Modern F1 drivers not ruthless enough – Johansson

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Former F1 driver Stefan Johansson thinks modern racers no longer have the ruthless streak that used to define their predecessors, save for McLaren-Honda’s Fernando Alonso.

The Swede’s own career in the top flight spanned 11 years (1980-1991) and included spells at Shadow, Spirit, Tyrrell, Toleman, Ferrari, McLaren, Ligier, Onyx, AGS, Footwork.

This gave Johansson the opportunity to witness some of the sport’s greatest rivalries at first hand, like the titanic feud between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at McLaren (1988-1989), as well as Nelson Piquet’s mind games to unsettle William team-mate Nigel Mansell (1986-1987).

Compared to these intra-team battles, Johansson feels this year’s duel between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes has been slightly wishy-washy.

“In 2014, there was certainly a lot more hate on display between Nico and Lewis,” the 59-year-old in his latest blog interview. “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 team-mate 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 [Piquet] 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.”

Johansson, who secured 12 podiums during his career in the top echelon of motor racing, thinks that all F1 greats used to share the same win-at-all-cost mentality.

“To be a great driver you need ego and relentless drive,” added the 1997 Le Mans winner. “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. Alonso seems to me the only one left from that era where you resort to anything to win.”

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