It takes hours upon hours of planning, preparation and hard work to get two cars ready to race all around the world, week-in, week-out in Formula 1. Hundreds if not thousands of personnel are involved in the process of allowing a pair of elite drivers to test their resolve against one another on a racing circuit. So the absolute worst thing that can happen from a moral perspective is when teammates collide. This can take away valuable points from a team’s championship fight or even result in retirement for both cars. There have been some memorable crashes between teammates; let’s have a look at them.
Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna: 1989 Japanese Grand Prix
This collision between bitter rivals at McLaren decided the title in favour of Alain Prost, who achieved 1st in the Drivers’ Standings with one race still left to go.
Senna had a poor start from pole, and Alain swept past and created a formidable gap to the Brazilian. But after a round of pitstops Ayrton rapidly closed in on the Frenchman, and made a bold overtaking manoeuvre on lap 47.
Now whose fault the resulting crash was between the two is still hotly debated to this day, but what can be said for sure is that neither driver was willing to give the other enough space and they both came to a juddering halt at the final chicane.
While Prost was forced to step out of his stalled MP4/5, Senna was given a push-start by some marshals on the track and continued on, overtaking Alessandro Nannini in the Benetton to claim victory.
However Senna was subsequently disqualified as it was against the rules to receive a push from marshals; you had to get the car started unaided. Alain Prost therefore maintained a 16-point advantage over his teammate, and with only one race left to go at Adelaide it was impossible for the Brazilian driver to close this gap.
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton: 2016 Spanish Grand Prix
In this example as well, the polesitter was caught napping at the start, as Rosberg claimed the lead into the first corner around the outside of Lewis Hamilton. However Rosberg had put his engine on a less powerful mode by mistake, allowing Hamilton alongside as they approached turn 4.
The German driver pushed Lewis onto the grass, where the latter could not find any grip whatsoever and spun out of control. He hit the side of Rosberg’s Mercedes and both were left stranded in the gravel trap as the rest of the field streamed past.
Mercedes were left devastated by the loss of both cars from the race, but it did result in the youngest race winner in F1 history, Max Verstappen, managing 1st in a Red Bull.
Neither driver was willing to admit that the incident was their fault as the Mercedes teammates discreetly averted the blame to the other. The general consensus appears to be that Hamilton should not have gone for the inside line as Rosberg had every right to close the gap to his right hand side.
This altercation between the Mercedes pair may well have aided in the breaking down of their relationship, despite having been very good friends when both were present in F1 from 2007.
Christian Fittipaldi and Pierluigi Martini: 1993 Italian Grand Prix
The 2 Minardis were challenging each other to the finish line at the 1993 Italian Grand Prix, their home race. They had found themselves higher up than their usual grid position, albeit still out of the points in 7th and 8th.
Fittipaldi went for a move on Martini on the main straight a mere few hundred metres from the chequered flag, but the two Ford-powered vehicles clipped wheels. This had the unintended effect of launching Christian’s car part way into space, managing a deftly-performed 360-degree rotation in the air and miraculously landing the right way up. This unfortunately slowed the Brazilian driver down, allowing Pierluigi to beat his teammate to the flag.
Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber: 2010 Turkish Grand Prix
Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel had already managed a season together in 2009 with barely a hitch. Comin into 2010, the teammates found themselves with a championship-contending car and were on equal footing in terms of strategy. In other words, Red Bull allowed them to race against each other for position.
Often when you have a golden opportunity to win a World Championship, any friendship falls by the wayside for a shot at glory. The Turkish Grand Prix ended up being the start of a strenuous relationship between the two pilots, which lasted until Webber’s retirement at the end of the 2013 season.
While Mark had to turn his engine power down to conserve fuel, Vettel had more fuel remaining and so chose to use a more powerful mode for his motor. This allowed Sebastian to catch right up to the Aussie driver, and the pair were neck-and-neck on the back straight of lap 40.
The two Red Bulls appeared to inch closer and closer until they made contact. While Vettel retired with a puncture, Webber was able to continue and ended up finishing on the last step of the podium.
Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo: 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
At the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix on the streets of Baku, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo exchanged pleasantries for much of the race by battling ferociously for 4th position, with one overtaking the other on numerous occasions.
They remained in 4th and 5th places until lap 40, when the two crashed into each other at the end of the extremely long straight. Ricciardo was too ambitious on the brakes and slammed into the rear of Verstappen as they slowed for turn 1. Both Red Bulls retired from the event thereafter.
Neither driver wanted to comment all too much after the race, but it could be argued that Verstappen shifted to the inside whilst braking which gave Ricciardo no time to respond to an inevitable collision.
Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc: 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix
While F1 cars are extremely secure in terms of driver safety, just the tiniest of contacts can send bits of carbon fibre flying all over the place and even retirement.
Such was the case at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2019, where Ferrari teammates Vettel and Leclerc made the faintest of touches on the back straight which resulted in terminal damage for both cars.
A slight kiss on each of their tyres was all that was needed to make Charles’ suspension to fail entirely and for Sebastian to receive a race-ending puncture to his rear-left tyre.
Jean Alesi and Nick Heidfeld: 2000 Austrian Grand Prix
Prost Grand Prix were enduring yet another disastrous season in F1, as team owner Alain Prost and his group of engineers were unable to get the Peugeot V10 to work effectively in the vehicle.
Their two drivers Jean Alesi and Nick Heidfeld were unlikely to be able to score any points at the 2000 Austrian GP, and were languishing down in 14th and 15th positions.
Jean Alesi on worn tyres attempted a pass on his German teammate on lap 41 but it didn’t go according to plan. The Frenchman outbroke himself and was never going to make the corner in time. Heidfeld failed to notice the fellow Prost car to his right and the pair clattered into one another, ending their races right there and then. This was yet another nail in the coffin for Prost Grand Prix, which folded at the end of the following season.
Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber: 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix
Rosberg was on the final race of his debut season in Formula 1, driving for the Williams outfit. Having shone early on in the campaign to draw comparisons with his championship-winning father Keke, he damaged his growing reputation ever so slightly at Interlagos.
At turn 4 of the very first lap, Nico totally misjudged the braking point and locked up his front tyres. Without control, he rear-ended his teammate Mark Webber and destroyed his rear wing, ending the Australian’s race when it had barely gotten started.
Unaware of the extent of damage to his own vehicle, Rosberg spurred on but collided heavily with the barrier near the end of the lap which brought out the safety car. This rounded off a dismal season for Williams; Frank Williams would have to wait another 6 years before another win.
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