For the third year in a row the championship has been fought for between the same two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, at the same team, Mercedes. As we’ve seen from them over the past few years it’s not unusual for tensions to reach breaking point when team mates are closely matched (though it isn’t always the case). In fact, they’ve often given some of the most dramatic and explosive moments in the history of the sport.
Here are 5 other driver pairings who’ve found themselves having to fight each other for the ultimate prize in motorsport.
Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at McLaren, 2007
Fernando Alonso went into the 2007 season expecting to challenge for the championship – and he did. What he hadn’t counted on was rookie Lewis Hamilton proving to be more than a match for the double world champion. Alonso felt he’d signed for McLaren as the number one driver and thought he wasn’t getting the help he wanted, while Hamilton was also struggling with the idea of equality within the team.
Things came to a head at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Hamilton failed to heed a simple order to let Alonso ahead of him during the fuel burn phase of qualifying (remember how stupid that part of qualifying was?) and Fernando retaliated by blocking him in the pit lane, preventing Lewis from setting another qualifying time. Still fed up at not getting preferential treatment, Alonso went to Ron Dennis and threatened to leak emails relating to the ongoing spygate sage if he didn’t get his way.
Hamilton became the championship favourite after Alonso crashed out of the race at Fuji, but then hurt his chances by beaching himself on the only bit of gravel on the Shanghai circuit – the pit entry.
These issues had allowed Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen back into the championship hunt for the final race at Interlagos. He won the race while Alonso finished a distant third, and with Hamilton only managing seventh after an early-race gearbox issue the Finn took his first title by a single point over the pair of them.
The infighting at McLaren had cost them a Drivers’ Championship, while the fallout from spygate saw them disqualified from the Constructors’ Championship. To the surprise of nobody Alonso left McLaren at the end of the year – who could have predicted he’d go back there seven years later?!
Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet at Williams, 1986/87
Nelson Piquet arrived at Williams in 1986 with a sizeable pay-packet from Honda and the expectation that he was to be the number one driver. Mansell however had recently discovered how to win and spent much of the year as the championship leader.
Frustrated by this Piquet tried to destabilise Mansell with some harsh comments about his upbringing and his family, but they didn’t work. Going into the final race at Adelaide both drivers had a chance to win the championship, along with the consistent Alain Prost.
Mansell was in a position to take the honours when his tyre dramatically exploded. Piquet had to pit for new tyres as a precaution and Prost won the race and with it, the title.
The following year Williams were much more dominant and it was just the Williams drivers who fought for the title. After suffering a horrible crash at Imola Piquet decided to play the long game and focused on consistent results rather than speed. At one point during the year he had a streak of nine consecutive podiums – very impressive for the era – and when Mansell injured himself at Suzuka Piquet was assured the championship.
He still felt he wasn’t getting the treatment he deserved with Williams however, so he the following season he took off to Lotus, where he would be guaranteed number one status. The move went really well for him, scoring three podiums in two seasons with the team and failing to qualify at Spa in 1989.
Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna at McLaren, 1988/89
The most famous rivalry in F1 history, things were actually rather calm between the two during their first year as team-mates in 1988. Prost scored more points than Senna but due to the dropped scores system it was the Brazilian who took his first championship.
The following year things started to get bitter. At Imola Prost felt Senna had gone back on an agreement they had to not fight each other on the first lap, and later in the year accused Honda of giving Ayrton more powerful engines.
Better reliability throughout the year had given Prost a lead in the championship and the championship reached its conclusion at the penultimate round at Suzuka. Alain had taken issue with some of Ayrton’s driving tactics throughout the year, which he felt were dangerous, and so when Ayrton launched one up the inside of the chicane from quite a way back Alain simply turned in.
The two cars ground to a halt and Prost got out, while Senna got going again and won the race, though he was later disqualified for cutting the chicane. Maybe if he was driving a Mercedes he would have got away with it.
The following year Prost went to Ferrari and the two battled for the championship again, this time Senna coming out on top after he rammed Prost off the track.
Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber at Red Bull, 2010
The relationship between Vettel and Webber was always a tense one, and when the two were part of a championship battle in 2010 frustrations boiled over on more than one occasion.
Wins at Barcelona and Monaco had given Webber the championship lead, and when the two were battling for the lead in Istanbul they crashed into each other, putting Vettel out on the spot.
Many felt the accident was the fault of the young German and although the incident handed the race win to McLaren, the Red Bull team didn’t seem to want to put any blame on Vettel, leading to some suggestions of favouritism.
This came up again at the British Grand Prix when a new front wing was taken off of Webber’s car and given to Vettel (his had broken in practice). An incensed Webber won the race anyway and gave use the classic “Not bad for a number two driver” line over team radio.
By the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi the championship looked like it would be a fight between Webber and Fernando Alonso, with Vettel (and Lewis Hamilton) only having an outside chance. In the race however Webber and Alonso went the wrong way on strategy and got stuck behind Vitaly Petrov, allowing Vettel to win the race and the championship – the only time he headed the points table all year.
Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve at Williams, 1996
After a disappointing 1995 season Damon Hill had one last chance to win the world championship in 1996, but his new young team-mate in his first F1 season would make him work for it.
Jacques Villeneuve took pole position for his very first race – and he came close to winning it too. With four wins from the first five races Hill built a strong championship lead but as the season wore on Villeneuve became more and more competitive, a string of podiums and wins bringing him within nine points of Hill by the final round at Suzuka.
With only 10 points on offer for a win the Canadian only had an outside chance, but Hill had suffered poor reliability on more than one occasion and with Jacques on pole by nearly half a second, anything was possible.
In the race however things came good for Hill. Villeneuve made a poor start and whilst fighting his way back through the field his right rear wheel came off, handing Damon the championship and setting the stage for one of the best commentary moments of all time.