a 14-point margin.
In 1999 and a broken leg suffered at Silverstone meant Schumacher could no longer pose a threat to Mika’s title defense. Around the turn of the millennium, however, Schumacher reached his zenith when he won five drivers’ and constructors’ championships in a row. Hakkinen had no chance of coming back at that point.
#5 Sebastian Vettel vs. Mark Webber – Red Bull rivals
One of the fiercest F1 title rivalries of all time witnessed the scrum of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. Five years in the Red Bull camp video put the teammates’ relationship to the test.
It all started at the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix, when the German ruined Webber’s chances of winning the title. The acrimony between the two drivers quickly escalated in the Red Bull camp.
At the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix, the two racers collided, costing Red Bull a top-two finish. While the entire world found the German prodigy at fault, the Red Bull team’s blatant defense angered Webber.
Despite the team’s continued support, Webber would go on to win at Silverstone. After the win, Webber made a sour public statement, “Not bad for a number 2 driver,” making the fractured relationship bitter.
Vettel won four drivers’ championships and handed Red Bull the constructors’ championship all along. This time, however, Webber’s lack of help at the 2012 finale in Brazil made Vettel furious.
The famous “Multi 21” saga ensued and Vettel would get his revenge on Webber at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix.
Flustered, Webber ended his Formula One career at the end of the 2013 season.
#4 Nelson Piquet vs. Nigel Mansell.
This rivalry centered around who would be the #1 driver at Williams? Another rivalry between teammates shows how tough things can be in this sport.
In 1986, two-time world champion Nelson Piquet joined the Williams team. He would have thought he was the number one driver for his team, but it wasn’t that simple.
Nigel Mansell would fight to the teeth and excel. He even let Piquet go to the sidelines for a while.
Piquet fought back with the fear of losing his place. He continued to play mind games and engage in verbal battles, refusing to share any technical data with Mansell.
According to Frank Dernie, an ex-Williams engineer, “You had this situation where Nelson was pissed because he thought the only reason Nigel was fast was because he had taken advantage of his hard work, and Nigel thought Nelson was a bit of a wuss because he didn’t want to race. Nelson wanted to perfect the setup and then win by going as slow as he could, not by racing against his teammate.”
Piquet would part ways with the team at the end of the 1987 season. The rivalry would remain top of mind for years to come. This makes this one of the longest F1 title rivalries of all time.
#3. Niko Rosberg vs. Lewis Hamilton – the most recent F1 title rivalry.
The rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg is the youngest in this list. What bubbles it up a notch is that this is a rivalry between once good friends who are nipping at each other’s heels.
The feud between Mercedes pros Hamilton and Rosberg didn’t last long. It ended with Nico Rosberg dropping the curtain on his career just five days after winning the 2016 world title.
Having grown up as friends and acquaintances in karting, everything was going right until the 2014 season. The feud began in Monaco, when it seemed Rosberg was constantly trying to hinder Hamilton in qualifying.
Things got worse after the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix with the infamous cap-throwing incident. Nico threw his second position cap at his teammate. According to fans, this was a grave insult to Hamilton.
The rivalry, often referred to as the “Silver War,” took its final chapter in 2016. Disputes in Austria and Spain caused great despair among Mercedes fans. This was compounded by Hamilton’s dramatic assault on his teammate at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. However, Rosberg went on to win the 2016 title, after which the rivalry slowly dissolved.
#2. James Hunt vs Niki Lauda – Rush: Hollywood Movie Storyline
James Hunt and Niki Lauda are probably the two most popular Formula 1 drivers. So intense was the rivalry between the two, the famous Hollywood movie “Rush” was made.
The personalities of Hunt and Lauda were far apart and that’s what makes this F1 rivalry so fascinating.
While Hunt was the typical playboy (rarely seen in F1) who knew how to drive cars fast, Lauda was just the opposite. In his eyes, Lauda was a technician who had an outrageous passion for winning races.
In the 1986 season, the rivalry began. Hunt in his McLaren and Lauda in his Ferrari engaged in heated duels.
Niki had suffered a terrible crash at the Nürburgring, which burned him badly and gave Hunt the victory. Realizing that Hunt would walk away with the championship, Lauda miraculously returned after a few races. Lauda, an Austrian, started the final race in Fiji with a three-point lead. However, he retired mid-race, allowing Hunt to take the victorious crown win.
Competitors on the track, the bad blood did not spill over. This was evident in Hunt’s dedication to his victory over his arch-rival for his dedication and love of the sport. Hunt said, “Quite honestly, I wanted to win the championship and felt I deserved it. But I also think Niki deserved the championship – I just wish we could have shared it.”
#1 Ayrton Senna vs. Alian Prost – Greatest F1 title rivalry of all time.
If there is one dual in the Formula One racing circus that leaves all others behind, it is this one. The rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost is by far the greatest teammate rivalry in the sport.
It is the story of the two legends battling it out for the vacant spot of best driver at McLaren. The duo dominated all races in 1989, securing the drivers’ and constructors’ championships. In total, the duo together won 7 world championships and 92 race victories.
At the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix, Senna dove inside Prost, taking him out of the race. Senna won but was later disqualified, handing the title to Prost.
In 1990, Prost dawned the Ferrari colors while Senna was still at McLaren. The feud continued, however. At the Japanese Grand Prix, the pair collided again. This time right in the first corner. As a result, Senna won the title due to his lead at the front.
On the podium in Adelaide in 1993, which happened to be Prost’s last race, Senna pulled him to the front and they embraced. To this day, many think it was an ironic act on Senna’s behalf, as he had refused a handshake after the previous race. This makes this rivalry the best among F1 title rivalries of all time.
The world of racing has been enriched with many high profile racers so far. This list is a bird’s eye view of the top 10 F1 title rivalries of all time. These racers competed not only on the track, but also off it. Consequently, the sport has gained popularity over time. It would be interesting to wait and watch which F1 racers of the current or next era will be new additions to this list.