How do you define an on-track battle in F1 racing? Is it a faster car passing a slower one, or a cleverly devised race team’s strategy? No, it’s when two drivers go head to head, and neither one is willing to give up track position! This is when true driving talent prevails and how the best F1 battles were won.
The Best F1 Battles are:
- Mansell Vs Senna Barcelona 1991
- Prost Vs Senna Vs Schumacher South Africa 1993
- Rosberg Vs Villeneuve USA 1982
- Senna Vs Schumacher Vs Wendlinger Vs Hill Vs Prost UK 1993
- Schumacher vs Coulthard USA 2000
- Schumacher vs. Hamilton Italy 2011
- Montoya vs Räikkönen Germany 2002
- Senna vs Mansell Monaco 1992
- Villeneuve vs Pironi San Marino1982
- Arnoux vs Villeneuve France 1979
- Leclerc vs. Hamilton Italy 2019
- Hamilton vs. Rosberg Bahrain 2014
- Hamilton vs. Përez Abu Dhabi 2021
- Ferrari vs. McLaren-Mercedes USA 2021
- Leclerc vs. Gasliy Azerbaijan 2021
- Hamilton vs. Verstappen USA 2018
- Verstappen vs. Hamilton Abu Dhabi 2021 Final Lap Showdown
Since the start of Formula 1, there have always been on-track battles that have stood out and will be remembered for some time. Here is a comprehensive list of the 17 best battles in Formula 1.
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The Best F1 On Track Battles
The best on-track battles in Formula 1 are:
1. Mansell Vs Senna (Barcelona 1991)
On a wet Barcelona track, the two drivers were ready for battle! All the action started when the cars went in for their first pit stop. Mansell and Senna pitted on the same lap, with the McLaren of Senna winning the pit duel by exiting the pit lane in the first position.
Senna let his teammate Burger through, as Mansell was in 5th position and catching up fast. The rain returned, and Senna had a spin placing him in 4th just in front of Mansell. The two fought it out for a few laps, with Mansell pulling alongside Senna on the main straight to pass him. The two cars were wheel to wheel and came very close to touching each other for most of the straight.
Mansell managed to break a split second later than Senna, allowing him to take the position. A true reflection of historical racing. Mansell won the race, with Senna finishing in 5th.
2. Prost Vs Senna Vs Schumacher (South Africa 1993)
The first race of the 1993 season was held at the Kyalami Race Circuit in South Africa. The race started dry with a heavy downpour on the penultimate lap. Prost, Senna, and Schumacher started on the grid in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, respectively. Prost lost his pole position at the start, placing him on 4th with Senna leading and Schumacher in 3rd.
The battle for 2nd was on, and Prost was right behind Schumacher. On lap 13, Prost made his move and dived in early at turn 5 and passed Schumacher. Prost wasted little time and set off after Senna. Five laps later, Prost attempted to pass Senna at turn 1, but Senna managed to fend him off. The battle continued with Prost constantly diving in and unsettling Senna.
Prost had the faster race car and passed Senna on lap 25 by taking the inside line in the turn, making a clean textbook move, taking 1st position, and motoring away from the rest of the field. Schumacher in 3rd and Senna in 2nd both pitted while Prost continued with the old rubber.
Schumacher and Senna started to duel it out after their pit stops. Schumacher was clearly not in the mood to stay behind Senna and made a move on him on the 40th lap. The two cars made contact, and Schumacher spun off and retired. Senna crossed the line in 2nd, with Prost taking the win with a lead of 1:19.8 seconds.
3. Rosberg Vs Villeneuve (USA 1982)
The American Grand Prix was held at a temporary street course in Long Beach. The Battle between Keke Rosburg in the Williams-Ford and Gillies Villeneuve in the Ferrari for 4th place was the highlight of the race.
The smashing battle occurred on lap 19 with Rosberg right behind the Ferrari of Villeneuve. Rosberg managed to get ahead of the Ferrari after the hairpin, but the Ferrari’s power allowed Villeneuve to retake the position down the Shoreline straight.
Rosberg managed to repeat the passing move on the Ferrari at the same spot the very next lap. Villeneuve attempted to pass the Williams on the straight again by out-braking Rosberg in the right-hand turn. But the Ferrari drove over the marbles on the outer track and ended up locking up the wheels and sliding into the escape road.
Villeneuve managed to rejoin in front of Nelson Piquet and finished in 5th place only to be disqualified for an Illegal rear wing. Keke Rosberg went on to take a well-deserved 2nd place behind Nikki Lauda in the McLaren-Ford.
4. Senna Vs Schumacher Vs Wendlinger Vs Hill Vs Prost (UK 1993)
The 1993 European Formula 1 Grand Prix was held at a damp Donnington Park. Arton Senna in the Mclaren proved why he was a 3-time world champion by going from 5th to 1st in less than one lap in the wet.
After being blocked by Schumacher, Senna had a sluggish start and fell from 4th to 5th at the first corner. Senna speedily passed Schumacher at the third corner, and he then passed 3rd place Wendlinger through the Craner Curves. Senna then set his sights on the 2nd place Damon Hill and slipped past him at the Mclean’s corner. Senna was not done yet and set off after Alan Prost.
He passed him at the Melbourne Hairpin and completed the first lap of the European Grand Prix in the first place. Senna went on to win the race ahead of Hill and Prost in the Williams-Renault.
5. Schumacher vs Coulthard (USA 2000)
In 2000 the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix was held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Michael Schumacher was in pole position with David Coulthard in the McLaren-Mercedes in the second position on the grid. When the lights went out, David Coulthard jumped the start and managed to take the lead with Schumacher in 2nd in the Ferrari.
Schumacher was attacking Coulthard in every corner and putting a lot of pressure on him. But Coulthard knew he had jumped the start and would receive a “STOP-GO” penalty. So he played the good teammate and tried to hold the Ferrari up so that Mika Hȁkkinen could catch up.
The Ferrari was the much faster car during this battle, but Coulthard pulled out all the stops and managed to keep the attack from the Ferrari at bay. On lap 5, Schumacher pulled alongside Coulthard and managed to pass him on the outside of turn 1, setting himself up for the apex of turn 2, and took the lead.
Schumacher then had an unchallenged run for the rest of the race and took the win. Coulthard served his penalty and finished 5th.
6. Schumacher vs. Hamilton (Italy 2011)
The 2011 Italian Grand Prix was held at Monza, setting the two former-world champions against each other. Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren-Mercedes was in 4th behind Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes in 3rd. Hamilton tried all his tactics to un-nerve Schumacher but to no avail.
On lap 12, Hamilton managed to get alongside Schumacher on the main straight and took the position at the Variante chicane. Schumacher was not having that and took back 3rd in the Curva Grande curve a few seconds later.
In a later incident, Hamilton was cut off by Schumacher, making him touch the grass at the Curva Grande curve; this allowed Jenson Button to pass him and take 4th. Jenson Button then went on to pass Schumacher a lap later.
Schumacher came into the pits allowing Hamilton to take his position. Schumacher managed to keep Hamilton at bay for 31 laps during this battle.
7. Montoya vs Räikkönen (Germany 2002)
The 2002 German Grand Prix was held at Hockenheim and was an uneventful race, but one battle stood out: Juan Pablo Montoya in the Williams-BMW and Kimi Räikkönen in the Mclaren-Mercedes for 4th place.
On lap 10, Montoya was close enough to Räikkönen to attempt a passing move. At the turn 6 hairpin, Montoya tried to dive outside and was pushed even wider by Räikkönen. Montoya immediately resumed the attack by diving to the inside on the McLaren at turn 9.
Both cars went through side by side, and then a short sprint put Montoya in the correct line for the left-hand turn and allowed him to pass Räikkönen. The battle started at turn 6 and continued non-stop till turn 12. Montoya eventually took 2nd place while Räikkönen spun off the track on lap 59.
8. Senna vs Mansell (Monaco 1992)
Mansell led the race till lap 70 when he pitted due to a loose rear wheel-nut; Senna was in 2nd position 30 seconds behind. When Mansell, in the Williams-Renault, emerged from the pits, he was 5.2 seconds behind race leader Senna in the McLaren-Honda. Mansell managed to catch Senna within two laps and reduced the distance to just 1.9 seconds.
The two drivers dueled it out for the remaining two laps, but Senna proved again that he was a driver that was not easy to overtake. Senna crossed the finish line to win the race with Mansell two-tenths behind. It was Senna’s fourth victory at the Principality and was one to remember.
9. Villeneuve vs Pironi (San Marino 1982)
The two Ferrari’s were in front with Gilles Villeneuve leading Didier Pironi. The third-placed car was almost a minute behind them, so the Ferrari team ordered their drivers to drive slower to lessen the risk of running out of fuel. Villeneuve thought this order also meant that the cars would maintain their position on the track, with Villeneuve in front of teammate, Pironi.
Pironi assumed that the cars were free to race and passed his teammate. Villeneuve thought that Pironi was purely trying to add excitement to a dull race and duly re-passed him. He assumed that he would then keep his position for the remainder of the race. But, Villeneuve failed to protect the inside line going into the Tosa corner on the final lap, and Pironi passed him to take the win.
Villeneuve was furious in what he saw as Pironi’s betrayal, although the opinion inside the Ferrari team garage was split over the true meaning of the order to slow down. As seen on the podium, Villeneuve’s body language showed he was enraged by Pironi’s actions. He quoted afterward saying, “I’ll never talk to Pironi again for the rest of my entire life.”
They proved to be foretelling words, as he was still not on speaking terms with Pironi when he died during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks later. Pironi’s pass on Villeneuve is considered one of the most controversial moments in Formula One.
10. Arnoux Vs Villeneuve (France 1979)
The 1979 French Grand Prix was held in Dijon and produced one of the fiercest battles for 2nd place. Gillis Villeneuve in the Ferrari and Renё Arnoux in the Renault swapped positions five times during a single lap. The two drivers often locked up their wheels, touched each other, and went through corners side by side in an epic display of racing.
The Ferrari eventually managed to fend off the Renault and crossed the line a quarter second ahead to take 2nd place. Gilles Villeneuve described the occasion as “my best memory of Grand Prix racing.”
11. Leclerc vs. Hamilton (Italy 2019)
The 2019 Italian Grand Prix took place at Monza, and to much delight of the crowd, Ferrari took a home win. Hamilton challenged Leclerc in the Ferrari as he exited the pit lane on lap 27, but Leclerc fended him off by entering the chicane first. The two drivers were fighting tooth and nail, trying to force each other into a mistake.
Both drivers had their turn going off the race track, but the Ferrari always managed to have the edge. Hamilton braked too late at turn 1 and had to drive around the barriers, which allowed Valtteri Bottas to pass him. Leclerc won the race with Lewis Hamilton finishing in 3rd place.
12. Hamilton vs. Rosberg (Bahrain 2014)
The 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix took place at the Bahrain International Circuit and put the two Mercedes teammates fighting it out for 1st place. On lap 42, a safety car was deployed, thus reducing the distance between Hamilton (1st) and Rosberg (2nd) to less than a second.
With only 10 laps to go, the Mercedes team radioed both drivers stating that both cars needed to complete the race. As the safety car pulled into the pits, Rosberg was already in attack mode. Rosberg attempted to out-brake Hamilton over the next two laps, but Hamilton defended his line with all he had.
The two teammates traded positions a few times, but Hamilton fought back to retake it. The duel was all about who had taken better care of their tires, and it would be the championship leader Hamilton, who took the checkered flag, with Rosberg a close 2nd.
13. Hamilton vs. Përez (Abu Dhabi 2021)
The 2021 Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix was held at the Yas Marina Circuit and would prove to be the championship decider between Hamilton and Verstappen. But on lap 20, Hamilton would face some fierce defending from the current race leader in the Red Bull, Sergio Perez. Perez only had one job: to hold up Hamilton in the Mercedes so that Verstappen could catch up to them.
Perez managed to defend his position from Hamilton in a show of brilliance. Hamilton managed to pass the Red Bull, but Pérez would snatch the position back in the next corner. Hamilton eventually managed to pass Pérez and take the lead.
Perez was successful in his assigned task as Verstappen had caught up and was only 2 seconds behind. On the back straight, Pérez allowed his teammate Verstappen to activate DRS and let him pass to pursue Hamilton for the lead.
14. Ferrari vs. McLaren-Mercedes (USA 2021)
The United States Grand Prix was held at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. The opening lap proved to be a battle for position between the Ferrari’s of Charles Leclerc (5th) and Carlos Saintz (6th), and the McLaren-Mercedes of Daniel Riccardo (7th) and Lando Norris (8th).
All four drivers had a good start heading into the first corner. The McLarens put pressure on the two Ferrari’s from the start, and heading to turn 3, Riccardo nearly touched wheels with Saintz but backed out of the move.
On the back-straight heading towards turn 12, the two McLaren drivers attempted to pass Carlos Saintz in the braking zone, three abreast as they entered the turn. Saintz was forced wide and went off the track but managed to regain his position ahead of the McLaren’s. Riccardo managed to pass Saintz on the last corner by out-braking the Ferrari and completing the race’s first lap.
15. Leclerc vs. Gasily (Azerbaijan 2021)
The 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix took place at the Baku City Circuit. The race was full of incidents and was suspended due to an accident on the main straight. The race restarted on lap 50 with a standing start, thus placing the Ferrari of Leclerc in 3rd and Alpha Tauri-Honda of Gasily in 4th.
In the penultimate lap, Gasily was right behind the Ferrari on the main straight and passed him by going deep into the corner, but Leclerc took back the position on the next section. Gasily then attempted to pass Leclerc again at the next corner by cutting in front of him in a beautiful passing move and taking 3rd.
16. Hamilton vs. Verstappen (USA 2018)
The 2018 United States Grand Prix was held at the Circuit of the Americas. Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes was in 3rd and needed to finish the race in 2nd to win the World Championship early. Max Verstappen in the Red Bull Honda was currently in 2nd with three laps to go.
Hamilton chased Verstappen and was finally close enough to attempt a passing maneuver at turn 12 but backed out. Verstappen then had a bad exit out of the corner, and Hamilton lunged in for the pass. The Red Bull and Mercedes fought through the next few corners with neither driver willing to give up the fight.
Finally, at turn 17, Hamilton went wide and off the track, and Verstappen could put some distance between them. Hamilton Finished 3rd and would have to wait for the next Grand Prix to take the World Championship.
17. Verstappen vs. Hamilton (Abu Dhabi 2021 Final Lap Showdown)
The 2021 World Champion decider race was held in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen would have a one-lap showdown after a late safety car period due to an accident.
Hamilton was in the lead, and Verstappen in 2nd stopped for new soft tires but had 5 lapped cars between him and the leader. The race Director allowed the lapped cars to un-lap themselves and called for the safety car to enter the pits at the end of the lap. The decision meant that a single lap of racing would commence, with Hamilton in the lead and a rearing Verstappen in 2nd right next to him.
The Lights went green, and the final lap commenced. Verstappen set off behind Hamilton and chased him through the first few corners and then out-braked Hamilton at turn 5 and took the lead. The Red Bull defended the next section by weaving on the track to keep the Mercedes behind.
Hamilton tried to pass Verstappen on the back straight, and the two cars nearly touched, but the Red Bull had the fresher tires and managed to fend off Hamilton. Verstappen took the checkered flag and was crowned the 2021 World Champion.
These best F1 battles are just a few of the iconic battles that have taken place in Formula 1 through the years. The battles stood out because the drivers involved had more to gain than just track positions; these drivers became Formula 1 legends!