Senna vs Prost, Hunt vs Lauda, Schumacher vs Hill – these have gone down as some of the greatest rivalries in the history of Formula One. But, over the past few years we have seen the emergence of a new rivalry, one that has the potential to top them all.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has been Formula One’s golden boy since he won his first driver’s championship in 2008. He has absolutely dominated the scene for the past decade and has broken numerous records, he recently became the first person to win 100 Grand Prix after topping the podium in. this year’s Russian GP in Sochi. However, in 2014 a new name emerged as 17-years-old Max Verstappen made his Formula One debut for Toro Rosso. In 2016 he made a career-defining move to Red Bull where he has been biting on the heels of Hamilton ever since.
This year the championship battle between the Englishman and the Dutchman has been closer than ever before, with only a handful of points separating the two. With only four races remaining in the calendar, and 19 points separating the two, the final spell of this incredible year is set to be one of the most competitive and unmissable affairs ever.
There have been numerous controversial moments between the two this season, with arguably the biggest talking point coming in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The two drivers were driving wheel to wheel on the first lap, as they got to Copse Corner, they collided and Verstappen went flying into the barrier at almost 300 km/h.
After both Mercedes and Red Bull raced to director Michael Masi, but the stewards decided that it was Hamilton who was at fault, leading to a 10 second time penalty. The penalty didn’t face the Brit though, as he went on to win the race and the difference in points between the top two was cut to only eight. Red Bull team principle Christian Horner fuelled the fire after he blasted Hamilton during a post-race interview with Formula One, saying: “It’s disappointing for a driver who has won seven world championships to make a desperate error like that”.
A similar incident happened in Monza as the two went wheel to wheel going into turn two on lap 26, however it was Verstappen who faced a penalty on this occasion. The Dutchman attempted to squeeze past his rival on the inside of turn two, but his car bounced up off of the sausage curb and landed on top of Hamilton’s. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff branded the incident as a “tactical foul” from Verstappen, provoking a negative reaction from Horner, who labelled it a “Racing incident”.
Last week, Wolff argued that it would not be a shock if the title was ultimately decided by a crash between the two frontrunners. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Wolff said: “If you are racing for the championship and you see it fading away because the other guy is overtaking you, what tool have you got other than the one that makes sure he can’t overtake?”
This kind of incident has happened before in the sport, with one of the most famous examples being between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix. The two were both challenging for the title and going wheel to wheel in Suzuka, that is until Senna drove into the side of Prost to stop him from passing. The event sparked a vicious rivalry between the two which spanned many years.
With only one point separating Mercedes and Red bull, and less than 20 between current leader Verstappen and second place Hamilton, it’s likely that the rivalry will come to an head in an unmissable month of racing.
Both teams will be clutching at all the straws to try and get their nose in front of the other, because this year, every point really does count.
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