The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed us time to go back in the history and find some of the best duels we have seen on track among some of the greats in F1.
This is the first of the four-part series FormulaRapida.net is to put out in this month dubbed as ‘F1 Duels’. The first list has 10 of the best from the 1950-1980s period – here we are combine three decades as it is difficult to get around many fights.
From the next part onward, it will be one decade per list, from 1990 until 2019. Duels in F1 have been present ever since the first race at Silverstone in 1950. It’s arguably the fights between the drivers which keep most viewers glued to their screen , even till today.
With everything from championship rivals to hot-headed teammates – F1 fans have seen their fair share of quarrels. Consider as the ‘dangerous’ eras of F1, the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s saw countless lives lost on and off track.
The lack of safety regulations and driver safety didn’t stop drivers living on the ragged edge and go for some close shave moves. This was deemed as the golden era of the sport and that shortly after this period, the racing just wasn’t the same.
So to bring some of that glory back, here are 10 of the best driver battles in the first 40 years of F1 – we will go from 10th to first in the countdown:
10) Juan Manuel Fangio vs Sir Stirling Moss – 1954 Italian GP:
This battle between rivals of those days, Fangio and Moss, really does capture the true spirit of F1. It was the Italian GP, the penultimate race of the 1954 season. The former had won six races in all, two with Maserati and four for Daimler (Mercedes).
However, it was Moss who had the limelight even though he had a difficult season. The British racer had been excellent in qualifying throughout the year but not so much in the races. At Monza, he made gradual progress and managed to lead the field as he constantly swapped places with Fangio – but then tragedy struck.
Moss was forced to pit which then left him 22 seconds behind Fangio. The Brit pushed hard to fight his way through the field and chase down Fangio but on the final lap, his engine died as he got off the Maserati and pushed it to the finish line in 10th. It’s sad to think this could’ve been his first F1 win – which eventually came in 1955 British GP.
9) Jim Clark vs Graham Hill – 1965 British GP:
Clark and Hill are deemed as few of the greatest drivers in F1’s 70-year history. The former displayed his talent in an act of absolute dominance at the 1965 British GP at Silverstone, where he won his fourth race in a row that season.
With 50 laps in and with 30 to go, Clark’s 30-second commanding lead started to diminish due to an oil issue on his Lotuc-Climax which forced him to slow down and preserve his engine – this allowed his compatriot to catch up, who was nursing brake issues.
Entering the last lap, the gap between the two Brits was down to five seconds and Hill – in his BRM – pushed as hard as he could. Despite the valiant effort, in the end, Clark just managed to stay ahead of fellow Brit, with just 100 yards separating them.
To combat the issue, Clark had to coast round the corners in neutral and then battle along with the higher gears on the straight parts of the track.
8) Sir Jackie Stewart vs Jochen Rindt – 1969 British GP:
This was a classic showdown at the home of F1 – Silverstone – where Stewart and Rindt battled it out on track to win British GP. The two were closely matched on the track as they provided the British fans with an absolute spectacle.
The race ended with a twist, however, as Rindt was forced to pit due to his rear wing becoming a hazard to his tire. The German finished fourth and a lap down in his Lotus-Ford as Stewart eased to win in his Matra-Ford. It was actually the Brit who signaled to his rival that his rear wing was loose – what a rivalry.
7) Clay Regazzoni and Sir Jackie Stewart – 1972 German GP:
The 1972 German GP took place at the 14.2 mile Nurburgring Nordschleife – the longest, most demanding and a difficult circuit of the F1 calendar. Stewart and Regazzoni battled for a long time until the two tangled on the final lap at the Hatzenbach, where the former was forced to retire in the Tyrrell-Ford.
Stewart was still classified on 11th. Regazzoni, meanwhile, was able to finish behind his Ferrari teammate Jacky Ickx to make it a 1–2. Ickx, known as a master of the Nurburgring, celebrated his second German GP win and what was to be his last ever in F1.
6) Mario Andretti vs Carlos Reutemann – 1980 Dutch GP:
The 1980 Dutch GP saw a huge battle between Andretti and Reutemann. It was a constant back and forth of positions as they used each other’s slipstream to get by. They went wheel-to-wheel in a hairy moment with the accident of Derek Daly.
This actually was a good example of how far the safety in F1 had evolved by then. Reutemann in the Williams-Ford had the better of Andretti in the Lotus-Ford eventually as the former finished fourth and the latter ended up eighth after he lost fuel on the final lap.
5) Niki Lauda vs Jody Scheckter – 1977 US GP:
In a period where the biggest rivalry was between Lauda and James Hunt, other battles were naturally overshadowed. This was the case at the 1977 US GP, held at Watkins Glen. Hunt pushed hard to ensure maximum points were awarded to him and McLaren.
Starting from pole, he seemed to dominate the race but he was chased down by Mario Andretti in the Lotus-Ford, keen to win his home race. Just behind, Lauda needed to finish fourth to clinch the 1977 F1 title and he eventually did so.
But it didn’t happen without a fight as the Ferrari driver had to go wheel-to-wheel with Jody Scheckter in the Wolf-Ford. The South African seemed to have the upperhand and knowing the title situation, Lauda banked for points and championship.
4) Gilles Villeneuve vs Rene Arnoux – 1979 French GP:
This battle between Renault and Ferrari drivers Arnoux and Villeneuve was one of the best battles either F1 driver has been involved in. They swapped positions multiple times during the gritty tussle in the 1979 French GP at the Dijon-Prenois circuit.
Both drivers followed each other in hot pursuit for what was the fight for second. Along the bendy, twisty and undulating Dijon circuit in France, it was a sterling effort by Villeneuve to secure the position from Arnoux despite the late contacts between the two, separated by just the 0.024s at the checkered flag – this fight certainly ranks as one of the best.
3) Gilles Villeneuve vs Didier Pironi – 1982 San Marino GP:
Now this was a battle. This 1980s classic duel between Villeneuve and Pironi had them wheel-to-wheel in a truncated grid after multiple F1 teams boycotted the race as a mark of protest. The fight was hampered as Ferrari went for team orders.
The Italian outfit thought a fight would risk a mechanical failure and or running out fuel. Villeneuve was ahead of Pironi but both understood it differently as the Frenchman passed the Canadian for the lead. The latter re-took the place thinking it was just a fun move.
He left the door open on the last lap and Pironi overtook Villeneuve to eventually win the San Marina GP – much to the latter’s disappointment, where the Canadian vowed to never speak with the Frenchman ever again.
2) Nigel Mansell vs Nelson Piquet – 1987 British GP:
The 1987 British GP was the site of a great battle between Williams teammates Piquet and Mansell. Motivated by his home crowd at Silverstone, the Brit chased down the Brazilian driver to win the race.
Mansell actually broke the lap record 11 times in the last 20 laps of the race, a feat that is rarely accomplished. With just three laps to go, he overtook Piquet on the Hangar Straight after a gritty fight, making it one of the most memorable races in Mansell’s career.
1) Ayrton Senna vs Alain Prost – 1989 Japanese GP:
When rivalries in F1 are discussed, one cannot forget the iconic battles between Prost and Senna. The 1989 Japanese GP at Suzuka was a race that was defined as potential grand prix to seal the drivers’ championship for either competitors.
This grand prix is regarded as one of the most notorious in F1’s history and for good reason. This duel between McLaren teammates lasted a few laps and it was due to the Frenchman encountering backmarkers which got him to slow down.
This helped Senna to catch Prost and then inevitably he made one of the most famous overtakes in F1 history. The Brazilian dived down the inside of his teammate at the chicane and they collided – taking them both out of the race.
It was this collision as well as a disqualification awarded to Senna that sealed the championship for the Frenchman. Due to the accident, it gave Italian driver, Allesandro Nannini, his first and only win in F1.
Next up will be the Top 5 F1 duels which took place between 1990 and 2000. But before that let us know some of your favorite on-track driver battles in the comments section from the 1950 to 1980 era – if we get some good ones, we may do a special fan list.
The list was compiled by Manav Pallan and edited by Darshan Chokhani