When drivers take the fight off track


In light of the ‘balls’ incident (can we call it ‘balls-gate’?) following the Hungarian Grand Prix, Michael Howard looks at those occasions when the adrenaline and passion for racing has carried over to the moment when the drivers have stepped out of the cockpit.

Tensions were running very high between Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen after the Hungarian Grand Prix.

On lap 63, Hulkenberg attempted a move around the outside of turn 3 on Magnussen. However, the Haas driver was having none of it, and blocked the outside line, forcing Hulkenberg on the grass.

During the post-race interview with the world media, Hulkenberg made it his mission to congratulate Magnussen on being “the most unsporting driver.” This didn’t faze the Danish driver and he simply replied “suck my b**** honey.” Now remember these drivers are just out of the cockpit and have not seen what us, the fans, just saw. So generally, they’ll most likely have a biased view of what happened and believe that the other driver must be the one in the wrong. This trade of insults seemed relatively tame in comparison to some of the off- track bouts we’ve seen in the past. Here are a few to jog your memory.

German Grand Prix 1982 – Nelson Piquet vs Eliseo Salazar

The 1982 German Grand Prix should have gone down as an east victory for Nelson Piquet. With his major competitor Didier Pironi (Ferrari) not starting due to injury. It all seemed in good hands.

However, as the Brazilian caught up to the back of Salazar to lap him it all went wrong. Piquet choose to lap Salazar at the then new Ost-Curve chicane (turn 5,6,7). Piquet went deep around the outside of Salazar. Initially it seemed as if it would all be okay, but then Salazar braked too late, and Piquet thinking he had braked 30 metres earlier turned into him and both were taken out of the race.

Piquet does not expect the late braking Salazar – YouTube


Piquet, unsurprisingly, was furious and immediately jumped out of his Brabham-BMW and engaged Salazar in a punching and pushing competition. After the adrenaline had passed Piquet stopped. This still remains one of the most famous off-track fights in F1 history.

Handbags at dawn – Autosport

 Belgian Grand Prix 1998 – Michael Schumacher vs David Coulthard

Jumping ahead a few years to Spa 1998. Michael Schumacher is in a tight title fight with Mika Hakkinen and a win in Belgium will be a massive benefit to his championship hopes. Despite the very tricky wet conditions Schumacher is able to pull out a huge lead over the rest of the field and is heading to what seems like one of his most masterful wet weather performances.

Schumacher soon catches Hakkinen’s team mate David Coulthard, who is struggling heavily in the conditions. Schumacher got stuck for a number of laps behind the Scotsman, as due to the conditions Coulthard couldn’t actually see him in his mirrors. Eventually after a few laps stuck behind Coulthard, McLaren realised the hold up and messaged to Coulthard to let Schumacher past.

Coulthard lifted off the throttle out of turn 9. Unfortunately for both drivers Schumacher wasn’t told that Coulthard was letting him past, and due to lack of visibility the Ferrari ploughed straight into the back of the McLaren. The front left wheel of the Ferrari flying off due to the collision.

Oops. – Universal Multigrip

Both were thankfully able to limp their cars back to the pits.

On returning to the Ferrari garage, Schumacher quickly jumped out of the car and ran down the pits towards the McLaren garage. The Ferrari mechanics anxiously followed him, worried at how he would react. He pushed his way past the press and tried to get inside to where Coulthard had just arrived. The German was so furious that he wanted to have a punch up with the Scotsman. However, a McLaren mechanic bravely stepped in between them and pushed Schumacher away and a fight was avoided.

A hot headed Schumacher comes to confront Coulthard.

Even worst for Schumacher, Coulthard’s damage wasn’t as bad as originally thought, and the McLaren driver was able to re-join the race where he finished P7. Mika Hakkinen was also able to keep hold of his championship lead and increase the gap to 7 points.

As the years went by obviously the wounds healed as Schumacher and Coulthard enjoyed a ride around the Canadian Grand Prix circuit in a golf buggy together, on the Thursday before the 2011 race.

Friends again in 2011. – BBC Sport

Brazilian Grand Prix 2009 – Adrian Sutil vs Jarno Trulli

For many this Grand Prix stands out as the race where Jenson Button secured the 2009 world championship.

However, it is also remembered because of a lap 1 incident between the Toyota (driven by Trulli) and the Force India (driven by Sutil). As you all know, much of the overtaking action happens on lap 1 of a Grand Prix.  Sutil and Trulli approached turn 5 side by side, with Trulli on the outside. Sadly, the two tangled with one another and were both taken out of the race. Sutil’s car famously continued to drift out of control into the path of Fernando Alonso’s Renault car also taking him out of the race.

That won’t buff out. – F1 Pulse


The safety car was triggered and both drivers met up after (trackside) to blame each other for the incident. It resulted in this quite infamous photo of the two drivers arguing.

Not discussing the quickest way to Burger King. – BBC Sport

The drivers still held a grudge with one another heading into the next Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, and continued to argue during the Thursday drivers press conference.

Sutil claiming that “he had just lost control and driven straight into my car…” Trulli was quick to respond to this by displaying a number of onboard pictures to Sutil, stating that “he had the racing line…” This argument continued with both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen finding the whole debate very amusing.

Agreeing to disagree. – BBC Sport

2013 Malaysian Grand Prix – Sebastian Vettel vs Mark Webber 

Who could forget Multi 21? Well, obviously Sebastian Vettel can. It was only the second race of the season and the battle between the two Red Bull drivers caused major controversy within the team, as well as the entire F1 community.

Webber had led most of the race, however, Vettel on superior tyre strategy was gaining fast. Vettel had caught Webber with 10 laps to go before the end of the race. Red Bull gave Seb the message “Multi 21.” Which meant that car 1 (Vettel) was to stay behind car 2 (Webber). Team orders had been applied. Red Bull could see the fast Mercedes behind, an incident between their cars could cost the team massive points in the constructors. Also with Kimi Raikkonen winning the first round, Red Bull still didn’t have a victory in 2013.

But, Vettel’s hunger for the win was stronger and in an amazing turn of events, he began attempting to pass Webber. The two were engaged in some very close wheel to wheel racing through the first sector of the track. Vettel eventually passed his team mate around the outside at turn 4. Leaving Webber furious.

Perhaps Seb should have read the sign above Mark’s head before the whole Multi 21 incident.

The pre-podium room saw a very angry Webber, shaking his head and yelling “Multi 21 Seb…” Vettel seemed upset but still pleased that he had been able to pick up the 25 points for the win. The relationship between the two drivers remained incredibly frosty for the rest of the season.

What’s next for Magnussen and Hulkenberg?

It is incredibly unlikely that the two drivers will return after the summer break and have it out in the paddock. Racing drivers understand the need to move on from situations like this and so both will be focused on trying to get the maximum out of their cars for the rest of the season.

Still, another on track battle between the two drivers would be thrilling to watch. Who knows how either will react?

Let’s wait and see…

Can you remember any other famous off-track incidents between drivers?

Comment Below, we’d love to hear from you.


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