What impact did previous crashes in the title race have on the championship?

19-07-2021 17:22
by GPblog.com
What impact did previous crashes in the title race have on the championship?

For the first time ever, we have seen Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton hit each other so hard that one of the two drivers crashed out. In the title race, however, this is not an unusual occurrence. We've seen it a lot less in recent years, but in the years when we had a real title fight, it often ended in fumbles somewhere during the season. What were the consequences for the title fight then, after a crash between title rivals?

Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost

Strikingly enough, clashes between title rivals often happen in the last race of the year. This was especially the case in the years of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, where it went wrong in the last race of the season two years in a row. During the first clash, it resulted in Prost retiring and Senna seemingly winning the world title. He was, however, disqualified, because of the way he re-entered the track after the incident.

That meant that the title went to Prost, but it also meant that Senna was determined to win the title a year later. The clash in '89 thus created extra tension for 1990 and extra motivation for Senna to win that title.

Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve

In 1997, the title was to be decided in the final race of the season, in Jerez, between Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve. Three years earlier the title was also decided in the last race, then between the German and Damon Hill. At that time they hit each other and Schumacher won the championship. A repeat of that happened in Jerez, but this time it was Schumacher who lost the championship.

Not only that, but he was disqualified for his actions to take out Villeneuve and removed from the drivers' standings. That major and drastic measure also had an impact on the years that followed. There have been plenty of intense and exciting title fights, but a real clash didn't happen again until the hybrid era.

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton

After Ferrari and Red Bull dominance, where teammates had also been at each other's throats, the hybrid era began with true Mercedes dominance. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were in a class of their own and the two were favourites for the title. The two childhood friends were pleasant with each other in the beginning of their F1 careers, but when the title came along cracks appeared. The first real clash was at Spa, 2014. There, Rosberg smashed Hamilton's rear tyre, knocking the Brit out.

Afterwards, Mercedes kept their drivers in check and also worked more with stable orders to not continuously attack each other. In 2016, however, even more cracks and tensions arose within the team. Rosberg, like Verstappen in 2021, had won four races in a row and Hamilton's deficit was starting to grow.

The Brit had to do something and it would happen in Barcelona. Heading into turn four Hamilton had a lot more speed, but a defensive move by Rosberg sent him onto the grass. He crashed into his teammate and knocked them both out of the race, much to the anger of the team. A few races later, however, the same thing happened again.

In Spielberg, Hamilton got on Rosberg's tail in the closing stages. In an attempt to make up points, Hamilton tried to go around the outside. It resulted in a collision and Rosberg had to cross the finish line with a broken front wing. Again no penalty was given and Mercedes had to keep the drivers under control.

What about Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton?

The similarities between the previous title clashes and the battle between Verstappen and Hamilton are great. In the middle of the season, the flame has started to ignite and another crash seems to be around the corner. A major factor contributing to the entertainment, is that it's now two different teams fighting each other.

The ten second penalty given to Hamilton does indicate that both drivers need to be careful and not put each other in unnecessary danger. The cars are close in performance so there will be plenty of battles on track for position over the next 13 races.

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