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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Apr 10;115(15):E3361-E3367. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1717303115. Epub 2018 Mar 26.

Escalation of competition into conflict in competitive networks of Formula One drivers.

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INSEAD, 77305 Fontainebleau, France.
Graduate School of Culture Technology, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, 34141 Daejeon, Republic of Korea.
US Treasury, Washington, DC 20581.
European School of Management and Technology, 10178 Berlin, Germany


This article investigates the factors that escalate competition into dangerous conflict. Recent sociological theorizing claims that such escalations are particularly likely in dyads of structurally equivalent people (i.e., actors who have the same relations with the same third parties). Using panel data on Formula One races from 1970 through 2014, we model the probability that two drivers collide on the racetrack (an observable trace of conflict) as a function of their structural equivalence in a dynamic network of competitive relationships. Our main hypothesis, that the likelihood of conflict rises with structural equivalence, receives empirical support. Our findings also show that the positive association between structural equivalence and conflict is neither merely a matter of contention for official position nor an artifact of inherently hostile parties spatially exposed to each other. Our analyses further reveal that this positive association is concentrated in a number of theoretically predictable conditions: among age-similar dyads, among stronger performers, in stable competitive networks, and in safe, rather than dangerous, weather conditions. Implications for future research on conflict, networks, and tournaments are discussed.


competition; conflict; social networks; status; tournaments

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