Hamilton vs Verstappen, Hunt vs Lauda or Senna vs Prost – Best F1 rivalries ranked

Lando Norris reveals the advice Lewis Hamilton gave him

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Formula 1 is a sport built on the intensity and drama of rivalries. Racing is innately competitive and simple: beat all the other drivers to win. But what happens if two drivers thwart one another? 

Whether it is teammates battling on track or two stars in their prime pushing one another in a sensational title battle, rivalries define the pinnacle of motorsport.

Max Verstappen and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton are currently locked in a dramatic title race – let’s see where their battle ranks among the best in the sport’s history. 

5. Mark Webber vs Sebastian Vettel

The rivalry between Mark Webber and star Sebastian Vettel began in 2010, when Red Bull kicked off their four-year domination of Formula 1. Vettel won each of the four Divers’ Championships while the team claimed the Constructors’ Championship for four successive years, and the German won 38 races in that period to the Australian’s nine.

Where to start? Well, the first major incident occurred at the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix as the pair crashed when seemingly cruising home for a one-two finish. 

The media sided with Webber while Red Bull defended Vettel’s actions, but the damage had been done – the Australian did little to help his young teammate from then onwards.

Vettel was frustrated by Webber’s perceived lack of effort in supporting his teammates title charge at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.  

There was the famous ‘Multi-21’ controversy at the 2013 race in Malaysia, where Vettel clearly ignored a team order to hold position so he could overtake Webber and steal the win with 13 laps to go, destroying any remaining hope that the two could continue to work together. 

Webber retired from the sport at the end of the season.

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4. Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen

When Max Verstappen burst onto the scene in 2016, there was a real sense of when – not if – the Dutchman would challenge for the world title.

After several seasons impressing in his Red Bull, it appears 2021 is the year the Milton Keynes-based outfit finally have a car on par with the Mercedes expertly piloted by Lewis Hamilton. 

The Brit is arguably the greatest driver in the sport’s history as he is tied with Michael Schumacher for the most world championships while standing alone with the most pole positions and race wins. 

It is unknown who will come out on top, but Verstappen and Hamilton have endured such an intense battle for the championship that the rivalry is certain to go down as one of the greatest in Formula 1 history. 

The pair have won 12 of the 15 races so far this season, with the Dutchman claiming seven wins to Hamilton’s five, and there has certainly been moments of drama.

Hamilton clipped Verstappen and sent the Red Bull crashing out of Silverstone at 180mph, and the 24-year-old got his revenge at the Italian Grand Prix.

The Brit came out the pits and took the inside line, forcing Verstappen wide as he refused to yield. His Red Bull bounced aggressively off the kerb and landed on top of Hamilton’s Mercedes, with the seven-time world champion saved from serious injury by the halo.

The Turkish Grand Prix is this weekend with Hamilton holding a two-point lead over his rival.

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3. Michael Schumacher vs Damon Hill 

British driver Damon Hill was locked in a world title fight with racing legend Michael Schumacher, with both the Williams and Benetton stars hoping to win a maiden championship in 1994. 

Hill was set to support Ayrton Senna’s title charge, but the Brazilian tragically died at Imola and the Brit was given the reins to take the title fight to Schumacher. 

They fought until the last race of the season in Adelaide, where Schumacher clipped the wall before colliding with Hill as he attempted to overtake the Brit.

Both drivers failed to finish as a result of the incident, giving Schumacher the first of his seven titles by a single point. 

The following season Schumacher and Hill finished first and second again and crashed into one another at Silverstone and Monza, although this time the margin was more substantial – 33 points in the German’s favour. 

Hill would finally stand atop the world championship standings at the end of the 1996 season, Schumacher’s first year with Ferrari.

2. James Hunt vs Niki Lauda

Contrary to popular belief, James Hunt and Niki Lauda were fond of one another off the track – but they battled hard once they were behind the wheel.

Their rivalry became particularly dramatic in 1976 when Hunt joined McLaren, placing him in a car competitive enough to take on Lauda’s Ferrari that had secured the Austrian his maiden world title the prior year.

Hunt struggled early in the campaign, with mechanical issues condemning him to four retirements from the opening six races while Lauda won four and finished runner-up twice. 

At the Spanish Grand Prix – the fourth race of the season – Hunt was disqualified for driving a car deemed to be 1.8cm too wide. The Englishman appealed and was later reinstated as the winner, but the decision had set the tone for a volatile and acrimonious season.

Drama followed at the British Grand Prix, when Hunt claimed victory only for his win to be disallowed after a Ferrari complaint regarding an incident between Lauda and Hunt on the first lap that caused the race to be restarted. The result seemed to hand the title to Lauda before the German Grand Prix.

At the Nurburgring, Lauda suffered a horrific near-fatal crash. He was left with permanent scars from the burns and severely damaged lungs, while Hunt went on to secure the win in the restarted race.

With Lauda seemingly out the picture, it appeared Hunt would easily drive to the title but the Austrian heroically recovered and was back in the driving seat of his Ferrari just six weeks later. 

At the Japanese Grand Prix – the final race of the season – Lauda retired early as he was unable to blink due to the facial burns sustained from his crash. His retirement meant Hunt needed to finish fourth or better to claim his first title, and he would dramatically finish third.

Their storied rivalry will be forever immortalised in the 2013 move Rush, one of the great racing films in recent times.

1. Ayrton Senna vs Alain Prost

Is Ayrton Senna versus Alain Prost the greatest rivalry in F1 history? It is difficult to argue against. 

No other head-to-head rivalry holds more world titles as the duo won seven between 1985 and 1993 – and the bitter foes clashed as teammates at McLaren and as enemies after Prost moved to Ferrari.

The first chapter of their rivalry was installed at the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, when treacherous conditions meant eight of the 20 starters finished. With Senna flying up the grid in his unfavoured Toleman, Prost encouraged stewards to abandon the race due to the unsafe weather. 

The officials decided to red flag the event just as Senna overtook Prost on the line with the unknowing Brazilian jubilant as he took his maiden F1 win – but results were taken from the previous lap, ensuring the Frenchman secured the win. 

Things got particularly explosive after the two became teammates in 1988. The pair made contact with one another towards the end of the Japanese Grand Prix – the penultimate race of the 1989 campaign – with Prost forced to retire while Senna won, keeping his slim title hopes alive. However, Senna was disqualified for cutting the chicane and Prost secured his third championship. 

Senna got his revenge the following season, ensuring he won a second world title by crashing into Prost at the first corner of the Suzuka race – a move the Brazilian appeared to suggest was deliberate payback for the year before. 

After Prost moved to Williams, he won his fourth championship in 1993 with Senna finishing second in the standings, the fifth time the pair occupied the top two spots. The Frenchman retired after that season, and the two became friends before Senna’s tragic death in 1994.

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