You often hear that the one of the goals a driver always has in F1 is to beat his team-mate. It’s understandable – here you have a guy who has the same machinery and same access as you, and in a naturally competitive sport you want to be the better driver in that machinery. Quite often over the 60+ wonderful years that F1 has been entertaining us though some team-mate battles tend to go very sour. I’m talking the likes of Senna vs. Prost, or Hamilton vs. Alonso (although that was a team issue for Alonso more than anything), or Reutemann vs. Jones – some of the more feisty, heated battles within a team that I can think of. Yet despite these rivalries, there’s been plenty of good, healthy team-mate battles over the years and it’s been this week that I’ve been mulling over these friendships, pointing out a few good hearted team-mate battles from time to time.
Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button (aka The Dream Team)
Ahh, of course. The ultimate team in my book and my all time favourite combination of drivers personally. But even from a neutral perspective, you’d be mad to ignore how good friends these guys were on and off the track during their Honda and Brawn days and how good of a team they made. There was, and still is, an obvious mutual respect for each other even during the tense Championship winning times of 2009. Eddie Jordan himself proclaimed them as the ‘Dream Team’ (several years later after the rest of us Honda fans were calling them that, ahem!) and Rubens said within that same interview how Jenson was the nicest and best team-mate he’s had in F1. Quite right too – they stuck together through difficult times at Honda and the demise of the team, and they always got on, and even when moving away from their Brawn drives the friendship was still there. They were just too awesome. No matter how many times I see photos of them celebrating their success as a team it’s just awesome stuff. Truly the Dream Team line up in my eyes.
Tony Brooks and Sir Stirling Moss
I get the feeling that fans who may know a bit into the history of the sport may be wondering why, during this period, I haven’t gone for the likes of Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins who were a notoriously wonderful bunch of team mates whose lives were cut too short. Brooks and Moss stand out even more so for me for the fact, if you read back on the life of Sir Stirling Moss and you read/listen to his career and what he has to say, you’ll find out that Sir Stirling regarding Brooks as the greatest unknown racing driver there has ever been. Despite his name not being historically synonymous with the sport compared to others around the time, Brooks often found himself pushing Moss to be even faster with the two taking Vanwall as high up the championship alongside their battles with Mike Hawthorn. Not quite as close as my other examples perhaps but still quite the team who were still total gentlemen to each other, even if it is way before my time.
Gilles Villeneuve and Jody Sheckter
You have to think how lucky Ferrari were to have a team like this, the combination of strategy and pace working so well together as a team. It wasn’t just that though – Jody and Gilles really got on like a house on fire. In this case, it’s almost as if opposites attract; whilst Jody has stated his goal was always to be safe and came across as much more strategical in his route to victory, Gilles quite clearly would go ahead and be as fast as he possible could and never back down without that fear. If you were that good though you would. But I think that’s what makes them such an appealing team in the history of this sport – Jody quite clearly knew just how good Gilles was and never held a bitter word against him. In fact, he later went on to call Gilles the most genuine person he’s ever known not only in Formula 1 but in life. The perfect proof of a good-natured rivalry between the closest of team mates.
Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger
Now here’s a team for you – the man who took his job more seriously than all others and the man who loved his pranks more than anyone else. In fact Gerhard once said that Ayrton was the man who taught him to take his job seriously, and he (Gerhard) was the man who taught Senna how to laugh. You hear so many brilliantly stupid stories of Gerhard’s pranks and you get the idea that he understood Senna. There’s no denying that Ayrton was incredibly intense in his passion for what he did but I think when you consider some of the team mates Senna has fought against, it was something else to have a team-mate who could clearly have fun with this intense character rather than let it put them off. You’d be mad not to dig up some of the cracking little tales you hear from their friendship. One of the ones I can think of is the time Berger put animals in Senna’s hotel room and Senna replied by filling his air conditioning with bad cheese but that was just a sign of how brilliant their partnership was as a team. There’s another story of Senna and Berger involving a passport, but for family friendly purposes I’ll leave that one out…
There are plenty more out there I’m sure. A few quick other ones I can think of are the likes of Alonso and Trulli who seemed to get on fantastically well during their time at Renault together, and you could also bring up Hakkinen and Coulthard despite the obvious favouritism to Mika, but I’m sure DC would be hard to deny how good friends they are now following their spell at McLaren. Going back a bit further into history, Prost and Lauda always seemed to have a good rapport with one another as I have a distinct memory of reading a quote from Niki Lauda saying how in their years together as team mates there was only one time a setup wasn’t shared between them. See, you don’t have to hate each other’s guts to succeed after all!