Formula 1’s great track tussles range in quality from the downright sublime (Mika Hakkinen selling a dummy to Michael Schumacher at Spa in 2000, anyone?) to the downright ridiculous (let’s draw a veil over Indy 2006, okay?).
So let’s take a trip down memory lane and take in the full spectrum of McLaren’s greatest wheel-to-wheel battles.
One thing’s for sure, though, we’d always rather see a driver having a go than sitting back and playing the numbers game. And hopefully we’re not alone… right?!
2000 Belgian Grand Prix
Mika Hakkinen vs Michael Schumacher
The greatest overtake in F1 history? It’s certainly up there. After being forced onto the dirt at 210mph, Mika kept it utterly nailed through Eau Rouge on the following lap, caught Schumacher’s draft and used a mixture of brawn and sheer balls to muscle past the red Ferrari and backmarker Ricard Zonta on the flat-out approach to Les Combes. Incredible.
1991 Spanish Grand Prix
Ayrton Senna vs Nigel Mansell
The shot of Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna duking it out just inches apart on the long drag down to Barcelona’s Turn One is arguably the most iconic image of two dueling grand prix cars. Each was a lionish racer who never gave an inch. The perfect advert for good, hard but clean racing.
2000 French Grand Prix
David Coulthard vs Michael Schumacher
Schumacher was never the easiest man to pass. At Magny-Cours, he pushed Coulthard wide when he attempted a pass around the outside of the Adelaide Hairpin. That move prompted David’s famous ‘gestures’ from the cockpit. A lap later, Coulthard made it stick, darting up the inside to outwit the German and win the race.
2002 German Grand Prix (Hockenheim)
Kimi Raikkonen vs Juan Pablo Montoya
The ‘new’ Hockenheim may have lost some of the old circuit’s unique challenge, but it turned it into a great racetrack. In 2003, Kimi and Juan Pablo were arguably the two hardest racers in F1 – but always totally fair. At Hockenheim, they went at it hammer and tongs, exchanging places for half a lap before the Colombian stuck his Williams ahead at the stadium hairpin.
2007 European Grand Prix (Nurburgring)
Fernando Alonso vs Felipe Massa
As the rain started to fall, and Alonso’s McLaren started working better in the cooler temps, the Spaniard bit into Felipe’s lead. The pair banged wheels messily, but Fernando kept his foot down, arcing around the outside to squeeze inside for the following corner. It was aggressive stuff, and prompted some pretty heated comments from Felipe after the race too!
2021 United States Grand Prix
McLaren vs Ferrari
With two Ferraris on the third row, and our pairing locking out the fourth, things were always going to be tasty on the opening lap at Circuit of the Americas. Having swapped positions back and forth with Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo found himself close enough to touch the back of the Ferrari, looking inside before trying the long way round on the 0.62km straight heading to Turn 12. Meanwhile, teammate Lando jumped down the inside and almost overtook both drivers, but Sainz managed to hold position. Recovering, Ricciardo nipped past Lando at the next turn before finally claiming fifth with a lovely move two turns before the end of Lap 1.
2010 Turkish Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton vs Jenson Button
The McLaren garage held its collective breath – this was the battle for the lead, between two teammates – and was happening after two other (Red Bull) teammates had clashed and crashed. And all while both cars were running on fumes. The battle got pretty fraught, with the pair exchanging positions, before Lewis chopped in front and eased away. That’s how it’s done.
2020 Styrian Grand Prix
Lando Norris vs Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll & Sergio Perez
Who doesn't love some last gasp action? Lando's last lap heroics in Austria began with a dash past Daniel Ricciardo as he was forced wide by Lance Stroll. Seemingly trapped behind Stroll with Ricciardo on his side, Lando managed to thread the needle between the pair before going wheel-to-wheel with Stroll, almost kicking up some gravel, but getting no joy around the outside on that occasion.
On the final lap, he made another attempt on the wider line but was stuffed before Lando managed to get past Stroll at Turn 4 with the help of DRS. The Brit wasn't done there as he charged down Sergio Perez, who was running with a broken front wing, on the penultimate turn to complete his charge from eighth to fifth.
2013 Bahrain Grand Prix
Jenson Button vs Sergio Perez
Instructed by team boss Martin Whitmarsh to ‘use his elbows’, Mexico’s Sergio Perez took that instruction to heart at the very next race, getting embroiled in a fierce, fractious battle with teammate Jenson Button. “He just hit me up the back… Calm him down,” exorted Jenson over the radio. Sanity prevailed, and they finished sixth (Checo) and 10th (Jenson).
2014 Belgian Grand Prix
Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso
You don’t easily keep Fernando Alonso behind you – more often than not, the Spanish terrier will find a way past. So what happened when the unstoppable force met the immovable object? Alonso didn’t bargain on young Kev being such a spirited scrapper. Nor, mind you, did the race stewards, who handed the Dane a 20-second penalty for his driving. Oh well, you live and you learn…
1977 Dutch Grand Prix
James Hunt vs Mario Andretti
James may have led, but Andretti – in his ground-effect Lotus – was charging. Into the Tarzan hairpin, the pair raced side-by-side, Andretti taking the outside line. At the exit, James moved ever outwards until the pair collided. Each driver was furious with the other: “We don’t pass on the outside in Formula 1,” huffed Hunt haughtily. “Silly jerk!” exclaimed Andretti. “James Hunt, he’s champion of the world right? The problem is that he thinks he’s king of the god-damn world as well!”
2011 Canadian Grand Prix
Jenson Button vs Lewis Hamilton
The 2011 Canadian Grand Prix may have been the longest F1 race of all-time (lasting a colossal 4hr04m39.537s), but Lewis Hamilton’s race was far shorter – it lasted only seven laps! He tried to pass his teammate, just as Jenson was changing his line for the next corner. The two messily collided, Lewis’s race ending with a wrecked rear suspension. “What is he doing?!?” came Jenson’s withering response over the radio. Jenson? He won the race. Taking the lead on the very last lap. Top stuff…
… and the ugly!
2010 Belgium 2010
Jenson Button vs Sebastian Vettel
Provided you get a good run out of Stavelot, there’s a pretty good chance you can jink out of your rival’s slipstream and attempt to pass into the Bus Stop chicane. That was Sebastian Vettel’s plan, except that it all went pear-shaped the at the precise moment he pulled out of Jenson’s draft. His Red Bull inexplicably snapped sideways, T-boned the McLaren and put Jenson out of the race. This was the incident that briefly earned Vettel the ‘Crash Kid’ nickname!
2006 US Grand Prix
Juan Pablo Montoya vs Kimi Raikkonen
At 2005’s controversial US Grand Prix, both McLarens had withdrawn on the parade lap – along with most of the field. They hadn’t registered a single racing lap. A year later, they did exactly the same – although by accident rather than design! The two teammates lasted about 22 seconds before colliding with each other at the first corner. It was the fiery Colombian’s last-ever race for McLaren. Not sure if you could really call it a ‘race’…
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