Whether a Formula One fanatic or somebody who occasionally watches motorsport inspired films at the cinema, you will already be aware that F1 is rife with combustible characters who have a habit of taking their frustrations out on others.
Call it testosterone, machismo, competitive spirit or whatever you like, even as rule changes shift the F1 landscape on the track the characters in the cockpit continue to live up their fearsome reputation.
And it would seem that Team Ferrari has another pair of firecrackers on their hands in Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.
The duo were involved in an on-course dust-up at the Brazilian Grand Prix which forced both of them out of the race, and now furious Ferrari bosses have summoned the pair to a showdown meeting at the Italian firm’s headquarters.
They were contesting fourth place when both tried questionable overtaking manoeuvres, and while Ferrari have so far refused to apportion blame or dish out punishments, it was noticeable that both drivers were removed from traditional post-race press duties.
Leclerc had tried to pass Vettel as he attempted to secure another podium finish, before later on the German had his revenge – or attempted to – by taking on the Frenchman into Turn Four. Leclerc just about gave Vettel enough room to pass but no more, and it was very rare to see two drivers from the same team going at it hammer and tongs.
That risky manoeuvre ultimately cost both men their chance, as their cars collided which caused a puncture to one of Vettel’s tyres and broke the suspension of Leclerc’s.
“When doing things in the heat of the moment, you can come to the wrong conclusion,” said team principal Mattia Binotto. “I have heard from both drivers, but I will meet with them to discuss what happened. It is not a matter of fining or blaming. We let them race, but being free to fight doesn’t mean they should make silly mistakes.
“In truth, this sort of thing should never happen.”
It has been a coming together a long time in the making. Rumours of a fallout between the pair – with Leclerc cast as the cocky rookie and Vettel the grizzled veteran – are the stuff of Hollywood legend, and the German’s lack of supremacy has led to the Frenchman challenging his position as principal driver.
Whether there will be long-term repercussions for Vettel or Leclerc remains to be seen, although it will be interesting to see how this situation plays out during the remainder of the season.
It’s a throwback to classic battles in Formula One from yesteryear, so let’s reflect on the best of those and see how this Vettel-Leclerc confrontation stacks up.
James Hunt vs Niki Lauda
When your rivalry is immortalised by Hollywood, you know it must have been captivating to watch.
The film ‘Rush’ is inspired by the battle for glory between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, who were both aiming to win the Championship in 1976.
This was your classic clash of styles: Hunt, the charming, handsome renegade and Lauda, the precise, unassuming Austrian.
It was a rivalry that would nearly kill them.
The ’76 season went down to the wire at the Nurburgring, with both drivers needing to win the race to press home their advantage.
But Lauda went too hard, and after crashing and lying prone in the middle of the track, his car was struck by another driver and burst into flames.
The Austrian somehow survived, but he suffered permanent disfigurement and would watch on from his hospital bed as Hunt would claw back points to send the Championship battle into its thrilling finale.
Lauda, against all odds and medical opinion, rushed back into action, but after refusing to race in torrential conditions, Hunt had free rein to claim the title.
One of the greatest rivalries of all-time and one of the greatest friendships.
Niki Lauda and James Hunt.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) 21 May 2019
Magnanimous in victory, Hunt dedicated his win to Lauda and ended their hostilities.
“Quite honestly, I wanted to win the championship and felt I deserved it. But I also feel Niki deserved the championship – I just wish we could have shared it,” he said.
Ayrton Senna vs Alain Prost
Another classic F1 rivalry, another immortalisation by Hollywood.
At the heart of the film ‘Senna’ was the bitter battle between the eponymous Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, two of the finest drivers the sport has ever seen.
At the heart of their differences was their contrasting personalities and cultures, which is so often a factor in the hostility. Senna was the devout Christian who believed that God was guiding his around the track, while Prost was more methodical and way ahead of his time in terms of analysing data and so on.
This was a rivalry that came to a head in Japan in 1989, when Prost was forced to retire on the track at Suzuka which gifted Senna victory. But after a series of meetings allegedly involving the Frenchman, the win was overturned by adjudicators, who believed that the Brazilian had caused the crucial collision.
Incensed, Senna claimed that Prost has used his ‘political affiliations’ to get ahead, and that was the spark that ignited one of Formula One’s most intense divisions.
Fast forward a year and the pair once again tested a title decider in Japan. Senna, only needing to outpoint Prost to lift the trophy, famously crashed into the Frenchman on the first corner of the race, although whether it was deliberate or not remains a talking point to this day….
Nigel Mansell vs Nelson Piquet
Generally speaking, the biggest F1 rivalries involve those competing against one another in a bid for the Drivers’ Championship.
But teammates do occasionally come to blows, and at Williams the duo of Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet really did not see eye to eye.
Again, it was a question of authority and masculinity, almost. Mansell was the senior driver who did not take to his prominence being questioned, while Piquet was at the top of his game at the time.
Their disagreements boiled over into mind games, petty squabbles and even insults, with the two drivers refusing to share technical data with one another.
Their rivalry came to a head at the British Grand Prix of 1987 when Mansell, in front of his adoring home fans, overtook Piquet to snatch victory. The Brazilian never forgave all involved, and moved to Lotus at the end of the season.