Johansson: Modern-day F1 drivers lack ruthless streak

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Stefan Johansson believes that the current crop of Formula 1 drivers lack the ruthless and relentless streaks that many of the sport’s former greats boasted.

Johansson raced in F1 between 1983 and 1991, sharing the grid with icons such as Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell throughout this era.

The 1980s and 1990s were notable for some explosive intra-team rivalries, particularly between Prost and Senna at McLaren, and Piquet and Mansell at Williams.

Writing in his latest blog, Johansson compared these rivalries to that of Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg over the past two years as they have gone head-to-head for the championship.

“In 2014, there was certainly a lot more hate on display between Nico and Lewis,” Johansson said. “This year it’s all sort of been a bit polite with both guys saying the other did ‘a great job.’

“When you’re that close to a teammate in terms of competitiveness and you can’t beat him any other way you’ve got to figure out something that will tip the balance. You have to try to undermine their confidence or get them off balance psychologically somehow.

“That’s what Nelson did so effectively. He was ruthless, not only with Mansell but with Senna as well, calling him all sorts of things. He didn’t care. He’d do whatever it took unsettle his rivals mentally. It sort of worked and it definitely got under their skin.

“To be a great driver you need ego and relentless drive. That’s why you don’t quite have the epic battles today that F1 used to have.

“Mansell, Senna, Prost, Piquet, Lauda, Schumacher – they were brutal, every one of them, ego-maniacs of epic proportions in their own different ways.

“You have to be like that to be at the top level. That’s missing today. You don’t feel it. [Fernando] Alonso seems to me the only one left from that era where you resort to anything to win.”