In any competitive sport there is naturally a rivalry present, which is one of the reasons we watch and enjoy sport in the first place. There are many rivalries that have global reach. Cases like Ali vs. Frazier, Ronaldo vs. Messi, Yankees vs. Red Sox are all popular around the world, even among people who don’t watch these sports. Motorsport is no different. Almost everyone has heard names like Lewis Hamilton, Ayrton Senna, Dale Earnhardt, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel at least once. Auto racing stories and rivalries are now more popular thanks to Hollywood movies like Ford v Ferrari portraying them.
Movies revolving around any of these cases are well received by racing fans and non-racing fans alike. The credit goes to the acting, the direction, the script, etc. fabulous, as well as to history. Yes, some rivalries are so fascinating to watch, it feels like you’re watching some kind of movie. The most recent event was the 2021 Formula 1 season which ended in the very last race which decided a champion in the very last lap. These events are rare but very special. Watching two of the best competitors in a sport compete against each other to see who comes out on top is always fascinating. Let’s look back and commemorate 10 of the best and most passionate rivalries in motorsport.
ten Jim Clark vs. Graham Hill (Formula 1)
This one felt more like a wellness story than a heated rivalry. Jim clark and Graham Hill were teammates and rivals with each other in the early 1960s. But when they weren’t racing, they were good friends with each other.
Their race was always in good spirits and there was no disagreement between them. Graham Hill won the battles of 1962 and 1968, while Jim emerged victorious in 1963 and 1965. Jim Clark is one of the greatest racing drivers in history, and when he died Graham Hill was more devastated than anyone.
9 Carl Edwards vs. Brad Keselowski (NASCAR)
The two NASCAR drivers formed a rivalry that started slowly in 2008. But it culminated in 2009 when Keselowski knocked down Edwards on the last lap of the race at Talladega Superspeedway. Keselowski won the race after Edwards’ vehicle took off. A year later, Edwards fought back, and this time Keselowski stole.
Despite the fact that they were both put in danger by each other, or precisely because of it, the two pilots developed a deep mutual respect and their rivalry faded. It was one of the most interesting NASCAR rivalries in history.
8 Max Verstappen vs. Lewis Halimton (Formula 1)
Over the past few years, Lewis Hamilton had consistently won championships without much hassle. Lewis is a brilliant driver, but part of the credit goes to the incredibly powerful car Mercedes developed. Mercedes has also won the constructors’ championship for several years.
But this time around, Red Bull’s RB16B F1 with a Honda engine was ready to take on the defending champion. Red Bull protege Max Verstappen has shown the world what he can do with a performance car. After years, we were able to witness neck and neck competition. Max passed the Silver Arrow on the last lap of the last race of the year to win it all! It is arguably the most memorable F1 season in recent history.
seven Marc Marquez vs. Valentino Rossi (MotoGP)
It’s right at the top of the list of intense racing rivalries. Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi were intense not only on the race but also outside. The two went from worshiping each other to touching elbows at 186 mph, trying to knock each other out.
When this conflict arose in 2015, Rossi was the returning legend and Marquez was the rising star of MotoGP. The climax came at the Malaysian Grand Prix, where a track battle cost “The Doctor” what would have been his tenth world championship.
6 Mark Webber vs. Sebastian Vettel (Formula 1)
We have seen that the fiercest rivalries often plague teammates. The case of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel was no different. The rivalry began in 2007 when Vettel toppled Webber in Japan. He got even stronger in 2010 after a crash in Turkey cost them both victory. During the Malaysian GP in 2013, the team ordered Vettel to keep his position behind Webber.
But Sebastian defied orders and passed his teammate to grab 1st place. He came dangerously close to hitting his teammate in the process. Vettel seemed to have a promising career ahead of him, so Red Bull was protecting him. This ultimately led to the Australian leaving F1 and returning to endurance racing.
5 Lancia vs. Audi (WRC)
If we have to name one rivalry story that most closely resembles David vs. Goliath, this would be it. The 1983 WRC Group B competition between the Audi Quattro AWD and the Lancia RWD 037 is one of the most entertaining and remarkable in rally history. In episode 7 of season 2 of The Grand Tour, Jeremy Clarkson claims that this is his favorite battle of all.
Walter Röhrl and the Lancia were in perfect harmony on the last two stages of the rally. Lancia beat the Audi backed by VW. Anyone who saw this would surely get goose bumps.
4 Alonso Vs Hamilton Vs Raikkonen (Formula One)
Right now Lewis Hamilton is a Formula 1 icon. But, as a rookie in 2007, he faced Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. It has been a season of controversy and stiff competition on the track.
In the end, it was the Ferrari Iceman who triumphed, while Hamilton and Alonso were busy showing who was best for the McLaren team. The championship was decided in the final race in Brazil when Raikkonen edged Alonso and Hamilton by one point. It’s still one of the closest championship races we’ve ever seen in Formula 1.
3 Niki Lauda vs. James Hunt (Formula 1)
The two drivers mentioned here had an incredible rivalry that lasted from 1973 to 1979. Niki Lauda and James Hunt are longtime competitors on the track. Their relationship deteriorated slightly during the 1976 season.
But the media-fueled rivalry in Formula 1’s golden years never stood in the way of the two drivers’ off-road friendship. Ron Howard’s 2013 film Rush focuses on just one aspect of the relationship between James Hunt (played by Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Brühl). It portrays both their strong rivalry and their friendship.
2 Mitsubishi vs. Subaru (WRC)
This motorsport rivalry, through their dramatic WRC duels in the 1990s, has been of most benefit to us reducers around the world. Mitsubishi and Subaru brought us two of the most iconic four-door performance sedans of all time. These were the Lancer Evolution and the Impreza WRX STI.
Group A regulations stipulated that rally cars should be based on off-road vehicles. In the WRC, Mitsubishi won the drivers’ championship with Tommi Makinen. Subaru was the better team, however, winning the Manufacturers’ Championship.
1 Ayrton Senna vs. Alain Prost (Formula 1)
Senna vs Prost has to be Formula 1’s most famous rivalry, perhaps in motorsport history. It started as a friendly rivalry in 1989 after Ayrton Senna signed for McLaren, but it slowly turned into hatred. It culminated in 1990 at Suzuka when Senna swept past Alain Prost in the first corner.
As a result, Senna won the league title. But over the years Senna has made efforts to improve the safety of F1 and Prost admired that. Senna’s death in Imola sent shock waves through the racing world. Alain Prost is one of the people most affected.
Ironically, the security device that contributed the most to his survival was the one Grosjean absolutely hated.
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