How Hamilton's rivalries lead to bad blood ahead of Russell pairing

Civil war with Fernando Alonso and the collapse of a friendship with Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton is not new to bad blood with fellow drivers on the F1 grid… and fireworks could fly when paired with George Russell in 2022

  • Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are set to become Mercedes team-mates
  • The pairing between the British drivers could spark another famous F1 rivalry
  • The seven-time world champion is unhappy at the potential line-up next term 
  • Hamilton has feuded with many top drivers throughout his illustrious career
  • Sportsmail looks at how Hamilton’s fierce rivalries often lead to bad blood 

You don’t win seven world championships in 14 years of Formula One without making a few enemies along the way and Lewis Hamilton is no different.

The 36-year-old has been at loggerheads with one driver or another for much of his career and it seemed the last of those would be his current title rival Max Verstappen over at Red Bull.

Yet there could be another rivalry stewing for 2022 after it was revealed that Williams’ young star George Russell will replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes next term. 

Lewis Hamilton is pictured on Thursday arriving at the Zandvoort circuit for the Dutch GP

The Brit’s arrival follows news breaking of him being paired with George Russell next season

The move is said to have ‘gone down like a lead balloon’ with Hamilton who had preferred to have the slower and more compliant Bottas alongside him for a sixth consecutive season.

Nevertheless, it bring a challenge to Hamilton’s dominance at Mercedes and he will relish the fight having faced up to many feuds during his time in F1. 

Whether it is a rookie McLaren driver or in a battle with a fellow multi-world champion, Hamilton has seemingly always been at war – and often thrived on it – as we look back at some of his biggest feuds in Formula One. 

Russell (right), pictured with Sebastian Vettel on Thursday, has impressed in Formula One

Fernando Alonso

Curiously, Hamilton finds himself in a similar situation to the one right at the start of his Formula One career in 2007 when he was the ‘George Russell’.

While the scenarios are not exactly the same there are similarities. Hamilton was coming into a team where his team-mate was the biggest dog in the yard in the world champion – Fernando Alonso.

Little was known about the young Brit from Stevenage at this point of his career but while there was high promise – very few expected him to launch himself into a title challenge. 

Alonso was still as quick as he ever was, but Hamilton too was straight on the pace. The problem was Alonso only joined the team that year from Renault believing he would have undisputed No 1 status, and this situation was unsustainable.

At first it was typical team-mate pettiness. Hamilton and Alonso thought they were denied chances to challenge each other for victory in Monaco and USA respectively but the situation soon exploded in Hungary.

Hamilton and his first team-mate Fernando Alonso enjoyed a positive start at McLaren in 2007

But as the two feuded on track (Monaco, above) their rivalry very quickly intensified 

With Hamilton disobeying team orders during qualifying by gaining a clear track in front of Alonso, the Spaniard responded by parking his car in the pit-lane in front of his rookie team-mate, thus denying him the chance of a final qualification lap.

This was about as public as their spat got but behind the scenes the toxicity in their relationship was so damning that Alonso believed the team were sabotaging him in favour of Hamilton who had garnered much support within McLaren.

McLaren’s season never recovered. The fallout led to McLaren being thrown out of the constructors’ championship and fined $100m after evidence leaked of the team possessing 800 pages of Ferrari information in the infamous spygate scandal.

Meanwhile the civil war between the drivers saw them take points off each other, allowing Kimi Raikkonen to make a late season charge to snatch the championship from both by one point. 

Another season of such a bitter feud was never going to be allowed under team boss Ron Dennis and it was Alonso who would depart back to Renault, with Hamilton, not for the only time in his career, soon benefitting from a slower and more compliant Finnish team-mate in Heikki Kovalainen.

It boiled over at the Hungarian Grand Prix when Alonso held Hamilton up in the pits during qualifying, denying his team-mate a final run for pole position

A stoney faced Hamilton soaks race winner Alonso with champagne at the Italian Grand Prix, with both missing out on the world championship by one point in 2007

Jenson Button

After two years with Kovalainen, Hamilton was given his next serious test when world champion Jenson Button moved over from Brawn to challenge his status as McLaren’s No 1.

This time it was Hamilton who was favoured to come out on top but few could confidently predict how F1’s two previous world champions would settle at Woking.

While Hamilton seemed to have an edge on outright pace, Button found a way to make Lewis uncomfortable within his own team and he would often craft an avenue to beat his rival over a weekend.

Button’s charm made him very popular in the team and with his seemingly relaxed demeanour was keen to engage in mind games with Hamilton – even if they did not always work.

The pair had a couple of on-track battles with them going wheel-to-wheel at the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix which left neither driver happy with the other’s conduct. A year later they clashed again in the famous 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, this time with Hamilton suffering damage before Button went on to famously win.

Button found another rival at McLaren with Jenson Button, who he was paired with until 2012

The two battled closely and competitively during three seasons together at the Woking outfit

The biggest feud was perhaps the most bizarre of the lot, when Hamilton curiously tweeted telemetry of his and Button’s lap around the Spa circuit on the weekend of the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix – a move that angered McLaren in his final season with the team.

Later he sparked another row when he accused Button of unfollowing him on Twitter, saying: ‘Just noticed Button unfollowed, that’s a shame. After three years as teammates, I thought we respected one another but clearly he doesn’t.

‘Funny thing is, we are STILL teammates! All good though, I plan on giving this team & fans all I got til’ I cross the finish line in Brazil!!!’

However he was left red faced when Button revealed that he never followed Hamilton in the first place, to which the Brit apologised.

During their three seasons as team-mates, Button arguably got the upper hand as he finished with more points over the period of 58 races, taking a total of 672 points compared to Hamilton’s tally of 657.

Hamilton though did come out on top in two of those three seasons and while bad blood did develop during this time, the respect between the drivers remained – even if they were not the best of friends. 

However, Hamilton’s relationship with McLaren severely declined during this period, ultimately leading to his move to Mercedes in 2013 where he would team up with a childhood friend…

They had collisions on track though, with a clash at the Canadian Grand Prix in 2011 (above) seeing Hamilton forced into retirement as Button went on to win

Despite not being close friends, the pair enjoyed a respectable relationship in the team

Nico Rosberg

There is bad blood and then there is Hamilton vs Rosberg. As rivalries go this is arguably the biggest ever and that includes Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost’s battles which at their peak captivated the F1 world between 1988 and 1990.

The fascination behind this was the drivers were once very good friends. Watch the pair first sharing a podium at the Australian Grand Prix in 2008 as evidence of that following their time as karting team-mates while growing up.

Sparks started to fly as soon as their second race together at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix when Rosberg was left unhappy at being forced to settle for a fourth place behind his new team-mate, but there was little drama until a year later when they diced in the desert for victory in Bahrain, with Hamilton just coming out on top.

On the surface, the post-race playful sparring between the two suggested they could get along in a title fight, but that would soon deteriorate.

Rosberg’s grabbed a controversial pole in Monaco after his late stoppage denied Hamilton another lap, and after the German led a Mercedes one-two on race day, Hamilton effectively declared their friendship over when he said: ‘We are not friends. We are colleagues.’ 

Hamilton soaks Williams’ Nico Rosberg with champagne at the  2008 Australian Grand Prix

The pair who were good friends in their youth were team-mates at Mercedes for four seasons

They clashed on track in Belgium, leading to Rosberg being blamed by the team before Hamilton took the title later that year. The rivalry would only grow in 2015.

As Hamilton dominated the championship, he took a stunning victory in the USA in front of Rosberg to retain his crown, and in a questionable act of sportsmanship tossed the second place cap on a table in the warmdown room before the podium ceremony to Rosberg, who in fury petulantly threw it straight back.

By now the pair’s relationship was non-existent, they never looked comfortable within five meters of each other and they were beyond trying to pretend otherwise. That soon spread to the track too when neither would give an inch of space to each other at the start of the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix where leading one-two and battling for the lead they collided putting them both out of the race.

Even Mercedes by this point had to intervene in the civil war – with team boss Toto Wolff furious that both drivers were putting themselves before the team.

Their rivalry for championships though saw their friendship turn sour, with Hamilton denying it existed after Rosberg’s victory at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix (above)

But Hamilton quickly established himself as top dog by winning the 2014 and 2015 world titles

The rivalry never ever simmered, and it came to a climax at the final race of the season when Rosberg needed just a third place to win the championship. Despite leading the race, Hamilton did everything he could to slow down and push his bitter rival running in second towards other rivals to try and force him to drop positions, despite radio calls from all members of Mercedes senior staff telling him to protect a one-two finish.

Hamilton’s dismay on the podium at having to watch Rosberg celebrate his championship was clear to see. Rosberg’s immediate retirement days later, drew a few barbs from the dethroned champion.

‘This is the first time he’s won in 18 years, hence why it was not a surprise that he decided to stop. But he’s also got a family to focus on and probably wants to have more children,’ Hamilton said.

As Hamilton developed a new rivalry with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for the following season, he still hadn’t quite shaken the Rosberg irritation. When quizzed if Vettel would prove a tougher prospect than Rosberg, he replied: ‘Definitely, this year you are seeing the best drivers at the top.’

Even five years on, there is still no sign of Hamilton and Rosberg’s relationship repairing. 

The Mercedes team-mates took each other out at the start of the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix

Hamilton (right) looks on as Nico Rosberg celebrates winning the 2016 title with his wife Vivian

Sebastian Vettel

An act in two parts. While Vettel was at Red Bull and winning four consecutive world championships between 2010 and 2013, there was barely anything close to a real battle between the pair – with Hamilton largely trying to stave off the Button threat.

But that doesn’t mean Hamilton was disinterested in the German. Despite the four world championships, the Brit would often allude to how Vettel’s success was largely down to his superior Red Bull machinery rather than his skill.

However it wasn’t until the two fought directly for the title in 2017 and 2018 that the rivalry intensified.

During the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Vettel was given a penalty after purposefully driving into Hamilton under the safety car, having accused the Brit of brake testing him. Hamilton could barely contain his fury after the race.

Hamilton struggled to battle with Sebastian Vettel while the German dominated with Red Bull

Hamilton would allude to Red Bull’s car superiority as being a key factor for Vettel’s success

‘He was obviously sleeping and driving alongside and deliberately driving into a driver and coming away scot-free is a disgrace. He disgraced himself’, Hamilton said.

‘If he wants to prove he’s a man, we should do it out of the car face-to-face. Driving dangerously in any way can put another driver at risk.’

The rivalry simmered soon after, coincidentally along with the German and Ferrari’s competitiveness as Hamilton comfortably won the championship in 2017 and 2018.

These days the pair have a mutual respect on track, with their dual concern in promoting diversity within F1 helping them bond within the paddock now Vettel is no longer in the championship hunt.

When at Ferrari, Vettel’s deliberate crash into Hamilton at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix under the safety car led to Hamilton branding his title rival a disgrace

But the rivalry soon simmered as Hamilton easily dominated the battle with Ferrari

Max Verstappen

Hamilton and Verstappen have never been the best of buddies away from the track so it was perhaps inevitable that by throwing a world championship inbetween the pair, they were never going to develop a friendship from that point.

Halfway through the 2021 season and watching the two attack the same piece of tarmac leaves you watching through your fingers on your face. When two aggressive drivers who rarely yield go head-to-head a crash is inevitable.

And that is exactly what happened at the British Grand Prix this season. Battling for the lead on the opening lap, the pair attacked an apex at the same time, leading to Verstappen finding a crash barrier and then a hospital, and Hamilton a winner’s trophy at his home race.

Hamilton and Max Verstappen share a discussion following the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix

This term the pair have battled fiercely on track including at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Verstappen criticised Hamilton for pushing him off the track into the barrier, an act that resulted in Hamilton being handed a 10-second penalty, but Lewis has admitted he would attack the corner the same way again.

He said: ‘In terms of the move, I would do it exactly the way… I did it last [time]. In terms of how I’ve reviewed it and analysed from all my experience, and my experience obviously with over the years speaks for a lot, I wouldn’t change it.

The pair are yet to have a fierce direct war of words, and there is clear respect of each other’s skill as a Formula One driver.  However there is a tense and perhaps frosty atmosphere between the pair and it is likely that this feud has not quite reached its peak yet… watch this space.

The duo shake hands at the French Grand Prix, with both vying for the 2021 world title

However, a controversial collision at the British Grand Prix in June has led to tensions rising between the pair and they could rise further as the season gathers pace

George Russell

Russell hasn’t even arrived at Mercedes nor challenged Hamilton on the track yet already seems to have gotten under his British compatriot’s skin.

That is perhaps an indirect compliment from Hamilton to his incoming team-mate at Mercedes, as there is little reason why Lewis would feel so cold towards Russell outside of his threat as a driver.

This bad blood started at the Sakhir Grand Prix last season when Hamilton, laid low from coronavirus, was replaced by the Williams driver who then stunned many by nearly going on to win the race before bad luck intervened. 

So strong was his performance, Hamilton desperately crawled off his sick bed to deny the Brit another chance to impress at the following grand prix in Abu Dhabi to end the season.

Russell is set to follow Hamilton as the next big thing at Mercedes from next season

The young Brit has already replaced the seven-time world champion at one race, with only poor luck denying him victory at last season’s Sakhir Grand Prix

The damage was done though. Russell’s drive was evidence he could perform at the top and it was a strong hand in negotiation for Mercedes as they renewed a deal with Hamilton for 2021.

Now 36-years-old, Hamilton can perhaps sense that the new era are rising in F1 and at 23-years-old Russell offers longevity and speed which Mercedes can bank on.

Crucially, he is quick too – maybe too quick – with Russell threatening to put Hamilton under much more pressure on the track than the seven-time world champion’s current team-mate Valtteri Bottas has done since 2017. 

There was a comfortable enough fist bump between the pair at the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend but the ‘up for grabs’ nature of being Mercedes’ top dog is going to create a frosty atmosphere that will unlikely thaw in 2022. 

The two share a fist bump on the podium at last Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix but Hamilton is unhappy that Russell will be paired alongside him at Mercedes next term

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