“I do not understand (Sebastian) Vettel and his screaming like a small, startled child," is how Formula One (F1) legend Niki Lauda described the Fernando Alonso-Sebastian Vettel tussle over track position at the 2014 British Grand Prix on 6 July. Lauda knows a thing or two about on-the-limit rivalries—his disagreements with James Hunt have been immortalized in Ron Howard’s 2013 film, Rush.

Drivers push each other on the track all the time, but it’s not always appreciated.

Since F1 isn’t limited to on-track happenings, the politics of the sport too comes into the mix. Incidentally, the Alonso-Vettel rivalry is something like an unfulfilled promise, even though they have fought for the world championship win twice in the past four seasons. Vettel’s time at Red Bull has been in a good car, while Alonso’s joining the Prancing Horse coincided with a decline in form. But the battle at Silverstone is the latest—the two had battles in Monza, Italy, in 2011 and 2012.

The Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen rivalry (1998-2001) is regarded as the cleanest ever in F1—both raced each other hard, but with utmost respect. Some others have taken it to the edge, on the track and off it. We take a look at some of the modern-day F1 rivalries in the post Ayrton Senna era—the Brazilian racing driver died in a crash in 1994.

Damon Hill vs Michael Schumacher

This was perhaps what F1 needed to forget the Senna tragedy. At the end of a hard-fought 1994 season, both drivers headed into the final race at the Australian GP, Hill just one point behind Schumacher. Under pressure from the in-form Williams’ driver, Schumacher crashed into a wall. Surprisingly, he immediately rebounded on purpose and crashed into Hill, to prevent him from winning the world championship. Both retired from the race, Schumacher won the title by that one point, and the print media in England and Germany traded barbs for the next 12 months. The same aggression continued into the 1995 season, with Hill running into Schumacher at Silverstone and Monza. The German won the world title that year as well, and then moved to Ferrari, while Hill signed up for the Arrows F1 team.

Michael Schumacher vs Jacques Villeneuve

Jacques Villeneuve, son of the Ferrari-mad Gilles Villeneuve, is one of the few racers who made the successful shift from racing series IndyCar racing to F1. And landed straight into a battle with Schumacher, who was finding his feet at the Prancing Horse. After a hard-fought season, going into the final round in 1997, it was pretty much 1994 revisited—Schumacher had a single point lead over Jacques. Initially, things went well for Ferrari, but the performance dropped considerably mid race, allowing Jacques to make a bid for the lead. Both collided, in what appeared to be a deliberate block by Schumacher. Eventually, Schumacher was sent to the naughty-boy corner, lost all points for the season, and the title.

Lewis Hamilton vs Fernando Alonso

When Fernando Alonso went to McLaren in 2007, to most outsiders this team seemed capable of dominating F1 for a long time. But McLaren’s strategy of equal treatment for both drivers made for a rather uneasy alliance, as both Hamilton and Alonso wanted to be the team’s No.1. Tensions between the Spaniard and the Brit spilled over in 2007 at the Hungarian GP. It is believed that Hamilton did not allow Alonso to lead the way at the start of the qualifying session, in accordance with the team plan. A miffed Alonso blocked his teammate in the pits, long enough to prevent him from getting another lap in. At the 2007 Belgian GP, Alonso resorted to aggressive driving to keep Hamilton behind, compromising their strategies. Kimi Räikkönen beat them both to the championship. A lot was said through the season, but Hamilton’s final comment was rather telling, “Alonso showed me just how not to behave as an F1 driver."

Sebastian Vettel vs Mark Webber

Things between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel went pear-shaped at the 2010 Turkish GP when the two collided as the German attempted to pass Webber for the lead. Three races later, at the British GP, Vettel’s car was given a new aerodynamics package to improve performance. Incidentally, Webber dominated the race, and famously remarked on radio, “Not bad for a No.2 driver". The final straw was the 2013 Malaysian GP—the Multi21 fiasco. Multi21 is the modern-day F1 code that teams use to tell their drivers to hold positions. In the closing stages, race leader Webber was asked to reduce the power on the engine and save fuel for the finish. Apparently, the hard-charging Vettel had been ordered to “hold station" behind Webber. But Vettel sneaked past in a move that nearly saw them both end up in the wall on the start-finish straight .

Lewis Hamilton vs Nico Rosberg

The seeds of this season’s rivalry were planted last year, at the Malaysian GP. This is how the conversation went over the team radio. Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn: “Nico, hold position behind Lewis." Rosberg: “I can go much faster, just let me past." Brawn: “Negative, Nico. Lewis is doing the pace we’ve told him to." Rosberg: “But what about the Red Bulls? We can push them. Maybe their tyres will go." Brawn: “Understood, but maintain position." Rosberg: “Remember this one."

Fast-forward to the present. As they head to Germany for the next round of the 2014 season, Hamilton has taken a swipe at Rosberg, apparently with a sheepish grin, “To be honest, Nico has never actually been in Germany, so it’s not really his home race." Make of it what you will, but things are quite feisty this season—both drivers are in with a shot at the Drivers’ World Championship.

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