Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, F1 rivalries
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A look at some of the biggest F1 rivalries

| 07.12.2021

The F1 season reaches a thrilling climax this weekend when Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen go into the final race neck and neck.

Hamilton’s action-packed victory at the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix means the two drivers are locked on 369.5 points ahead of Sunday’s finale in Abu Dhabi.

Last Sunday’s race was twice halted by red flags and the pair also tangled on lap 37 which resulted in Hamilton delivering an X-rated assessment of his title rival.

Hamilton is bidding to win the world championship for a record eighth time so it promises to be a thrilling conclusion to a fascinating season.

The Mercedes driver has won the last three races and is 8/15 to prevail on Sunday, with Verstappen priced at 7/4.

With another exciting battle in prospect, we’re taking a look at some of the best F1 rivalries throughout the years.

Alain Prost v Ayrton Senna

Prost won four of the nine titles between 1985-93, one more than Senna, who tragically died in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix a year later.

The two became team-mates at McLaren-Honda for two seasons from 1988 and although Prost initially welcomed the Brazilian to the team, relations soon turned sour owing to several dramatic race incidents over the next five years.

One of the most controversial encounters came at the 1989 Japanese GP where Senna needed to win to retain his world title.

The Brazilian crashed into his team-mate on the final chicane on lap 47 which brought both drivers to a standstill and saw Prost abandon his stalled car.

But Senna restarted, made a pit stop to change a front wing and remarkably went on to win the race only to be disqualified for getting a push start – thus handing the championship to the Frenchman.

Michael Schumacher v Damon Hill

The death of Senna in 1994 coincided with the emergence of Schumacher on the world stage and a fierce rivalry with Williams driver Hill.

The two men went into the final race of the season at the 1994 Australian Grand Prix with the chance of being crowned world champion and the climax did not disappoint.

Hill was hot on the heels of the German throughout a ding-dong battle in Adelaide which came to a head on lap 36 when Schumacher went off the track and hit a wall.

The Benetton driver managed to get back on track but a collision resulted in Schumacher being eliminated on the spot and Hill retired soon after in the pits.

With neither man scoring, Schumacher won the first of his seven titles, although it was Hill’s turn two years later in 1996, tasting success for the one and only time by finishing 19 and 38 points clear of Jacques Villeneuve and Schumacher respectively.

James Hunt v Niki Lauda

The mid-1970s witnessed one of the most fascinating battles of all time as flamboyant, handsome playboy Hunt went head to head with Lauda.

Their rivalry reached a dramatic conclusion in 1976 at the title-deciding Japanese GP where Hunt trailed by three points having won back-to-back races in Canada and the United States.

Lauda had been involved in a near-fatal crash at the Nurburgring and missed the two following races in his native Austria and Netherlands.

The momentum was with Hunt at Shizuoka where the conditions were so bad the drivers took a vote on whether it should go ahead.

Niki Lauda, James Hunt, F1 Rivalries

The Ferrari driver deemed the track too dangerous and pulled out on the second lap, meaning Hunt just needed to finish fourth to win a maiden world championship.

The McLaren star was heading for a comfortable win but as the track started to dry he lost positions and dropped to fifth after pitting with a tyre problem but managed to overtake Alan Jones and Ferrari’s Clay Regazzoni to clinch the title.

Nigel Mansell v Nelson Piquet

The two drivers were already fierce rivals when Piquet joined Mansell’s Williams team as a double world champion in 1986.

It was the same year the Brit’s hopes of landing a first drivers’ title exploded with a blow-out in Adelaide which allowed Prost to steal the title by two points.

That year, Mansell won five races compared with Piquet’s four but the Brazilian made it a hat-trick of titles the following year.

Mansell suffered back injuries in qualifying for the Japanese GP which prevented him from competing at Suzuka or Australia, thus allowing Piquet to land the treble.

The last significant duel between the two came in 1990 at the Australian GP where Piquet, then with Benetton, came out on top in a brilliant battle with Mansell.

The Briton had switched to Ferrari for a brief spell before returning in triumph to Williams where he won the drivers’ title in 1992.

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Warren Barner