12 father and son F1 driver pairings: But who was better?

2y ago

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Formula 1: it’s a family business for some.

It’s not uncommon for children to follow their parents when it comes to a career. But simply because of the tiny numbers involved, it *is* uncommon for *anyone* to become a Formula 1 driver.

Despite the huge odds stacked against anyone making it to motorsport’s very top level, there are, by my count, 12 father and son pairs who have both competed in Grand Prix racing (I have not included any pre-war Grand Prix star dads like Hans Stuck or Antonio Ascari).

Following a parent into the same job will always invite comparisons, so I’ve decided to make the case and hold a little vote on the ones that are (in my view) debateable.

The question is simple: in each F1 father/son pair, who was better?

Mario and Michael Andretti

Michael (L) struggled in F1 compared to his dad Mario (Pic: Sutton)

Michael (L) struggled in F1 compared to his dad Mario (Pic: Sutton)

This one is fairly cut-and-dried. Dad Mario is a veteran of 128 Grand Prix starts, a winner of 12 races and the 1978 World Champion - not to mention being the last American to win a Grand Prix.

Sadly for son Michael, it didn’t quite pan out in F1. He was signed up as team-mate to Ayrton Senna at McLaren in 1993, but after a difficult year in which he failed to really get to grips with the MP4/8 or F1 in general, he left the team with three races of the season left to run, after his sole podium for finishing third at Monza.

My winner: Dad.

Jack and Gary and David Brabham

Gary Brabham (in the car) flanked by dad Jack (L) and brother David (R) - Pic: Sutton

Gary Brabham (in the car) flanked by dad Jack (L) and brother David (R) - Pic: Sutton

Again, no contest here: dad Jack is one of the true legends of the sport with three world championship titles.

Son Gary’s F1 career consists solely of two failed attempts to pre-qualify for races in 1990 for the Life F1 team, while brother David did manage two seasons of F1 with Brabham and Simtek, but failed to score a single point.

My winner: Dad.

Emerson and Christian Fittipaldi

Another slam dunk for Dad here as two-time world champ Emmo roundly trounces Christian, who, in a three-year F1 career with Minardi and Footwork, scored a total of 12 points.

My winner: Dad

Graham and Damon Hill

Graham checks young Damon's safety belts (Pic: Sutton)

Graham checks young Damon's safety belts (Pic: Sutton)

Hill Sr is one of the legendary figures of Grand Prix racing from the swinging 60s. A double world champ and Monaco specialist, he is also the only driver in history to have won the ‘Triple Crown’ of motorsport, after also triumphing in the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Son Damon made history in 1996 when he became the first son of a world champion to win the title himself. Damon also has more wins than his father (22 to 14), but Graham’s double championship and Triple Crown give him the win here.

My winner: Dad

Jan and Kevin Magnussen

Kevin (L) has already had a more successful F1 career than his father Jan - Pic: Sutton

Kevin (L) has already had a more successful F1 career than his father Jan - Pic: Sutton

When he was coming up through the junior categories of motor racing, Jan was described by Jackie Stewart as “the most talented young driver to emerge since Ayrton Senna”, but he failed the get close to the Brazilian’s F1 achievements.

After a season and a half of racing with Sir Jackie’s eponymous team, Jan was replaced by Jos Verstappen. He never returned to F1, and the point he scored in his final race was the only one he managed in his Grand Prix career.

Son Kevin meanwhile, managed a podium finish in his very first race, coming second for McLaren in Melbourne in 2014. He hasn’t made it back on to the rostrum since, but has become a solid midfield points finisher - and is still only 25.

My winner: Son

Satoru and Kazuki Nakajima

Dad Satoru was the first full-time Japanese driver in F1 in 1987. After five seasons with Lotus and Tyrrell he left the sport with 16 points to his name.

Son Kazuki joined Williams as part of the deal for the team to run Toyota engines. He did just over two seasons, but only managed to pick up nine points in total.

My winner: Dad

Jonathan and Jolyon Palmer

Father and son both had an F1 stint, but with limited success (Pic: Sutton)

Father and son both had an F1 stint, but with limited success (Pic: Sutton)

Dad Jonathan says Jolyon is a better driver than he was… but given the limited amount we have to go on (no titles, no wins, no podiums, few points), we’re going to have to give this one to J Palmer Sr on the basis that he at least managed to prolong his F1 career for the best part of six years, while Jolyon didn't quite manage two.

My winner: Dad

Nelson and Nelson (Jr) Piquet

Another comfortable win for the older Piquet, with three world titles and 23 wins to Jr’s solitary podium and his unfortunate role in the Renault ‘Crashgate’ saga.

My winner: Dad

Keke and Nico Rosberg

Keke and Nico Rosberg: one of only two F1 champion father/son pairings (Pic: Sutton)

Keke and Nico Rosberg: one of only two F1 champion father/son pairings (Pic: Sutton)

Now then. Now we’ve got a fight on our hands. On paper, this looks like an easy win for Nico. Both were world champions, but Nico trounces his dad in every other measure: 23 wins to five, 30 pole positions to five, 20 fastest laps to three, and 1594.5 points to 159.5 (though of course those totals are from different points scoring systems).

But set against that is the fact that Nico had a dominant Mercedes to scoop up all his wins: Keke had to fight much harder for his.

But ultimately, we’ll give it to Nico. Racking up all those wins and a championship - even in a Mercedes - is an impressive feat when your team-mate is Lewis Hamilton.

My winner: Son

Jos and Max Verstappen

"And I promise I'll never crash my F1 car, dad" (Pic: Sutton)

"And I promise I'll never crash my F1 car, dad" (Pic: Sutton)

All being well, young Max is still at the beginning of his F1 career, yet even if he never turned another wheel in the sport, he’d still win this shoot-out.

Jos the Boss was a quick driver but so often he was in poor machinery, and a brace of back-to-back podiums in his first season with Benetton in 1994 was as good as it got for him.

Meanwhile son Max - still just 20-years-old - already has three wins under his belt and looks like a certain champion in waiting.

My winner: Son

Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve

If this was based purely on stats, Jacques would have this sewn up with his world championship title and 11 wins to Gilles’ six.

But ask anyone who knows which of the two was the more talented driver, and you’ll struggle to find anyone who won’t plump for Gilles.

My winner: Dad

Manfred and Markus Winkelhock

Technically Manfred had the better F1 career, driving in 47 races and scoring a couple of points along the way, but son Markus has the distinction of leading the only F1 race he ever drove in, thanks to a clever tyre gamble in the rain affected 2007 European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.

Markus Winkelhock leads the European GP - his one and only F1 race (Pic: Sutton)

Markus Winkelhock leads the European GP - his one and only F1 race (Pic: Sutton)

My winner: Son

Have I missed any pairings? Or have I picked the wrong winners? Let me know in the comments below...

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Comments (24)

  • Jolyon can’t even beat his Dad, poor kid

      2 years ago
  • It seems like overall the dads tend to be better drivers, so I guess my plan has to be: 1) never drive F1 (done), 2) have a son (done), 3) move to Europe (meh), 4) spend every cent and every weekend karting (ugh) 5) enjoy my son's epic F1 career (easy) 6) expect mediocre results from my grandchild (super easy). The wife and the other kids will love this plan. Thanks Rob!

      2 years ago
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