Ten best… McLaren-Ferrari rows

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The espionage scandal may be the biggest row between the two giants of Formula 1, McLaren and Ferrari, but it’s certainly not the first.

No, these two have been going at it for over three decades. Here’s ten of their earlier scraps.

1976 Spanish Grand Prix – New rules were introduced in 1976 by the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI, fore-runner to the FIA) imposing various new restrictions on the cars’ dimensions. McLaren, then run by Teddy Mayer, thought their car complied with the rules, but didn’t realise that Goodyear’s new rear tyres made their car 18mm too wide.

James Hunt won the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama but was disqualified, giving the victory to Ferrari’s Niki Lauda, who had finished second. Eventually McLaren were reinstated, but it set the tone for the season.

1976 British Grand Prix – At the British Grand Prix the Ferrari pair of Lauda and Clay Regazzonia collided at the first corner, Hunt got tangled up in the mess, and the resulting shunt caused the race to be red-flagged. Hunt headed for the pits in his damaged car via a short-cut, so Ferrari protested that he should not be allowed to re-start.

But when the home crowd began booing the officials chose to let him race, and after he won from Lauda he was again disqualified. The wrangle continued throughout the year but this time Ferrari’s claim was upheld.

McLaren, for their part, claimed that from the Spanish up until the Canadian Grand Prix (11 of the 16 rounds) the Ferraris had been running with their oil coolers in an illegal position.

1976 Italian Grand Prix – It was no surprise to see more arguments kick off at Monza during the Italian Grand Prix. The Italian race officials claimed McLaren’s Texaco fuel was of an illegally high octane rating. They measured it at 101.6.

The Italian Automobile Club obtained a telex from the CSI stating the maximum octane allowed was 101, and although that was later corrected, Hunt lost his qualifying times set on Saturday, along with team mate Jochen Mass and John Watson of Penske. Hunt started 12th.

Trying to make up ground during the race, he crashed and retired, the crowd jeering him on his way back to the pits.

1990 Japanese Grand Prix – In many ways this was a chapter in the Ayrton Senna – Alain Prost war rather than part of the McLaren vs Ferrari story. But nonetheless Senna in a McLaren deliberately took off Prost’s Ferrari at the first corner of the 1990 Suzuka race, winning the championship, and getting revenge on Prost for his similar move the previous year.

1997 European Grand Prix – After the furore over Michael Schumacher’s collision with Jacques Villeneuve (an apparent attempt to do to the Canadian what Senna did to Prost), Ferrari sought to deflect some attention by claiming that McLaren along with Williams colluded to fix the result of the race.

They even threatened to produce radio transcripts. But their rivals escaped censure and it was Schumacher that faced disqualification from the championship.

1998 Brazilian Grand Prix – When pictures were published of McLaren’s independent rear brake it was protested and the FIA banned it, even though the team claimed to have obtained the approval of Charlie Whiting to run it. Although the protest had been instigated by several teams, McLaren saw the hand of Ferrari at work.

1998 French Grand Prix – Ron Dennis was further convinced that Ferrari were getting the rub of the green after the events of the Canadian and French races that year. The French Grand Prix was stopped and restarted after McLaren held the lead at the first start, because Jos Verstappen’s Stewart had stalled on the grid.

Dennis pointed out that it had not been stopped at the Canadian race earlier on this year, when one car had landed on top of another at the start, and Ferrari were leading. He was even less impressed at the next round, in Britain, when Schumacher won having served a stop-go penalty after the race had finished.

1998 Belgian Grand Prix – It got worse at Belgium. In the pouring rain Schumacher was leading comfortably – until he came to lap David Coulthard’s McLaren, and slammed into the back of it while flat out.

Both rolled to the pits and Schumacher went for Coulthard, claiming the Briton had tried to kill him.

1999 Malaysian Grand Prix – At the crux of the 1999 championship battle between Mika Hakkinen and Eddie Irvine, Schumacher returned from injury to engineer a Ferrari one-two at Malaysia, with Irvine winning and taking critical points off McLaren.

But when the stewards decreed the Ferrari bargeboards to be too large the team was disqualified and Hakkinen declared winner – and champion.

It did not surprise many when an appeal later ruled the Ferrari bargeboards legal, conveniently setting up a showdown at the final round of the season in Suzuka. Hakkinen won.

2003 Italian Grand Prix – This was more than just McLaren versus Ferrari – this was Michelin versus Bridgestone – but Dennis was at the forefront of the criticism of the Italian team and its Japanese tyre supplier. Curiously, it harks back to the earlier McLaren-Ferrari scandal listed here.

Bridgestone had discovered that Michelin’s tyres became wider under racing conditions than the were in their original state. This didn’t matter, because the rules only stipulated that tyre width would be measured before a race.

But after petitioning the FIA the rule was changed, and Michelin had to hurriedly re-engineering the tyre construction they’d been using for two years. Ferrari even threatened to protest all the Michelin teams’ past victories.

It didn’t come to that, but it gave Schumacher the decisive edge in his championship battle with McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Photo: McLaren

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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11 comments on “Ten best… McLaren-Ferrari rows”

  1. The 2003 issue is kind of similar to the flexi floor this year :-) only the sides changed

  2. 1998 Belgian Grand Prix.

    Coulthard has admitted he caused the crash. See http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/07/06/1057430084085.html

  3. DC admitted he caused it by making a bad judgement call – not quite “trying to kill” Schumacher tho… as claimed by the Ferrari driver at the time.
    Also, note that DC only accepted that he made a bad decision when he’d been on the receiving end of the same bad judgment by Alonso FIVE years later.
    Isn’t it amazing how people change their mind when the boot’s on the other foot.

  4. I was hoping this wouldn’t turn into a slanging match about that notorious crash, but never mind.

    What Coulthard said (four years ago, five years after the crash) was that he regretted having lifted off the throttle in the wet conditions, and he wouldn’t do it again. But Schumacher could have equally avoided the accident by giving him a wider berth.

  5. Abandon hope all ye who enter here (esp. Keith – you should know better by now – :p)

  6. I have to agree with Rach. No, DC wasn’t trying to kill Schumacher and yes, people do change their minds :)

    But Keith, read the article once again. And please, do remember the circumstances. You could barely see the cars from tv image, propably not from another car. And what is the effect of lifting your foot from the gas?

    Do you really think Schumacher crashed deliberately?

  7. I know this is just me being silly, but I really like the idea that he might be called “Mike Hakkinen”.

  8. Damn – the number of times I’ve typed that and corrected myself. Fixed now.

  9. The Monza test is coming up at the end of August.
    I wonder if the Italian police are getting ready to raid the McLaren team?
    Ferrari and their associates, causing “problems” with the F1 World Championship, at this stage of the season?
    Surely not.

  10. I can’t imagine how they’d get the jurisdiction to raid the headquarters in England, and I doubt they’d expect to find anything by raiding the transporters at Monza for the Grand Prix.

  11. If the Italian police had sufficient evidence, they could have a word with the English police, who would then raid the McLaren premises for them. However, like Keith, I do not see much chance of it happening.

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