Controversy is part and parcel of the Formula 1 scene. From the moment the season starts, to the very last race, there is always something happening that causes a stir. From disqualifications to political issues, this comprehensive guide delves into the most heated and debated moments in F1 sport’s history, from driver rivalries to race suspensions. Get ready to dive into the thrilling races, personal dramas and real puzzles of the biggest F1 controversies of all time.
- Before we start: Why do F1 controversies occur?
- Drivers' Duels Are One Of The Biggest F1 Controversies
- Gilles Villeneuve vs. Didier Pironi
- Niki Lauda vs James Hunt at the British Grand Prix 1976.
- Ayrton Senna vs Alain Prost: the duel at the Japanese Grand Prix all year long.
- Michael Schumacher in the epicenter of the F1 controversies.
- Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix 2021.
- Hamilton And Verstappen Delivered FIA as MaFIA on Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021
- Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen: Formula 1 Abu Dhabi 2021 controversy
- Formula 1's team orders are a source of controversy
- Formula 1 teams' orders in the past
- Michael Schumacher vs Rubens Barrichello: unnecessary team order at the Austrian Grand Prix 2002.
- 'Multi 21’ or Sebastian Vettel vs Mark Webber at the Malaysian Grand Prix 2013
- Fernando Alonso vs Lewis Hamilton Hungarian Grand Prix 2007.
- Sebastien Vettel vs Charles Leclerc at the Brazilian Grand Prix 2019.
- Charles Leclerc vs Carlos Sainz at the British Grand Prix 2022
- The Biggest F1 Controversies: The Rules Issues That Raised Stirs
- McLaren vs. Ferrari or the Spygate in 2007 Formula 1 season.
- Nelson Piquet Jr. and Crashgate, the worst of F1 controversies of all time.
- What happened to the Force India F1 team?
- The tyre fiasco or the most controversial F1 race – Indianapolis US Grand Prix 2005
- The Belgium Grand Prix 2021 controversy
- Red Bull's Budget Cap is the most significant F1 controversy against the FIA rules
- The other debatable controversies of the 2022 F1 season
- #1 Race Director Decisions in F1 2022 season
- #2 Disobeying Team Orders
- #3 Oscar Piastri in the epicentere of F1 controversy 2022.
- #4 Mercedes cars' porpoising and Regulation Change
- #5 F1 sprint races: to be or not to be?
- #6 Conversion from 13-inch to 18-inch tires
- #7 F1 no piercing rule: What is wrong with wearing jewellery in Formula 1?
- Finishing on the controversies in F1
Before we start: Why do F1 controversies occur?
First, the origins of the F1 controversies lie in the rules contained in the FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations. Essentially, every aspect of racing is governed by a vast number of regulations: from the weight of the driver to the date of the race. Each date and every penny in F1 racing has to be agreed with the FIA.
Second, in most cases, it is difficult for teams and drivers to always follow each point of the rules as many factors sometimes interfere with the race. For instance, unpredictable crashes and weather conditions. In some cases, personal tension at the track may cause drivers to make mistakes, incur penalties, or, even worse, cause a fatal accident. While human errors also take place.
Another reason why there are controversies in Formula 1 is because in searching for the highest results, F1 teams are tempted to disregard the rules. Time has shown, however, that these cases always end in scandal and fail.
Accordingly, the more rules and tension Formula One racing has the more disputes arise over the races. However, the opposite is also true: the fewer rules, the more stirs.
The stirs in Formula 1 can rise around something as simple as two cars clashing or something as complex as intra-team collusion or even corporate espionage. However, rivalries between two drivers are usually more heated and controversial.
Drivers’ Duels Are One Of The Biggest F1 Controversies
Even in Formula 1 in the 90s, there weren’t as many regulations as there are now. The sport of racing at that time had many heated moments, though, that could have touched your heart and left you puzzled at the same time.
Gilles Villeneuve vs. Didier Pironi
Ferrari teammates Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi fell out in 1982 in unbelievable circumstances.
It was simply a matter of finishing to receive warm greetings from the Tifosi at the Italian San Marino GP. They were placed 1-2 when their main rival Alain Prost’s Renault retired on lap four. Using the table “SLOW,” Ferrari urged drivers not to attack each other.
Villeneuve was sure that meant he would hold his 1st place. Therefore, when Pironi passed him, Gilles thought his teammate was just playing to the crowd. He repassed Pironi and slowed down. In 1982, the San Marino GP should have ended that way, but Pironi changed his mind during the last lap. With a strong charge, he overtook Villeneuve and won the race. Gilles was empty. Pale-faced, he didn’t even wait until the awards ceremony began.
Belgian Grand Prix 1982
He never spoke to Pironi again. Two weeks later, when Pironi took 6th in qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, the rivalry continued. He was just one tenth of a second faster than his teammate.
With a vow to revenge, Villeneuve went to the last attempt with his final set of qualifying tyres. He came over the rise after the first chicane and caught Jochen Mass, who was slow. Mass moved to the right to let him through. But Villeneuve also moved right and his Ferrari hit the back of Mass’ car. He was launched into the air at a speed of about 225 km/h.
It was airborne for more than 100 m before nosediving into the ground along the edge of the track. Villeneuve, still strapped to his seat, was alive, but suffered a fatal fracture of the neck.
Many fingers were pointed as drivers, teams, and officials clashed over who was to blame for the tragic events. In an investigation conducted by a Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) safety inspector, Villeneuve was found to be at fault.
Many believe he was pushing too hard in an attempt to beat Pironi, but these are just assumptions, as we will never know the truth. Pironi died four years later in a crash while offshore powerboat racing. His girlfriend, Catherine Goux, would give birth to twins shortly afterwards, naming them Gilles and Didier in honour of two of motorsport’s famous lost stars.
Niki Lauda vs James Hunt at the British Grand Prix 1976.
The 1976 season was perhaps the most famous in the history of the sport.The duel between Niki Lauda and James Hunt formed the basis of the action drama film Rush. The movie still leads the list of the best movies about Formula 1.
Both were racing champions. Niki Lauda’s greatness was more than just time records. Lauda suffered a terrible accident in 1976 and came back to racing.
However, before Lauda’s horrific crash at Nürburgring, there was the British GP 1976 that caused controversies among F1 fans.
Hunt qualified in second place, but dropped back after a poor start. Clay Regazzoni lunged up and broke the rear wheel of Lauda’s car. During the accident, multiple cars smashed into each other. Hunt became caught in the chaos. Red flags stopped the race.
After a while, the stewards announced that the drivers who had completed the first lap could restart the race. Both Lauda and Hunt were ready to restart, as they completed the first lap. However, Hunt had taken a shortcut back to the pits and technically had not crossed the finish line. Therefore, Hunt was all set to be disqualified. But British F1 fans were so furious that officials had no choice. They allowed Hunt to restart the race in his repaired McLaren.
What makes it most stirring is that James Hunt won the British Grand Prix in 1976. McLaren’s rivals protested, but the FIA rejected them.
Ayrton Senna vs Alain Prost: the duel at the Japanese Grand Prix all year long.
One of the fiercest and most controversial duels in F1 is the Magic Senna-The Professor rivalry.
In 1989, these two were friends, but as it often happens, everything has changed since they became teammates at McLaren. Upon initiating their feud, it began escalating beyond their control. That time, 34 years old Alain Prost publicly stated he was growing weary of 29 years old Senna’s aggressive driving on track. That was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to tension.
The Japanese Grand Prix of 1989 and 1990 had serious championship repercussions. In the aftermath, Prost and Senna accused each other of the incidents.
Japanese Grand Prix 1989
The penultimate Japanese Grand Prix decided the 1989 Drivers’ Championship. Ayrton Senna was fastest in qualifying while Prost took second, but Prost turned into Senna’s car on lap 47 and threw him off the track, causing tension to peak. Senna returned to the pits to repair his McLaren, however, he was disqualified.
That’s how Prost secured the world championship in 1989. All hell broke loose with heated debates about what was right and what was wrong. Even Jean-Marie Balestre, president of FISA (FIA) at the time, was clouded by doubt. Senna was sure the Frenchman was favoring Prost. A scandal had arisen, and McLaren backed Senna, while Prost left the team. Although their paths diverged, the battle between them continued the next year.
Japanese Grand Prix 1990
This time Alain Prost was driving for Ferrari and Ayrton Senna for McLaren. The story repeats. Senna took pole in Saturday’s qualifying, but he was furious to find out that the polesitter would start on the dirty inside of the grid. With a cleaner side, Prost started second.
With his Ferrari team-mate Gerhard Berger they spoke to the Japanese stewards to request a change of position to the clean side of the track. The stewards initially agreed. Jean Marie Balestre, the FISA (FIA) president, rejected the decision later that night. And each one placed the original pole position on the track.
Senna vowed that if Prost entered the first corner first they would not both exit it. The prophecies tend to come true. Prost got the better start on the clean side of the track, extending his lead as they swept into the first corner. As soon as he lifted in Senna blocked into the back of Prost’s Ferrari at about 130mph. Two cars crashed over the barriers in turn one’s gravel trap.
Senna won the title of Formula 1 champion in 1990 as a result.
Senna – Prost controversy.
After the race, Prost labeled his rival a “disgusting” man. Yes, that was a battle beyond the edge. Due to Senna’s willingness to put himself and Prost at risk, he was blamed for his unsporting attitude. Alternatively, some claimed Ayrton Senna’s lust for victory led to the pursuit of victory in any way possible. That was what Prost did to Senna a year ago at the same Grand Prix!
After a while, he said, “Alain, you have to stay in F1. Nobody motivates me among the other drivers like you do”. That was the most notable quote from Ayron Senna about their rivalry.
It’s emblematic of how sport and racing have changed people. After twenty years there are still hot debates about who was a better driver Prost or Senna. It was two F1 world champions trying to surpass each other. Both drivers were legendary in their own way.
If there was a fault, it was due to a lack of clear rules and regulations. The only problem with Senna and Prost was their uncontrollable desire to win. However, that was one of the most attractive characteristics of Formula 1 racing at the time. And that’s all about the controversies in F1.
As a clearly regulated sport, Formula 1 did not emerge so soon. Even in Michael Schumacher’s era, there were many hot debated issues.
Michael Schumacher in the epicenter of the F1 controversies.
Over his career, Michael Schumacher was involved in several racing incidents. Twice, he was involved in collisions in the final race of a season that decided the title: first with Damon Hill at the 1994 Australian Grand Prix, and later with Jacques Villeneuve at the 1997 European Grand Prix. The incident was met with mixed responses from fans and F1 aficionados alike, as opinions remain divided on who was really to blame for the collision.
The race in Jerez was perhaps the biggest black stain on his glittering career. While the European GP was perhaps the most debatable F1 race ever. Why was Schumacher controversial? In fact the reason was always the same – the desire to be the fastest.
Michael Schumacher vs Jacques Villeneuve at the European Grand Prix 1997
MIchael Schumacher was desperate to be Ferrari’s first champion. In Saturday’s qualifying session Schumacher, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jacques Villeneuve all set exactly the same qualifying times – 1:21.072. Villeneuve started on pole, as he was the first to complete a lap. Being second, Schumacher was enough to finish ahead of Villeneuve to win the championship title.
He passed Villeneuve at the start of the race. The son of legend Gilles did not give up, and was greeted with brilliant pressure. He had been on Michael’s heels for 47 laps. During lap 48, Villeneuve prepared to overtake. He lunged up the inside of Schumache, but Michael turned in crashing his Ferrari’s front wheel into the sidepod of Villeneuve’s Williams.
Schumacher ended the European Grand Prix in the gravel trap, ruining his title aspirations. Villeneuve finished third and became F1 world champion in 1997.
The FIA took action, but Schumacher was allowed to keep his wins. It is impossible to ignore how many controversies there were during the F1 race in the media around the world. In response to the accident, Martin Brundle said, “That didn’t work Michael. You hit the wrong part of him, my friend”.
However, that incident wasn’t the first. German was already involved in another, which was nominated by BBC Sports as “The Most Unsporting Moment”. However, this is still one of the biggest F1 controversies of all time.
Damon Hill vs Michael Schumacher in Adelaide 1994
Adelaide Street Circuit had met their racing heroes when it hosted the 1994 Australian Grand Prix. It was the final race of the season. The tension was palpable as both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships were at stake.
There were already three fastest times in Saturday’s qualifying. Schumacher placed second and Hill third with Nigel Mansell leading the grid.
Schumacher took the lead as the lights turned green. After staying second behind, Hill made his break through on lap 36. He had already caught Schumacher, but German threw his Benetton off. Schumacher hit a wall with his right side wheels and pulled back onto the track. He then drove into Damon Hill’s Williams’ front left suspension wishbone.
As a result, German was out immediately. Hill had to retire due to irreparable damage. Both failed to score points, but Schumacher secured the F1 championship title.
Who was at fault in the Schumacher Hill crash? Initially, it’s clearly Michael Schumacher’s fault, but considering that he had technical difficulties, the fault at the 1994 Australian Grand Prix isn’t so obvious. Schumacher maintained that it was a racing incident. Hill deliberately avoided becoming involved in the outcry at the time. Later, he explicitly accused Schumacher of deliberately driving into him in order to win.
As a matter of fact, the 1994 F1 season was full of controversies: from illegal fuel fillers to using traction control during practice. It was easy to just give up trying to figure it out.
Michael Schumacher vs Fernando Alonso at the Monaco Grand Prix 2006
It was Michael Schumacher’s final season with Ferrari and he fought for the championship against young Spaniard Fernando Alonso at Renault.
The controversy unravelled at the Monaco Grand Prix. Knowing that starting position is decisive on narrow streets, both raced to qualify. In the final session, Schumacher had the fastest time. But when Alonso ran two tenths of a second faster, the German slid into and stopped his car against the barriers, bringing out the yellow flags and halting the progress of Alonso’s Renault.
Including race stewards, the heated debates hadn’t stopped. Schumacher explained that he had made a mistake and locked a wheel. At that point, however, there was one thing wasn’t clear. Why did Schumacher park the car instead of moving it off the line? No less controversial was that he lost control of the car while travelling at 16 km/h.
However, the FIA rejected the defence and sent Schumacher and his teammate Felipe Massa to the back of the grid. Former F1 driver Keke Rosberg labeled the incident as “the cheapest, dirtiest thing” he has ever seen in Formula 1.
Alonso won the race, with Juan-Pablo Montoya’s McLaren and David Coulthard’s Red Bull completing the podium.
However, that wasn’t the biggest of controversies in F1, where Alonso was involved.
Although the cases don’t diminish the greatness of Michael Schumacher, history remembers the other debates around his relationship with Ferrari’s Rubecne Barcichello.
Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix 2021.
In Formula 1 2021 season, Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Max Verstappen (Red Bull) have engaged in the greatest duel of the past decade. A lot of tension was present during the battle, which displayed Formula 1 racing at its highest level. While some races became the most controversial in Formula 1 history, others led to hot debates. There were three explosive races at Silverstone, Jeddah, and Abu Dhabi.
It’s unlikely that the British Grand Prix 2021 will be remembered as a rich event. Although, there is still debate over Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s clash. Hamilton was deemed predominantly at fault, while Max Verstappen hit the barrier at a with a stunning F1 G-force of 51G!
The collision divided the paddock into two opposing viewpoints. The teams, drivers, fans and the pundits still don’t have a clear point of view on the matter.
Hamilton And Verstappen Delivered FIA as MaFIA on Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021
The new Jeddah Corniche Circuit delivered on the controversy during its debut Grand Prix in 2021. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen came to the Saudi Grand Prix as two leaders despite the Red Bull driver’s eight-point lead. If Hamilton’s vital feature is the racing experience, then the opposite Verstappen is always “attack on the limit.” Such a feature played a cruel joke on Max and promised additional headaches to the FIA F1 stewards.
Max Verstappen accepted defeat in Saturday’s qualifying session very calmly. However, the track configuration played into Mercedes’ hands, as it was better suited to Lewis Hamilton. It was a better start, speed, and pit stop time. However, after the race started, Mick Schumacher crashed his car and red-flagged the rush.
The restart on lap 15 showed once again that Mercedes was faster. However, the fight started again; a real struggle was a conflict of interest between two different drivers from two teams. At that moment, nobody knew what these two could manage. Max Verstappen had cut Turn 2 to lead, and the tension peaked.
Sergio Perez lost the car. Charles Leclerc got the blow from Perez. The drivers ran like massively tense lava, led by Verstappen, Hamilton, and Esteban Ocon, which no one could stop.
Michael Masi’s decidions
Michael Masi decided to take control of the situation and again stopped the race with red flags due to many car parts from Perez, Leclerc, Mazepin, and Russell. The F1 race director had to decide very quickly because the overall picture was changing every second.
Masi suggested Red Bull reclaim the position, skipping Ocon. Red Bull agreed to omit Ocon but not Hamilton. Masi repeated the suggestion and asked Red Bull to miss two cars again. What a madness!
The F1 race director clearly understood as this fight has been heating each second. There was a comment that radio messages like those were similar to bargaining or seemed more political than clear orders from the FIA. But the FIA Formula 1 management wanted to avoid putting themselves between two fires. Second restart Max Verstappen started third and fast had led the grid and the next five laps until Vettel and Tsunoda collided on lap 23.
Fernando Alonso poured fuel on the fire, saying there were many car parts on the track. He had complained that the race director had ordered the safety car, but virtual mode only. While Masi had no clear decisions about the safety car and red flags. The FIA’s decision was tentative.
Why FIA became the maFIA?
The easy answer is that there were no clear rules.
At the time, it was tough to decide whether launching the safety car on the track was better, but this would have stopped the intrigue of the battle.
Althought, the virtual safety mode was needed to turn into the actual safety car, as Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel collided soon after. The chaotic and tense atmosphere caused F1 fans to assume that the FIA was like a mafia with no clear rules to follow.
In this chaotic situation, it was better to stop the race and clear the track, but the whole world watched the fight between the two main heroes, Hamilton and Verstappen. Maintaining virtual safety mode lap after lap was risky and hazardous.
Hamilton eventually overtook Verstappen in the battle for the lead. Max again pushed Hamilton off the track and retained the lead. Michael Masi again asked Red Bull to return to the position. Otherwise, that would be the penalty. The Red Bull team was not ready to give the lead.
Mercedes focused on their two drivers and needed to learn how Red Bull to ready to give the position to Hamilton. So, Max Verstappen made a hard brake for Lewis Hamilton to take a lead position back. But Hamilton didn’t understand such a gesture as Mercedes weren’t ready to Red Bull would be so good with Masi’s order. As a result, Hamilton clashed with Verstappen.
However, Hamilton won the race from Verstappen, who was penalized twice, with Bottas snatching a podium from Ocon in the final few meters.
Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen: Formula 1 Abu Dhabi 2021 controversy
As part of the decisive race in Abu Dhabi, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen ran two fast cars on clearly different F1 strategies. Red Bull had better downforce, while Mercedes had a higher average speed.
Thus, Lewis Hamilton immediately overtook pole sitter Verstappen and kept saving his tires. The crash of Nicholas Latifi on lap 50 led to the safety car gathering all the cars. Despite the option to change tires, Mercedes chose to save his position. Max Verstappen rushed to the pits.
Therefore, on lap 56 when Michael Massi decided to restart the race he allowed only the lapped cars between the two to un-lap themselves. Thus, Lewis Hamilton lost Abu Dhabi 2021, as new soft allowed Max Verstappen to immediately overtake Hamilton and win the F1 championship title.
The FIA has published its inquiry into the roaring finale. Therefore, decisions made as race director by Michael Masi which denied Lewis Hamilton the championship were made in “good faith” but that “human error” played a part. There is no need to explain how significant the polemic generated around Toto Wolff and Michael Masi was.
A major feature of the race was that it resulted in a chain reaction in which the rules and Formula regulations had to be revised in a strict manner. The changes covered FIA race directions, team radio, where everything was clearly regulated.
However, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021 sets in the top of the greatest F1 races in recent memory.
Formula 1’s team orders are a source of controversy
One of the biggest controversies in F1 in recent years has been the use of ‘team orders’. This is when one driver instructs the other to assist the team. In contrast to actively manipulating a race result, most team orders focus on preventing squabbles from racing tooth and claw.
In addition, agreements and their violations sometimes turn races into a huge saga. Since Formula 1 was founded, team orders and agreements behind closed doors have always been part of the process. This is what the FIA is trying to control in terms of Formula 1 as a sport of speed.
Some people believe that it is not fair to the driver who is being told to let the other one pass. However, others believe that it is a necessary part of the sport in order to be successful.
Formula 1 teams’ orders in the past
If you delve deep into F1 racing history you will find out how far from clear regulations Formula 1 stood. Thus, in 1951, when Juan Manuel Fangio’s Alfa Romeo broke down at the French Grand Prix. He shared the car with his teammate Luigi Fagioli and won the race.
In 1956, Fangio took over the Ferrari of his teammate Luigi Musso in Argentina. When Fangio’s car broke down again in Monza, Lusso refused to step aside a second time. Peter Collins sacrificed his own world championship chances and handed his car to Fangio.
Since the 2003 season, the FIA decided to ban team orders, but it was a rule that proved difficult to enforce. Due to this, the teams began using coded messages and the rule was declined.
During the 2010 German Grand Prix, Felippe Massa had led but the Ferrari team told him “Fernando is faster than you.” Alonso wasn’t faster than Massa, but he passed the Spaniard ahead. Scuderia Ferrari was fined $100,000, while Alonso saved his win.
Michael Schumacher vs Rubens Barrichello: unnecessary team order at the Austrian Grand Prix 2002.
With 104 races together, Rubens Barrichello is the longest teammate alongside Michael Schumacher and both are F1’s longest-lasting partnerships. The popular Brazilian had been racing with Schumacher since 2000-2005 and supported Schumacher to drivers’ titles from 2000-2004 and helped Ferrari win the constructors’ championship on no fewer than five occasions. But that was the Austrian Grand Prix 2002, which F1 fans didn’t like at all.
Pole sitter Barrichello led his teammate Michael Schumacher, Heidfeld, Ralf Schumacher, Montoya and Coulthard at the end of the first lap of 71. The Brazilian was comfortably leading the race in the closing stages. At the start of the finishing lap, Barrichello outpaced his teammate Michael Schumacher by one second.
When he entered the final corner, Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn informed Michael Schumacher that Barrichello would yield to him. While Barrichello initially refused to budge, he complied with Ferrari’s instructions in the final 50 metres. He braked and let Schumacher past for his fourth win in a row in 2002.
Barrichello was just 0.182 seconds behind in second position. Both the press and fans were not pleased with such a controversial finish at the A1 Ring. It wasn’t necessary for Ferrari to interfere. At the podium ceremony, suitably awkwardly, Schumacher broke protocol by insisting Barrichello take the top step on the podium and then handing him the winner’s trophy.
Nevertheless, it was still bittersweet, as what was more annoying, Rubens Barrichello pulling over or Ferrari asking for it?
‘Multi 21’ or Sebastian Vettel vs Mark Webber at the Malaysian Grand Prix 2013
At Red Bull F1 racing, Mark Webber’s dueling with young Sebastian Vettel is considered one of the team’s biggest headaches.
Vettel was a star, who emerged from Red Bull’s in-house driver academy and had already led the team to three consecutive titles from 2010-12. Webber crashed out of the Korean Grand Prix in 2010, destroying his chance to the title.
With many hotly debated races, it was the controversial Malaysian Grand Prix 2013, where F1 fans witnessed the mythical ‘Multi 21’ order.
The code ‘Multi 21’ meant that Car 2 (Webber) would finish ahead of Car 1 (Vettel) in the race. In simple terms, ‘Multi 21’ was the team’s order to drivers to maintain their position. It helped to keep drivers safe from unnecessary risks.
In the Malaysian GP 2013, Vettel started from pole position, while Webber took the lead immediately. As the race was nearing its end, the Red Bull asked Vettel to hold the ‘multi 21’ rule. But on lap 36 Vettel defied and passed Webber to snatch the victory from the Australian.
Vettel has received massive backlash in Formula 1 and has been involved in a mass controversies in F1. In 2012, Webber pushed him toward the pit wall at the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix, but few knew it was an act of revenge.
Despite winning the constructor title, Red Bull had a difficult time. In some ways, it explains why Red Bull has maintained a strict policy for its drivers for the past decade.
Fernando Alonso vs Lewis Hamilton Hungarian Grand Prix 2007.
The 2007 season was attributed to the battle between McLaren and Ferrari. McLaren’s plans and budget were completely turned upside down as a result of the controversial rivalry between Hamilton and Alonso.
It’s still unclear what McLaren team boss Ron Dennis thought when they signed rookie Hamilton and two-time F1 champion Alonso together. However, the consequences led to long-term regret. It sparked a chain of unpredictable events.
It was Alonso’s turn to go out first according to McLaren’s order. However, Hamilton flouted that rule during qualifying. The team ordered Hamilton to let Alonso pass, but Briton ignored the rule. Both drivers went to the pits to change their tires for the final break through in Q3. Alonso was the first to arrive at the McLaren garage. He had changed the tyres and had stopped the car for 10 seconds. Hamilton could not complete the final lap. No one could understand what was going on.
Why are McLaren competing against each other inside the team instead of racing against Ferrari Team principal Ron Dennis was furious at Alonso’s engineer. However, Thejudge13 provided insight into Alonso and Hamilton’s relationship.
At the Hungarian Grand Prix 2007 Alonso got a five-place grid penalty after qualifying, while Hamilton won the grand prix, but the following races led McLaren to miss out on the title.
Hamilton found both fans and haters in Hungary as a result of the way he revealed his character through his actions.
Sebastien Vettel vs Charles Leclerc at the Brazilian Grand Prix 2019.
Vettel and Leclerc. This is perhaps the most explosive partnership ever in Formula 1 racing history since Senna and Prost’s era. Moreover, history has the potential to be repeatable. The young and talented Monegasque joined Ferrari and as someone said ‘swung’ the team away from Vettel. In 2015, Vettel switched to Ferrari to achieve new victories and become part of the legend after four championship titles with Red Bull. Ferrari is the dream team. What could you want more? But in reality it seemed that someone jinxed Ferrari as they hesitated between their two drivers, making a bid for Leclerc.
There was a lot of fuss and rushing inside the Formula 1 team during the entire 2017 and 2018 seasons. It led to F1 fans pointing fingers at the Prancing Horses. The Singapore Grand Prix and Brazilian Grand Prix 2019 were the most contentious incidents between Vettel and Leclerc so far.
Singapore Grand Prix 2019
Pole sitter Leclerc was leading, but Ferrari decided to give Vettel the undercut and inadvertently gave the German the lead of the race during the pit stops. While Leclerc fumed over team radio, Vettel was not ordered to let Leclerc through to resume first place. He continued on to take his first, and only, win of the 2019 season.
F1 fans rebelled when they heard the team radio at that time. At Brazil’s Grand Prix in 2019, however, the real drama began.
Brazilian Grand Prix 2019.
Max Verstappen maintained his lead with pole, while Sebastian Vettel placed second. Qualified fourth Charles Leclerc received a 10-place grid penalty for exceeding his quota for power unit components. On lap 11, however, Leclerc had already climbed to sixth place.
On lap 66 Leclerc overtook Vettel in turn 1, but Vettel, on the back straight, tried to take the position back. The two collided, with Leclerc suffering a broken suspension and Vettel getting a puncture. Both Ferraris retired from the race with terminal damage.
But the controversies in the F1 team remained: did Vettel make the error intentionally or was it a mistake?
Vettel was empty and broken at the end of the 2020 season, so F1 fans were unable to recognize him. For five years, he gave everything to Ferrari, while the team focused on its own plans.
German F1 driver moved to Aston Martin (Racing Point) in 2021 and retired from Formula 1 in 2022. The highest result he achieved in 2021 was second place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Nevertheless, the debate around Ferrari did not stop, since after Vettel, it was Carlos Sainz who appointed Lelcerc as his teammate. Moreover, that was even more confusing.
Charles Leclerc vs Carlos Sainz at the British Grand Prix 2022
These two are looking happy outside the racing track, but immediately when the lights were green, F1 fans began questioning Ferrari’s logic.
The F1 2022 season was a good chance for Ferrari to return to the top. While Mercedes drivers had been struggling with cars bouncing and Red Bull were facing reliability issues with their cars, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc had all the cards to take the two titles: drivers and constructors. However, it was Ferrari’s team strategy that caused massive controversies and hot disputes and was criticized by both F1 fans and the media.
Thus, the apocalyptic 2022 British Grand Prix became one of the most thrilling F1 races, as we watched a real theatre on wheels.
At Silverstone, Carlos Sainz led from the pole, while Charles Leclerc came in third after Max Verstappen. By the middle of the race, both were running a one-two. With Leclerc already on Sainz’ heels, it was logical to pass him ahead, displaying his pretensions to the title. However, in the Ferrari they hesitated because such a move would undermine Sainz’s confidence.
The F1 crowd started to roar as the dilemma became apparent. Leclerc was faster. As for Ferrari, they decided to ignore Charles Leclerc, or to maintain the ‘multi 21’ rule, if you so wish. But they spent too much time thinking, with Lewis already sitting in third place on lap 31.
Carlos Sainz won the British Grand Prix in 2022, and Charles Leclerc was only fourth.
The Biggest F1 Controversies: The Rules Issues That Raised Stirs
One of the biggest F1 controversies is the relationship between drivers and team orders. However, the violations of the FIA rules sparked huge media controversy. While it would be better to pass these, they are already part of the history of Formula 1 racing.
McLaren vs. Ferrari or the Spygate in 2007 Formula 1 season.
Already after Fernando Alonso recieved five -place grid penalty on Hungarian Grand Prix 2007, Spaniard was furous with Lewis’s behaviour. He understood that team principal Ron Dennis can’t control Briton.
At that time Ferrari sent some jaw-dropping allegations, where they blammed Ferrari’s ex-Head of Performance Development Nigel Stepney, had passed on technical specs of the latest Ferrari to a McLaren engineer. The FIA opened an investigation, found no evidence, and McLaren were given no penalty.
Wth speaking to Mr. Dennis Alonso asked to treat him fairly and threatened the Woking outfit to send his email exchanges with test driver Pedro de la Rosa, including evidence that McLaren employees obtaining confidential information from others including Ferrari and Renault.
Mr. Dennis decided to contact with the FIA president Max Mosley first. He blamed Alonso’s threat was empty. But Mosley was sure Spaniard had reasons for and started new investigation. Howhever, in December 2007, McLaren’s CEO Martin Whitmarsh, admitted that certain employees within the team did have access to Ferrari’s technical information. The scandal ended with the British team being given a $100 million fine, which till today remains the biggest in the sport’s history.
While Nigel Stepney, was found guilty of “sabotage, industrial espionage, sporting fraud and attempted serious injury” in an Italian court. Initially sentenced to over a year in prison, his sentence was reduced. In 2014, after having worked in GT racing for some time, Stepney died in an unexplained incident on the M20.
Nelson Piquet Jr. and Crashgate, the worst of F1 controversies of all time.
Nothing predicted the Singapore Grand Prix 2008 would turn Formula 1 into ‘Crashgate‘. The consequences of that were devastating for the Renault team as well as its management.
Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr. failed qualifying sessions and started Sunday’s race at fifteenth and sixteenth respectively. In Renault they made a bid on an unworthy strategy when Alonso pulled on his early pit stop on lap 12, and Piquet Jr. deliberately crashed his Renault R28 into the wall on the outside of turn 17 on lap 14.
This resulted in the safety car appearing on the track and causing most of the cars to pit. In this way, Alonso took over the lead with his new tyres. The Spaniard won the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
As a result of Piquet Jr’s crash, Felippe Massa lost his chance to win the championship title.
However, at that moment no one could imagine that the son of the famous F1 world champion Nelson Piquet would deliberately crash. As we remember that race, we did not understand what had happened and how it happened.
Thus, it is one of the worst F1 controversies ever. If there weren’t conflicts within Renault, the truth would have been kept hidden for years.
How did the truth come out?
Alonso ended the 2008 Formula 1 season fifth in the Drivers Championship with 61 points, while Nelson Piquet Jr. finished in twelfth place, with 19 points. However, Piquet Jr. resigned from Renault for 2009.
By the tenth race, Piquet junior had not earned any points, while Alonso had already achieved 13 points. He was replaced by Romain Grosjean due to doubts that he would be able to participate in Renault. To save his career, Piquet Jr. began criticizing both the Renault team and Flavio Briatore. His father Nelson Piquet revealed that the incident was the result of the efforts of Renault’s team principal Flavio Briatore and its engineering director Pat Symonds.
The FIA started an investigation in 2009 and Renault were charged with conspiracy and race fixing. They were due to face the FIA World Motor Sport Council in 2009.
This is how Nelson Piquet Jr. ruined his F1 career from the start. However Piquet Jr. moved to NASCAR before winning the first Formula E title. Flavio Briatore left racing, and Symonds took over Formula 1 as Chief Technical Officer.
What happened to the Force India F1 team?
The story of Aston Martin is full of controversies in F1. As a result, we decided to unite these incidents.
The Force India (former Spyker, Midland, Jordan) team was sold to Indian businessman Vijay Mallya in 2008. Up until 2019, the team with average success competed in Formula 1. After a while Mr Mallya faced a number of charges related to alleged financial irregularities at Kingfisher Airlines. He had been sentenced to a four-month jail term.
In 2018 Canadian billionaire businessman Lawrence Stroll bought Force India F1. With the start of the 2019 season, the team has changed its name to Racing Point. The season was in some sense a trial, as Mr. Stroll previously had no similar experience.
Lance Stroll, his son, took over the team’s seat. Do not rush to conclude, as Lance is a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy.
After understanding how Formula 1 works, the team began preparing for 2020. It was one of the biggest controversies of recent years in F1, as the presentation displayed a pink-painted Mercedes car.
The pink Mercedes 2020 or Racing Point RP20?
Imagine the faces of other team principals like Christian Horner from Red Bull or Toto Wolff from Mercedes, who spent about one year developing new cars. They were furious.
Racing Point spent all its budget on copying the most successful car on the grid, according to someone. Whether that was true or false, Racing Point saved some money by building what would later be billed as a “Pink Mercedes”.
Technically, the team didn’t violate the rules, as they had designed the car themselves.
Renault protested immediately after noticing the RP20’s rear brake ducts were identical to the Mercedes. Ferrari later joined the conversation with a clarification request. McLaren also requested clarification of the regulations.
The FiA started an investigation and it was decided that Racing Point had received CAD drawings of the brake ducts. The team were eventually fined €400,000 and lost 15 Constructors’ Championship points.
In turn, the FIA promised to enforce the rules.
Racing Point began the 2021 Formula 1 season as the Aston Martin team with its own unique cars and their new branded green colors.
In 2022, Aston Martin announced that they had established their own junior racing driver academy with F2 Champion Felipe Drugovich becoming the first member of the Programme.
Since then, let’s hope that Aston Mastin is stepping closer to restoring glory.
The tyre fiasco or the most controversial F1 race – Indianapolis US Grand Prix 2005
It was the tyres that caused one of the biggest controversies in F1 at the 2005 US Grand Prix. During the afternoon’s practice session, Ralf Schumacher crashed badly in Turn 13 due to a failure of his left-rear tyre. He broke his back and was hospitalized.
That was Michelin tyre failure, as their equipment was failing on the track’s high-speed final turn. Along with Bridgestone, Michelin was another tyre supplier. Therefore, seven teams requested a chicane at the final corner, to slow their cars down and make it safe enough to run. But the FIA denied the request. Go figure who was at fault.
However, during Sunday’s race, teams aborted due to safety concerns. And 14 Michelin-wheeled cars were pulled into the pits at the end of the formation lap. There were only six cars competing in the race! It was a roaring crowd of F1 fans. They booed and littered the track with objects thrown from the stands following.
However, this is not the first nor the last awful race in Formula 1.
The Belgium Grand Prix 2021 controversy
The Belgian GP may have been the worst race in recent history, as it seemed impossible to wait a few hours for it to begin.
Again, that was Michael Masi, who decided to run two laps behind the safety car and red flagging the race on lap three stirred much controversy.
The FIA and then race director Michael Masi were criticised by all the racing world, including media, fans, teams and drivers.
Spa-Francorchamps’ weather conditions were atrocious, but just imagine the indignation of race fans who spent four hours at the track waiting for the race to resume.
However, when the race was revived, it was held in safety mode. As a result, the Grand Prix turned out to be a farce. In fact, Belgian Grand Prix 2021 broke the 30-year-old record as the shortest race in Formula 1 history. The FIA ordered Spa Francorchamps’ organizers to refund the fans’ money.
Red Bull’s Budget Cap is the most significant F1 controversy against the FIA rules
The most loud controversy in F1 2022 season became the Red Bull budget cap “saga”. Thus, after weeks of speculation, it finally surfaced that Max Verstappen won his first World Driver’s championship after his team went over the budget cap by almost $2 million, which equates to a 1.4 percent overage!
The internet community erupted as many people called for the FIA to take the championship back from the team. As a result, the Red Bull F1 team was fined $7 million and reduced by 10 percent over the next 12 months!
The other debatable controversies of the 2022 F1 season
Enhanced regulations made the F1 2022 season one of the most intriguing for “behind the scenes” performances. A change in the Formula 1 regulations has caused the most stir among both fans and teams.
#1 Race Director Decisions in F1 2022 season
After Abu Dhabi 2021’s roaring finale, former FIA F1 race director Michael Masi was found guilty. Following the controversies between Toto Wolff and Michael Masi, the race director has retired from Formula 1. However, according to official FIA investigation, the decision to continue the battle between Verstappen and Hamilton on the last 1,5 laps of the Abu-Dhabi GP 2021 with lapped cars was human error.
Before that race, with the exception of two or three cases, it was difficult to blame Masi. Yes, it was an awful Belgian Grand Prix in 2021, when the race had been held for about four hours. However, Masi was always on the line to make sure the rules were clear.
After Romain Grosjean’s serious crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2020, he directly assisted in resolving the safety issue. Moreover, he was the first to fly to Saudi Arabia to check Jeddah for safety compliance.
So in 2022, it was decided to replace Michael Masi with already two FIA F1 race directors: Neils Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, with Herbie Blash as Permanent Senior Advisor.
Because one of the distinguishing traits of Formula 1 is that it races in the rain. However, the decision to delay the start of the Monaco Grand Prix 2022 was highly questionable.
Similarly, the directors delayed the start of the Japanese Grand Prix 2022 only to stop the race a few corners in after an accident occurred.
Again it happened in Singapore, as the race was delayed because the track was deemed “too wet.”
Besides, there was a ban on messages between team and race direction.
#2 Disobeying Team Orders
No one Formula 1 season has been held without team orders, still causing the biggest stir among F1 fans. Red Bull and their drivers are the subject of the case.
In Sao Paulo, Max Verstappen’s engineer Gianpiero Lambiase asked Max to surrender his position so that Sergio could have two extra points in the championship battle with Leclerc. To which Verstappen vehemently responded, “I told you already last summer—you guys don’t ask that again to me, ok? Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by it.”
Millions of F1 fans, as well as his teammate Sergio Perez, questioned his direct response. When it became clear that Verstappen wouldn’t concede the position, Perez responded by pointing out that he helped Verstappen win the championship last year by holding up Lewis Hamilton in the late stages of the final race at Abu Dhabi.
Moreover, there was plenty of speculation that Perez had spun on purpose during qualifying on Monaco Grand Prix. This was so that he would get the preferred strategy over Verstappen.
However, Perez continued to race alongside Verstappen in 2023 Formula 1 season.
#3 Oscar Piastri in the epicentere of F1 controversy 2022.
Perhaps this story is the most controversial, since no one is certain about its origins.
Just a few days into the summer break, Fernando Alonso announced that he would be leaving the Alpine and joining Aston Martin to replace retiring Sebastian Vettel. The announcement came as a surprise to everyone especially to Alonso’s team principal Otmar Szafnauer.
This unexpected move set off a chain reaction as Alpine announced that it would be putting its junior driver Oscar Piastri into its race seat for the next season.
Although the move sounded like a dream come true for Piastri, the announcement came out during sleeping hours in Piastri’s home country of Australia. So as soon as Piastri saw the statement, he countered the team announcement. He defently declined by stating that he would not be driving for Alpine in 2023. Moreover, the spicy added fact that it was Mark Webber who had been the Piastri manager who heated the tension, attracting the attention to his ward.
As it turned out, Piastri had already signed to drive for McLaren in 2023. A legal dispute erupted regarding the enforceability of the competing contract. Eventually, an arbitration panel ruled that Piastri could sign with McLaren, while Alpine was forced to leave with nothing.
#4 Mercedes cars’ porpoising and Regulation Change
The 2022 regulations brought back the use of ground effects to create downforce in F1. The sweeping new regulations aimed to close the gap between all the teams in the field and aid in creating less “dirty air” to help with passing other cars.
As a result of these ground effects, the car bounced at high speeds, resulting in “porpoising.”. As the results it creates vertical G-forces in Formula 1.
That was the Mercedes team, however, whose drivers struggled most with their cars’ porpoising. Lewis Hamilton often complained about back pain after racing, as we watched many times. This is how we got into this F1 controversy in 2022.
As a result of the outcry from Mercedes drivers and their customer teams who were spouting that there was a risk to driver health and safety, the FIA released a technical directive. It changed the way in which the FIA measured the floor plank and put an emphasis on the amount of porpoising allowable during a race weekend.
Therefore, from the Belgium Grand Prix Mercedes increased the pace. Remarkably it didn’t play a key role, as Mercedes didn’t have enough pace against Red Bull at the time.
#5 F1 sprint races: to be or not to be?
The F1 sprint qualifying format debuted at Silverstone in 2021. There were three sprint races in the 2021 season: the British GP, the Italian GP and the Brazilian GP at Sao Paulo. We have a full guide on what is a F1 sprint that you can also read. The 100km race brought a new level of brilliance without pit stops and tire changes.
On the other hand, the print race was the biggest F1 controversy 2022, as it meant a higher risk for the driver and for every team. As a result, in the sprint race in Monza, many drivers faced a laborious task. They comlined that it was impossible to avoid risks in the sprint, which was worth the team a tidy sum. Sometimes it can be more than the insured $75,000 crash payment.
Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari claimed their cars would take place in six sprint races, but with extra money on top of the budget cap, at £103m per team.
Unwilling to accommodate those financial demands FIA Formula 1 decided that the previously increased number of sprints from three to eight for the 2022 season was reduced to six.
#6 Conversion from 13-inch to 18-inch tires
The new era in Formula 1 implies a completely updated look for F1 cars. It was decided to switch from 13-inch Pirelli tires to 18-inch Pirelli tires for the stylish and aggressive look of F1 cars. As a result, it caused a new controversy in F1 2022.
The 18-inch Pirelli tires added a real fresh look and increased the average speed of the F1 car. But, the drivers and teams faced problems with it. Sebastian Vettel noted that big tires make visibility at the front came difficult. Moreover, new 18-inch Pirelli tires meant that their previously collected data on 13-inch tires went to the bin. It would not be an enormous loss for first-teams such as Mercedes, Red Bull or Scuderia Ferrari, but it would have a negative impact on Hass, Williams and Alfa Romeo.
#7 F1 no piercing rule: What is wrong with wearing jewellery in Formula 1?
It is impossible to explain why wearing jewellery in F1 season 2022 caused a stir. However, ahead of the Australian GP, race director Niels Wittich reminded us that some of the current F1 drivers still wear jewelry while driving.
Of course he mentioned Lewis Hamilton, and Wittich wasn’t the only one who noted that. Journalists and fans had seen Hamilton with his piercings. The updated rule states that each driver in Formula 1 should remove jewellery and precious metals for safety reasons. “The wearing of jewellery in the form of body piercings or metal neck chains is prohibited during competition and may therefore be checked before the start.” The main reason is that piercing has the additional risks during the F1 cars is on fire.
The FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem already said that Hamilton will be fined if he does not comply. In fact, it was Pierre Gasly who violated the disciplinary rules first. The AlphaTauri driver is religious and wears religious attributes while racing.
Former F1 driver Romain Grosjean knows very well how dangerous fire can be. His car was in the fire trap for 20 seconds at the Bahrain Grand Prix 2020. He has a special feeling about his wedding ring, which symbolizes protection and comforts him. Grosjean respects the F1 ban on piercing and jewellery, but he doesn’t agree to racing without his wedding ring. In spite of the fact that he is racing in Indycar, his ring will always be with him.
Lewis Hamilton was allowed to wear jewelry at the end of the season. Perhaps in the FIA they understood it was useless to restrict Hamilton, as he has more than a lot of piercing.
Finishing on the controversies in F1
There are always going to be controversies in Formula 1, whether it’s about the past or even about the future.
The desire to be faster, better, the tension at the track with thousands of spectators watching, and the million dollars at stake sometimes change the game. This is why everything is spun out of control creating one of the biggest F1 controversies. Because all these chains are linked to a huge chain called Formula 1 racing.
Like it or not, controversy in F1 attracts people, whether in a positive or negative sense, and makes racing a hot topic around every corner.
Next time we argue about what’s good and what’s wrong, remember that the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021 was watched by 108.7m people!