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Controversial collisions

Laurence Edmondson November 8, 2011

Following the sixth collision of the season between Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton in India, we look back at ten of the most controversial coming togethers in F1

Schumacher v Hill - 1994 Australian Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill come together at Adelaide in 1994 © Press Association
When the F1 circus reached Australia for the final round of the 1994 season, Michael Schumacher found himself defending a one-point lead in the drivers' title from Damon Hill. Leading, but under pressure from Hill's Williams, Schumacher ran wide on lap 36 and damaged his car against a concrete barrier. Hill, unaware of the damage to the Benetton ahead, threw his car up the inside to try to pass at the next corner, but as he did so Schumacher turned across his bows and eliminated both cars from the race. Although no action was taken by the stewards, the accident immediately raised eyebrows as it handed Schumacher the title. Years later Hill said: "There are two things that set Michael apart from the rest of the drivers in Formula One - his sheer talent and his attitude. I am full of admiration for the former, but the latter leaves me cold."

Mansell v Senna - 1987 Belgian Grand Prix

The 1987 Belgian Grand Prix had to be restarted following a huge accident involving Philippe Streiff and Jonathan Palmer, but it was a subsequent collision between Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna that was the main talking point after the race. Senna took the lead at the restart but Mansell was quicker and attempted to pass around the outside of the Fagnes chicane on the first lap. The pair entered the corner side by side but soon ran out of asphalt, made contact and spun off in unison. Senna beached his Lotus in the gravel and was out on the spot while Mansell struggled on for another 17 laps before returning to the pits with damage. As soon as he was out of his car, Mansell made a b-line for the Lotus garage and took Senna by the scruff of his overalls, dangling his rival a couple of inches off the ground. Veteran F1 journalist Alan Henry later wrote: "The message he was seeking to convey was unmistakable."

Senna v Prost - 1989 Japanese Grand Prix

A frequent addition to F1 crash compilations, the collision between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix was one of the most controversial of all time. On lap 46 the McLaren team-mates, who were fighting for the title with Prost holding a 16 point lead, came together at the final chicane as Senna went to overtake the Frenchman. Prost turned in on his team-mate and the pair tangled wheels before coming to halt in a run-off area. "I know everybody thinks I did it on purpose," Prost said later. "But what I say is that I did not open the door, and that's it … he tried to pass and for me the way he did it was impossible, because he was going so much quicker than usual into the braking area. As we came up to the chicane, he was so far back. When you look in your mirrors, and a guy is 20 metres behind you, it's impossible to judge, and I didn't even realise he was trying to overtake me. But at the same time I thought, 'There's no way I'm going to leave him even a one-metre gap. No way'. I came off the throttle braked - and turned in." As Prost climbed out of his crocked McLaren, Senna managed to re-start his car and continued down the escape road with some help from the marshals. He went on to win the race but was later disqualified for missing the chicane after a lengthily meeting with FISA officials. The decision meant Prost was world champion while Senna, infuriated at the decision, had to wait 12 months to get his own back...

Senna v Prost - 1990 Japanese Grand Prix

Ayrton Senna collides with Alain Prost at Suzuka © Getty Images
The events of the previous year were still festering in Senna's mind when arrived at Suzuka, and ahead of the race his emotions were tested to breaking point by a decision to keep his pole position grid slot on the dirty side of the track. He blamed FISA president Jean-Marie Balestre for manipulating the championship 12 months earlier and felt the same when his request for pole position to be moved to the other side of the grid was denied. As he predicted, Senna got a slow start from the dirty side of the grid and vented his frustration by piling into Prost at the first corner. In 1991 he revealed what his thought process ahead of the race: "I said to myself 'OK, you try to work cleanly and do the job properly and then you get f**ked by stupid people. All right, if tomorrow Prost beats me off the line, at the first corner I will go for it, and he better not turn in because he is not going to make it'. And it just happened." The accident put both drivers out of the race and gave Senna his second world championship.

Schumacher v Villeneuve - 1997 European Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher came to the final round of the 1997 championship with a chance of winning Ferrari's first title since 1979. As in 1994, he went into the finale with a one point lead and once again he was prepared to defend it at all costs. His challenger for the title was Williams' Jacques Villeneuve and on lap 47 the Canadian attempted to pass on the inside of the Dry Sac corner. Schumacher - in a similar move to the one on Hill three years earlier - turned in on him, breaking his Ferrari's suspension but leaving the Williams with minor damage. "The car felt very strange," Villeneuve said after being crowned world champion. "The hit was very hard. It was not a small thing." Schumacher was later disqualified from the championship by the FIA.

Schumacher v Coulthard - 1998 Belgian Grand Prix

A wet race at Spa-Francorchamps exploded on the 24th lap, when race leader Michael Schumacher came to lap the recovering David Coulthard. Schumacher's title rival was Coulthard's McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen, who was already out of the race, and Ferrari boss Jean Todt had been down to McLaren to request that Coulthard get out of the way. The McLaren duly lifted to allow the Ferrari past but stayed on the racing line while doing so and Schumacher, unsighted by spray, ploughed into the back of the McLaren. After making it back to the pits Schumacher stormed up to the McLaren garage - along with numerous TV cameras - and had to be restrained as he shouted to Coulthard: "Are you trying to f***ing kill me?"

Piquet v Salazar - 1982 German Grand Prix

Nelson Piquet throws a punch at Eliseo Salazar after their collision at Hockenheim © youtube
Nelson Piquet was leading the 1982 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim when he attempted to pass backmarker Eliseo Salazar at one of the circuits low-speed chicane. He was comfortably alongside the ATS and should have had the corner when Salazar failed to slow his car and clattered into the side of Piquet's Brabham, putting them both out of the race. However, the drama was not over and Piquet rushed up to Salazar kicking and punching. The marshals eventually separated them, and Piquet stomped off to a nearby marshals' car which ferried him back to the pits (Salazar had to walk). A few months later Piquet learned from a mechanic that his engine had been about to expire anyway and he rang Salazar to apologise, thanking him for saving BMW an embarrassing engine failure at their home grand prix.

Hunt v Mass - 1977 Canadian Grand Prix

Being taken out by a backmarker is one thing, but it's quite another when the backmarker is your team-mate. Such an incident left James Hunt livid at fellow McLaren driver Jochen Mass during the 1977 Canadian Grand Prix and he ended up taking out his aggression out on an unsuspecting marshal. Hunt had been in a tight battle for the lead with Mario Andretti when the pair came up to lap Mass. As Hunt attempted to pass his McLaren team-mate on the inside the pair made contact and he ploughed into the catch fencing at 100mph, puttingh him out of the race. "I was right up his chuff," Hunt explained. "I was forced to go left … then he suddenly moved across to the left, hit the brakes and waved me through on the right. But I was committed and couldn't avoid him … I hit him right up the arse." After clambering out of his car, Hunt stood on the side of the track angrily waving his fist at Mass. When a marshal tried to usher Hunt away, the 1976 world champion responded with a crisp right hook that laid the marshal out cold. Hunt immediately tried to apologise but was later fined $750 for walking on the track and $2000 for thumping the official.

Hill v Bandini - 1964 Mexican Grand Prix

Graham Hill arrived at the final round of the 1964 world championship in Mexico City with a five point lead in the driver's standings over Ferrari's John Surtees and a nine point lead over Lotus' Jim Clark. A top two finish would secure him the title if Surtees won and third would be good enough if Clark, who started from pole, took top honours. Things got off on the wrong foot, however, when the elastic on his goggles broke before the start and the delay sorting them out dropped him to 10th. He fought back to third by lap 12 but started to come under pressure from Lorenzo Bandini, who dived up the inside of the BRM on several occasions but failed to pass - prompting some fist waving from the usually-composed Briton. On lap 31 Bandini made an even more opportunistic lunge and the pair made contact, spinning the BRM backwards into the barrier. Both managed to rejoin the race, but a bent exhaust restricted the performance of Hill's engine and he had to make a lengthily pit stop for repairs, ruining his shot at the title. There were some suggestions of foul play after the race, given that the title went to Bandini's Ferrari team-mate Surtees, but BRM team boss Louis Stanley was having none of it: "After the race accusations were slung around. Some said that Bandini had deliberately crashed the BRM as part of Ferrari tactics. I was reluctant to agree. By temperament Bandini was fiery and impulsive, a fearless driver but never guilty of doubtful tactics … Before we left the circuit Dragoni, Ferrari team manager, Forghieri chief engineer, and Bandini came to the pit and apologised. Bandini was in tears. Everyone shook hands. As far as BRM was concerned, the incident was closed."

Webber v Vettel - 2010 Turkish Grand Prix

There were no hand shakes at Red Bull following the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix, as the team was split down the middle following a collision between its drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. On lap 41 Vettel got alongside Webber on the inside of turn 12 but drifted back across his team-mate's path as they entered the braking zone. A puff of tyre smoke later and both were heading for the run off area with Vettel's car terminally damaged. The collision cost Red Bull a near-certain one-two victory, but had much longer lasting consequences as it created a rift between the two sides of the garage that is still evident today. The team tried to plaster over the cracks in the immediate aftermath, but Webber made his feelings known at both the British and Brazilian Grands Prix later that year.