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Hamilton vs Verstappen - Are they the new Senna vs Prost?

Hamilton vs Verstappen - Are they the new Senna vs Prost?

Hamilton vs Verstappen - Are they the new Senna vs Prost?

Hamilton vs Verstappen - Are they the new Senna vs Prost?

It may be the first F1 title battle between the two drivers but the dramatic collisions between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have led to comparisons being drawn to the legendary Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost rivalry.

Verstappen was deemed "predominantly to blame" by the stewards for the Italian GP crash, the same wording used for the lap-one collision during the British GP which resulted in Hamilton being penalised.

With the accident at Monza particularly reminiscent of the famous incidents in 1989 and 1990 when both protagonists wound up in the gravel, are we really witnessing a modern Senna versus Prost?

1. Incidents

There is an almost eerie parallel between all four crashes creating this talking point.

Take Suzuka 1989 where Senna attempted to move past Prost into the final chicane. Prost turned into the apex, the Brazilian was there, they collide and are left stranded at the chicane.

Without a push, Senna would have been out of the race, as Prost was, but he continued, only to later be disqualified and then things got messy. For now, that's by the by.

But the image of both drivers stationary side by side can be applied to the scenes from last weekend when Verstappen and Hamilton both became embedded.

The Red Bull driver was out of the car instantly and on his way back as the Mercedes attempted to escape.

Similarly, the 1990 start incident between Prost and Senna is very similar in action to the British Grand Prix collision on lap one between Hamilton and Verstappen.

Both had leading cars swinging to the apex from the outside, both had a car on the inside slightly offline and colliding left-front to right-rear. Of course, the difference is that in 1990 neither were able to continue whereas Hamilton won the race this year.

Even with regulations being enforced in different ways between the two eras, there could be arguments as to who was at fault in each case until the cows come home.

2. Origins of the rivalry

A key difference in these rivalries is that Prost and Senna were, of course, team-mates when tempers flared in 1989 as opposed to the here and now which sees Red Bull and Mercedes up against each other.

Therefore the way the rivalries are formed are different, although the inevitability of the rivalries is somewhat homogenous.

McLaren was the dominant force in F1 in 1988 and started 1989 in much the same vein. The relationship between Senna and Prost deteriorated over a miscommunication at Imola.

There was supposedly an agreement within the team that the driver leading into Tamburello would then be unchallenged for the lead. This plan went without a hitch as Senna stormed clear on lap one.

But when Gerhard Berger crashed heavily to bring out the red flags, Prost took the lead off the line at the restart. Senna believed his first-corner lead held from the original start and he reclaimed first place into Tosa, angering Prost who believed the restart counted.

Fast forward to the end of the season, the two drivers are the only two in the championship fight, they crash at Suzuka, Senna is disqualified for cutting the chicane and Prost wins the championship. Rivalry ignited.

With Hamilton and Verstappen, there was never any indication of friendship but never an indication of dislike between the two either.

Sure, there have been a few barbed comments, some gamesmanship surrounding wing flexing and whatnot, but they also commented at this year's French Grand Prix they were keen on meeting up for a jetskiing session and a night out when Covid would allow.

The crash at Silverstone sparked the rivalry, with Verstappen furious with Hamilton for celebrating his win whilst the Dutchman was in hospital. The Briton was labelled "dangerous" and "amateur" by Red Bull team boss Christian Horner as Mercedes kept its counsel on the subject.

In Monza, it was roles reversed. Mercedes went on the offensive and Hamilton was quick to call Verstappen out for not ensuring he was okay after the RB16B landed on the W12, with the right-rear wheel hitting him on the helmet.

There has been a lot of back and forth verbally but nothing too disrespectful or hateful yet, just flashpoints. Hamilton has, however, noted his concern that Verstappen won't change his ways.

3. Personalities

With Prost and Senna, it was very much sensible versus maverick, with the Frenchman - nicknamed 'The Professor' for his approach to racing - up against Senna's "if you no longer go for a gap", seat-of-your-pants style.

Prost was very savvy with the political side of F1 whereas Senna often fell foul of then governing body FISA, with one such argument coming before the fateful 1990 crash at Suzuka.

Hamilton and Verstappen have much more similar personalities and egos. Whilst you could argue Verstappen is more daring at this stage of his career, more bolshy and Senna-esque, one must remember Senna was Hamilton's hero and the seven-time champion was not so far removed from Verstappen's style of racing at a similar age.

What this could mean is that the similar styles of the drivers may promote a larger eruption of anger at some point.

What can be said is Hamilton and Mercedes' responses in the wake of incidents this year seem to fall on the Prost side of the coin, with more alert dealings with the FIA compared to a brash-feeling narrative between the governing body and Red Bull.

Are we dealing with another Prost versus Senna rivalry? Not yet - in fact, we are a far way off as there is nowhere near the same hatred or bitterness between the two.

What is worth noting is the touch paper has been lit and emotions will run higher as the season draws to a conclusion.

With both absolutely on the edge of their limits, it is hard to see how more collisions can be avoided. With the prize getting nearer, then we could see anger released.

Prost versus Senna is as yet unrivalled but we may yet get there.

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