With Dusk Till Dawn and partypoker’s Grand Prix Poker Tour hitting the road on November 28th when we head to London’s Stamford Bridge, we thought we’d delve into the history books and look back on some of the most famous Grand Prix clashes in Formula 1. From Schumacher to Senna, Piquet to Hamilton, the world’s fastest sport has always provided the kind of drama that you can be a part of just for playing the £60+10 entry Grand Prix. But can you reach the podium for those big-money places? Start your engines…
Nigel Mansell vs Nelson Piquet – 1986/87
To say that Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet didn’t like each other was a bit like saying Daniel Negreanu and Howard Lederer don’t carpool to their annual Thanksgiving Dinner. Far from other great duels, Mansell and Piquet shared plenty of their animosity during playing for the same team! In 1986, the very fact that they were battling on and off the circuit cost one of the two a chance to stop Alain Prost taking the fabled Drivers’ Championship. Mansell crashed out of the penultimate race, costing him the title, but Piquet, who called Mansell stupid and said his wife was ugly, had already denied his teammate his best shot at the title by hiding a new technical advantage the team had discovered. Piquet took the Hungarian Grand Prix in ’86 because of it, and both men would miss out on Formula 1’s greatest prize.
What Happened Next?
Despite his notorious crash at Imola in 1987, Nelson Piquet became world champion for the third time in that season. Mansell would have to wait until 1992 to become champion, and in doing so became the oldest Formula 1 champion in the last 47 years of the sport. He also remains the most successful recipient of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, winning it in 1986 and 1992.
Alain Prost vs. Ayrton Senna – 1989
Prost and Senna became Grand Prix’s bitterest rivalry in the late eighties when McClaren was home to both the passionate Brazilian and the enigmatic Frenchman. Senna, easily the most gifted Formula 1 driver in a generation, took three World Championship titles between 1988 and 1991. In 1988, he triumphed by the bizarre rule that only each driver’s top 11 results over the season counted towards the Championship, so Prost lost despite accumulating most points. That lit the blue touch paper between the pair, and in the next season, the fireworks really started. With just two races to go, Senna found himself in the position of needing victory in Suzuka to stand any chance of retaining his title. As he attempted to overtake Prost, however, Prost blocked his team-mate and the cars’ wheels met, causing damage to Senna’s car. It was the last action of Prost as a team-mate, with him leaving the team after taking the Championship.
What Happened Next?
Senna would return the favour the very next year – also in Japan – bumping rubber with Prost driving for Ferrari to seal the 1990 title, and became famous for calling Prost ‘a coward’ in a post-race press conference. But in 1994, with Prost having retired, the two men became friends and spoke on the morning of 1st May, 1994 in San Marino about improving safety in F1. Roland Ratzenburger had died in qualifying and Senna rode with an Austrian flag in his car with the intention of raising it in honour of Ratzenburger’s death. But he never got the chance, dying during the race when his car slammed into the tyre wall at 145mph. Prost, who won 51 Grand Prix races and continues to be an active member of the F1 community, was a pallbearer at Senna’s funeral.
Michael Schumacher vs. Damon Hill – 1994
Michael Schumacher may be hailed by many fans as the best Formula 1 driver of all time, but in 1994, he became the villain in a thrilling pantomime against British driver, Damon Hill.
Having battled against each other in a series of odd races during the season in which Senna died on the track, 1994’s climactic moment came in Adelaide, Australia in the very last race of the season. Having led by almost 40 points at one stage, Schumacher served a ban and during that time, Hill caught up with the German. Hill had seen his ‘number one’ driver Senna perish, and then Nigel Mansell return for a stint before David Coulthard joined his Williams team. But in the final shakedown it was all on him, going into the final race in Oz just a single point behind Schumacher.
The drama began when Schumacher hit a wall during the 35th lap and had to return to the track at reduced speed. His car damaged, his rival Hill about to pass him on the next corner, Schumacher turned inside sharply and the two cars collided, writing them both out of the race and preserving Schumacher’s slender lead and therefore the Championship title. Despite race stewards ruling it as an accident, Schumacher was vilified in the British Press.
What Happened Next?
Damon Hill eventually won a World Championship (in 1996), while the same move had disastrous consequences for Schumacher in 1997 when his allegedly deliberate attempt to scupper Jacques Villeneuve’s chances, slamming his Ferrari into Villeneuve’s Williams car. Villeneuve survived the incident and won the title, while Schumacher was disqualified from the championship after his underhand tactics. Hill would go on to succeed Jackie Stewart as President of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, working within racing media for many years. Schumacher, who retired as the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time, suffered a horrendous skiing accident in December 2013 which left him in a coma from which he is still recovering.
Lewis Hamilton vs Felipe Massa – 2008
With the 2008 World Championship coming down to the final race, Felipe Massa knew that he had to win his home country’s Brazilian Grand Prix and hope that his arch-rival Lewis Hamilton finished sixth place or lower to take the title. With just six laps remaining, Hamilton was in 4th, good enough for the World Championship, and the crowd was quiet. But then the rain fell, with everyone except Timo Glock changing to wet tyres. Hamilton was passed twice during the period and fell to sixth place. The partisan home fans roared.
Hamilton was surely going to miss out at the death, just as he had twelve months previously. As Massa took the chequered flag in 1st place, seeing Hamilton back in sixth, he must have thought that the title was his. All he had to do was wait to see the cars cross the line in the order they were at the time. But any Grand Prix is never over until the last corner has been negotiated, and as the heavens opened, Hamilton hung in there… and sensationally passed Timo Glock’s Toyota at the last moment, Glock unable to get any purchase on the slick track with two turns to go. Brazilian tears followed as Hamilton dashed round the final bend and crossed the line in fifth, to win one of the most incredible World Championships in motor racing history by just a single point.
What Happened Next?
Felipe Massa now races for Williams, and has been a consistent F1 performer on the track. But he has still never won the title, finishing no higher than sixth in the years since that fateful battle. Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, just won his third drivers World Championship and also became a BBC Sports Personality of the Year, joining fellow Brits Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell in winning the award.
Sebastian Vettel vs. Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso – 2010
Sebastian Vettel went into the last race of the 2010 season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a whopping 15 points behind two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso and seven behind his own teammate Mark Webber. The German looked like a complete outsider for the title. But having worked his way to pole position in qualifying, Vettel dominated the race, leading from the start and saw both Alonso and Webber stuck back in traffic. Vettel took the chequered flag and the World Championship right at the death as his rivals finished seventh and eighth to seal the unlikeliest of victories.
What Happened Next?
Neither Webber nor Alonso would win a World Championship in the years that followed the showdown at Abu Dhabi, while Vettel followed up on becoming the youngest World Champion in Formula 1 history by winning four titles in a row to earn comparisons with his countryman and hero Michael Schumacher.
Qualify for the Grand Prix Poker Tour at partypoker
Online qualifiers for the Stamford Bridge leg of the 2015 Grand Prix Poker Tour are already running in the partypoker tournament lobby. You can win your way there every day for as little as $2.20 and what’s even better is some of the satellites are Players Choice, which means if you win a seat you can choose which leg’s Day 1 you want to play, so long as it takes place in the next 12-months — how’s that for giving you the ultimate in flexibility?