No matter what professional sport you watch or follow, it is likely that at some time a scandal or controversy has sprung up around a player or team. Michael Phelps smoking pot, Tiger Woods sending dirty texts to women other than his wife and MLB players like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds linked to steroid use – these are just a few of the many scandals and controversies that affect the professional sporting world. One sport which seems to have some sort of major controversy or scandal almost every year is Formula 1. With such intense pressure on drivers and teams, both on and off the track, it likely doesn’t surprise many that this sport sees a fair share of tabloid topping stories.
If anything, this season’s Formula 1 campaign has been headlined by an ongoing battle within Mercedes. Team drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg appear to be anything but teammates and this past Belgian Grand Prix appears to suggest that we may not see much more cooperation between the pair on the track. Rosberg’s contact on Hamilton, resulting in a punctured tire for the English driver, was reportedly accidental. Replays suggest, however, that there may have been more intent in the crash on Rosberg’s part than is being admitted. Of course, such on-track occurrences remind us of other controversial events and figures in Formula 1 history. Rosberg’s maneuver is reminiscent of other controversial moves undertaken by the likes of Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
The following list looks at 15 of the biggest scandals and controversies to hit Formula 1 over the years. From drivers behaving badly to sex scandals, racism and espionage cases, Formula 1 has had its share of storylines which could fuel a series of Hollywood films. For some, it’s all part of the color and intrigue of the world of Formula 1 racing. For others, these events are a huge distraction which taint the sport and take away from pure race-track experience. In any event, they are part of the sport’s history, interwoven with the great drivers and constructors who battle it out year after year on tracks across the world.
15 15. Racism in Spain, 2008/09
14 14. Monaco Grand Prix, 2006
13 13. The Belgian Grand Prix, 1981
12 12. Michelin Tires, 2003
11 11. The US Grand Prix, 2005
10 10. Bernie Ecclestone
9 9. The Max Mosley Sex Scandal
8 8. The Staged Finish, Austria, 2002
7 7. BAR’s Missing Weight, 2005
6 6. The Hamilton/McLaren Cover-up, 2009
5 5. ‘Water’-Gate, 1982
4 4. ‘Crash’-Gate, 2009
3 3. McLaren Spies on Ferrari, 2007
2 2. Michael Schumacher, 1994/97
1 1. Senna vs Prost, 1989/90
If ever the Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry reminds us of other team rivalry/scandal, it must be that of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Heading into the Japanese GP in 1989, Prost had been vocal about his dislike of Senna’s tactics on the track. At the ’89 race at Suzuka, Prost turned his car into Senna’s on the first turn, taking them both out. Senna was able to recover and rejoin the race but was disqualified later, leading him to believe there was a conspiracy to make Prost champion. In 1990, Senna got his revenge on the same track at the same spot. All Senna had to do to get the title was ensure he wasn’t outscored by his now-Ferrari driving adversary. Heading into the first corner, the Brazilian ensured Prost would be unable to finish the race by running into him. Many questioned what had happened after seeing Senna drive straight into Prost’s car. Senna merely wrote it off as a normal racing incident.
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