Azerbaijan Grand Prix: When drivers attack - a history of road rage in F1

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    Azerbaijan Grand Prix: When drivers attack - a history of road rage in F1
    By Jamie Strickland

    BBC Sport

    25 june 2017

    Sebastian Vettel's petulant sideways swipe at Lewis Hamilton in Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix was just one incident among many in an astonishing race, but one destined to be replayed endlessly in the years ahead.

    The act of a driver calculatedly crashing into another to gain an advantage is no rarity in this sport - incidents involving Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher leap instantly to mind - but blind, unthinking road rage is less common.

    Vettel's actions in Baku were exactly that. It was the instinct of a kid in the playground - unthinkingly lashing out with no consideration for the consequences.

    It could have retired him on the spot. It didn't as it turned out, but the 10-second stop-go penalty that followed denied him a certain victory in the light of the head rest problems that hit Hamilton later in the race.

    Here, BBC Sport takes a look at the - surprisingly limited - history of road rage in F1.

    Schumacher v Coulthard, Belgium 1998

    One of the most famous incidents of a driver losing it in spectacular fashion played out on a soaking afternoon at the Belgian Grand Prix 19 years ago when race leader Michael Schumacher slammed into the back of David Coulthard amid a wall of spray as he tried to lap the McLaren.

    "Oh god!" came the shout from Murray Walker in the commentary box as Schumacher's car was reduced to three wheels in the blink of an eye.

    The two cars returned to the pits, where Schumacher - red mist fully descended - leapt from his cockpit and charged down to the McLaren garage, shrugging off the pleading of a Ferrari engineer as he went, where he was only prevented from laying his hands on the British driver by a wall of Coulthard's mechanics.

    "This is a bit like Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna at that Belgian Grand Prix, when Nigel got him by the throat," added Walker from somewhere near the commentary box ceiling.

    Which brings us nicely to...

    Mansell v Senna, Belgium 1987

    Eleven years earlier Spa was also the scene for this famous pit lane spat, which occurred after Nigel Mansell's Williams tangled with the Lotus of Ayrton Senna on the first lap.

    Back in the garage, Mansell grabbed Senna by the overalls and pushed him up against the wall.

    "He wore loose overalls in those days and I pulled the zip up beyond his chin to just below his nose," Mansell recalled.

    He later added: "You can't control yourself when you see the red mist. Everyone has a chip inside them called self preservation and it's activated when you're on the edge.

    "I'd never experienced that before in my life. I saw red like there was no tomorrow."

    "When a man holds you round the throat, I do not think that he has come to apologise," was Senna's to-the-point assessment of the set-to.

    Piquet v Salazar, Germany 1982

    A YouTube favourite this one. For sheer entertainment value, Nelson Piquet losing his rag with backmarker Eliseo Salazar at the 1982 German Grand Prix has to be right up there.

    Piquet's race-leading Brabham-BMW was attempting to lap Salazar's ATS through the Ostkurve but the Chilean turned in on the Brazilian, eliminating both on the spot.

    The famously hot-headed Piquet did not take kindly to this and aimed several punches and the odd kick at Salazar, who did not engage and walked away.

    According to some sources, Piquet later apologised to Salazar after it emerged his BMW engine had been about to fail at the engine manufacturer's home race and Salazar's intervention had spared them an embarrassing retirement.

    Hunt v track marshal, Canada 1977

    Another moment of F1 history kept alive in the memory by a much-viewed clip was James Hunt's punch on an overzealous marshal at the 1977 Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport.

    Already livid after seeing his race ended by a tangle with McLaren team-mate Jochen Mass, Hunt then took exception to some enthusiastic man-handling from marshal Ernie Strong, who in return received a crisp right hand from the Briton, landing him square on his backside.

    'Hunt the Punch' was one of the tabloid headlines back in the UK the next day, while Hunt was also fined $2,000 and later sued by Strong.

    Senna v Irvine, Japan 1993

    As F1 debuts go, Eddie Irvine's in Japan in 1993 takes some beating.

    The Northern Irishman was brought into the Jordan team for the final two races of the 1993 season and immediately went out and a scored a point for the team, something the previous incumbents of the seat that season - Ivan Capelli, Thierry Boutsen, Marco Apicella and Emanuele Naspetti - had failed to do in 14 attempts.

    Along the way Irvine even had the temerity to unlap himself from eventual race-winner Ayrton Senna, goading the Brazilian to such a degree that he confronted the rookie in the Jordan hospitality area after the race, where Senna threw a punch that landed him with a suspended two-race ban.

    Gachot v taxi driver, London 1991

    A very real case of road rage featuring an F1 driver occurred on the streets of London in 1991, when Jordan's Bertrand Gachot was embroiled in an incident that changed the course of racing history.

    Gachot was involved in a minor accident with a taxi driver in the capital, and in the argument that followed, produced a can of CS gas and sprayed it in the cabby's face.

    Gachot was sentenced to six months in prison, serving two.

    In the interim, a certain driver by the name of Michael Schumacher was handed his F1 debut as Gachot's replacement at the Belgian Grand Prix, where his pace was such that he was immediately snapped up by Benetton and put on course for greatness.

    By the time Gachot got out of prison, Alex Zanardi was the man keeping his seat in the Jordan warm - and he would never get it back. Indeed, his F1 career never really recovered.

    Speaking to Radio 5 live last year, Gachot said: "I was the guy in the wrong place at the wrong time that gave Schumacher the chance to shine."

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