Then and Now – Teammate clashes

When Daniel Ricciardo hit Max Verstappen in Baku, he committed one of the worst offenses a driver can do as far as the team is concerned, he not only ended his own race but he eliminated his team-mate as well, ensuring that Red Bull scored no points from the race.  Many words have been written about the incident in the days since the race, and blame apportioned between the drivers concerned.  The purpose of this article is not to add to that debate, but instead to look at some other costly intra team clashes that have had an adverse impact on the team.

Gasly Hartley – Toro Rosso 2018

The Red Bull pair are the second intra team elimination this season, with their Toro Rosso siblings having a misunderstanding in China that saw both cars spin, and Brendon Hartley fail to finish (the team reported a damaged gearbox caused the retirement, but it may have been tactical as he was by that stage so far out of the points).  Pierre Gasly did at least make the chequered flag, but down in 18th place and over a minute behind the eventual winner.

It looked like this clash could continue (with far more serious consequences), when in Baku qualifying Hartley was going slowly back to the pits after he hit the wall and punctured a tyre, Gasly was approaching on a qualifying lap and arrived behind as Hartley was in the middle of the road.  A misunderstanding over which side he was going to pass lead to the two nearly colliding with a wheel over wheel accident and a closing speed of over 100mph, the results could have been far worse than failing to make it through to Q2.  Fortunately this was avoided on this occasion.

Perez Ocon – Force India 2017

In 2017 it was the turn of the Force India pair (Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez) to keep fighting over the same piece of track.  With both drivers evenly matched, and a car that was capable of good results, it was perhaps inevitable that they would end up together on the race track.  The Force India was not as fast as the top three teams (Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull) but was quicker than the rest of the mid field.  Problems started in Canada, with Perez refusing to allow his team-mate to pass him, despite Ocon insisting he was faster.  Then in Baku the two collided, putting Perez in the wall while they were running fourth and fifth.  With the incidents that happened in that race, it is possible that both could have been on the podium, with one on the top step, as it was the team had to settle for a sixth place finish for Ocon.

At Spa things got worse, with Perez squeezing Ocon to the wall on the run down to Eau Rouge on lap 30.  It broke Ocon’s front wing and punctured Perez’s right rear tyre.  After this incident, the team banned the pair from racing each other.  Something we have yet to see from either team effected by intra team clashes this year.

Hamilton Rosberg – Mercedes 2014-16

These two drivers had history.  Back in their youth, they had been team-mates in karting when McLaren paid Keke Rosberg for Lewis Hamilton’s drive in the kart team he had set up for his son Nico.  While Hamilton got the better of Rosberg in Karting, Rosberg’s progress through junior single seaters was quicker, and he won the GP2 championship the year before Hamilton arrived, and moved to F1.  Hamilton won the GP2 championship the following year, and also progressed to F1.

By the time they arrived in the same team in F1, Rosberg had outscored a returning Michael Schumacher, Hamilton meanwhile had already won the championship, and multiple races.  In their first season together Rosberg won twice to Hamilton’s single victory, but Hamilton outscored Rosberg to finish in front.  The real clashes started in 2014, when the new regulations resulted in an advantage for the Mercedes team over the field.  In Bahrain the two drivers fought a close race, with a faster Rosberg trying to pass a defensive Hamilton.  On many occasions Hamilton robustly defended his position forcing Rosberg off the circuit rather than backing off.  In Spa, the pair came together again, this time Rosberg didn’t drive off the track when Hamilton took his line, the resulting contact broke Rosberg’s front wing and punctured Hamilton’s rear tyre.  The resulting floor damage caused Hamilton to retire, while Rosberg could only take second place.

With the team coming down hard on such incidents, 2015 was less incident prone for Mercedes.  However in 2016 the problems returned.  At the fifth race of the season in Barcelona the pair came together.  Rosberg had won the first four races, and Hamilton was some 43 points adrift.  On the opening lap Hamilton saw his opportunity to pass coming off turn three, while Rosberg went to defend by taking the inside line into turn four.  The two hit each other and both were eliminated.  This wasn’t the end of it that year though.  Just three races later, the two collided again in Austria, with Hamilton trying to go around the outside of Rosberg at turn three of the final lap.  Rosberg tried to do what Hamilton had done to him on many occasions and run his team-mate out of road.  His execution was less elegant, and the two touched, breaking Rosberg’s front wing, and allowing Hamilton to take the win while Rosberg dropped to fourth.

Through this period, the team’s dominance meant that the drivers were first and second in the title hunt and the team won the constructors title, so that perhaps helps to explain why the team didn’t put a stop to it more effectively.

Vettel Webber – Red Bull 2010-13

Before the regulation change to introduce the current 1.6 litre turbocharged power units, it was aerodynamics and not engine power that proved to be dominant in Formula 1.  Red Bull was dominant with Sebastian Vettel winning four titles back to back between 2010 and 2013, while the team picked up the constructors crown.

The team’s two drivers (Vettel and Mark Webber) had some history, with the former crashing into the latter behind the safety car when he was driving for Toro Rosso at Fuji in 2007.  As team-mates in 2010 they didn’t enjoy the level of domination that Mercedes had with Rosberg and Hamilton driving for them.  At Turkey though, they were running first and second when Vettel attempted to pass his team-mate who had less power thanks to switching to a fuel saving engine mode.  He pulled over too soon and collected Webber, spinning both cars.  Webber managed to continue for repairs finishing third behind the two McLaren’s, while Vettel retired on the spot.

The two drivers were forced to pose for the now famous picture and to make an apology to the team, however there was always friction between them, with Webber feeling at times like a number two driver.  Vettel evidently felt the same way and the ‘Multi 21’ scandal came at Malaysia in 2013 when Vettel was given the team instruction Multi 21 (indicating that car 2 – Webber should finish in front of car 1 – Vettel).  Both cars had been instructed to ease the pace after the final pit stop to save the cars as they were running 1-2.  However Vettel ignored this and overtook his team-mate in a move that Webber wasn’t expecting.

If anything, this episode demonstrates that champions need to be self-centred and do what is best for them, sometimes at the expense of the team.

Rosberg Webber – Williams 2006

I don’t know what it says about these two drivers, but both have appeared on this list already.  In fact this was the third year on the trot that Mark Webber had collided with his team-mate at Interlagos.  Chrisitan Klien in 2004, Antonio Pizzonia in 2005 and Nico Rosberg in 2006.  The first was for Jaguar, bringing an end to their time in Formula 1, while the last two were for Williams.

Webber didn’t finish in 2004 but his team-mate did (two laps down), while in 2005 both failed to finish (Pizzonia on the opening lap while Webber was unclassified after returning to the track but only completing 45 of the required 71 laps).  In 2006, both Williams drivers retired (Rosberg on the opening lap and Webber a lap later).

Schumacher Montoya – Williams 2002-04

These two were not best friends, and it isn’t as if they were in a position to fight for the title.  At Indianapolis in 2002 Juan Pablo Montoya passed Ralf Schumacher and the latter lost control and hit his team-mate off the track.  Schumacher lost a couple of laps while pitting for repairs, while Montoya recovered from seventh to fourth by the flag.  The team lost a potential podium finish.

At the European Grand Prix in 2004 (at Nurburgring) the pair made contact again, this time it was Montoya hitting Schumacher.  The collision put Schumacher out on the opening lap; while Montoya went on to finish a lap down in eighth place.

Alesi Heidfeld – Prost 2000

Nick Heidfeld hit his team-mate Jean Alesi at the French Grand Prix in 2000 after a failed overtake.  Both finished, but down in 12th and 14th places.  At the following race in Austria, Alesi repaid his team-mate, but this time he took both cars out of the race on lap 41.

Villeneuve Zonta – BAR 2000

Both Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta were running just outside of the points at the German Grand Prix in 2000.  With 14 laps to go it started to rain after a safety car period.  BAR should have been able to capatalise and score some useful points, instead Zonta drove into the back o his team-mate at turn one.  Villeneuve managed to recover to eighth position, while Zonta chose to remain on slick tyres in the rain, and spun off into retirement.

Hakkinen Coulthard – McLaren 1999

At the Austrian Grand Prix in 1999, Mika Hakkinen was looking to build up a lead over the sidelined Michael Schumacher who had broken his leg at the previous race in Silverstone.  David Coulthard had other ideas and tried to take the lead on the second lap, spinning Hakkinen to the back of the field.  While Hakkinen recovered to third place,  Coulthard lost the lead to Eddie Irvine, ultimately making Hakkinen’s title chase harder.

Schumacher Fisichella – Jordan 1997

A second appearance on this list for Ralf Schumacher, who in his debut season was perhaps trying too hard to emulate his brother?  At only his third Formula 1 race, in Argentina, he was in a decent third place behind team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella.  On the 24th lap he made a lunge for a non-existant gap and punted Fisichella into retirement.  Schumacher recovered to finish in third, although the team weren’t happy at losing a potential double podium.

Fittipaldi Martini – Minardi 1993

Accidents can happen at any point in the race, and for these two Minardi team-mates it happened on the run to the flag at Monza.  Christian Fittipaldi ran over the back of Pierluigi Martini as the former slowed just before the line.  The wheel over wheel accident caused Fittipaldi’s car to do a complete backflip, fortunately landing on its wheels on the track, and not on the pitwall.  The pair were classified in seventh and eighth position, although Fittipaldi only had three wheels by the time he crossed the line.

Caffi de Cesaris – Scuderia Italia 1989

This pair get a mention because unlike the others in this list they were not fighting for position.  Instead Alex Caffi was looking to lap his team-mate Andrea de Cesaris in Pheonix in 1989.  Caffi had been running as high as second, but on lap 52 by the time of the accident he was in fifth place, and still looking to score valuable points for the team.  He went to pass de Cesaris on the inside when his team-mate turned in on him and put him in the wall, claiming he didn’t see him.

Prost Senna – McLaren 1989

McLaren were dominant in 1989, not as dominant as they had been the year before, but enough that the title would be between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.  The pair’s relationship had deteriorated during their time as team-mates, and by the end of the season they were not on speaking terms.  Prost had become intolerant of Senna’s approach to overtaking, giving his opponent the choice between letting Senna through, or crashing.  Much like Rosberg and Hamilton decades later, Prost decided enough was enough, and when Senna tried to overtake into the chicane at Suzuka on lap 46, he inelegantly shut the door. The pair collided and both cars stalled.  Prost who was 16 points ahead in the championship got out of the car believing that he had won the championship.  Senna showing the determination that all champions have, bump started the car on the downhill track, caught and passed  Alessandro Nannini and took the chequered flag in first place.  He was subsequently excluded for missing out part of the chicane, and the ill feeling he had from this result was a contributory factor in Senna deciding to deliberately crash into Prost’s Ferrari on the opening lap of the following year’s race.  That result sealed Senna’s title in 1990.

Villeneuve Pironi – Ferrari 1982

The San Marino Grand Prix at Imola in 1982 was impacted by the bitter FISA – FOCA war.  It was boycotted by most of the FOCA teams, and as a result only Ferrari, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Tyrrell, Osella, ATS and Toleman turned up to compete.  Still, Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi made a show o it.  The turbo Ferraris were dominant in the race, finishing well over a minute clear of the only other car to run the distance (Michele Alboreto’s Tyrrell).  In fact only five cars finished.  As a result once it was clear that a one-two was going to be achieved (on lap 44 once both Renaults had expired), the team instructed the drivers to back off and ensure they finished.  Villeneuve complied, believing the ‘slow’ instruction meant hold station, Pironi took it to mean do not crash, and overtook his team-mate.  Much like the Multi 21 issue over thirty years later, this caused friction between the drivers.  However in this case, Villeneuve still hadn’t calmed down at the following race in Zolder.  In the final ten minutes of a wet qualifying, Pironi was on provisional pole, and Villeneuve was attempting to take it from him.  He came upon Jochen Mass’ slow moving March in the middle of a corner.  Much like Hartley and Gasly at Baku, there was a misunderstanding about which side the faster driver would pass on, but on this occasion the two cars touched.  The resulting accident for Villeneuve was not survivable and the driver was thrown from the disintegrating car and into the catch fencing.

Cars and circuits have improved in safety dramatically over the past 36 years, however with that has come a deterioration in driving standards that has resulted in cars touching more often.  This has resulted in an increase in all clashes between drivers, not just those between team-mates.  These days it seems drivers are just concerned about the possible loss of championship points, and nothing worse, and that has perhaps coloured their approach to the racing room they are prepared to give their rivals.


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