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Formula 1

Every ‘son of’ Formula 1 racer ranked

by Matt Beer
8 min read

What’s in a name? When it comes to motorsport, quite a lot.

Racing dynasties are commonplace, especially in the States where the likes of the Pettys, Unsers and Andrettis have won a place in the hearts of racing fans over generations.

They are slightly rarer in the world championship era of Formula 1, so when Mick Schumacher takes to the grid in Bahrain this weekend, he will become only the 15th child of a previous F1 driver to start a grand prix.

He will have to go some to supersede his father Michael’s totemic achievements, but it will be fascinating to watch his career develop and see where he establishes himself on this list.

14. Tim Parnell

Chris Amon Tim Parnell

Just five years (and a day) had passed between Reg Parnell’s final world championship F1 outing and Tim’s first – in a Reg Parnell Racing Cooper, of course.

That’s the nearest any of the father and sons on this list came to competing in a grand prix against one another.

Tim entered four world championship F1 races, qualifying for two of them, and finishing one.

Following his father’s death, he took over the running of the team – and he’s pictured above in that role alongside Chris Amon. Between 1970 and ’74 he was team principal at BRM, overseeing its final win.

13. Teddy Pilette

Teddy Pilette

Teddy’s grandfather Theodore had been a pre-war racer of some repute, finishing fifth in the 1913 Indianapolis 500, while his father Andre raced in nine world championship races over a long career.

Teddy entered the first of four grands prix in 1974, qualifying a respectable 27th for the Belgian GP.

He returned in 1977 for three unsuccessful outings in the woefully uncompetitive BRM P207, during which he failed to qualify each time.

Pilette used the car to better effect in the British Aurora series the following year, taking a couple of top six finishes. He was a double champion in the European F5000 championship in the 1970s.

12. Markus Winkelhock

Markus Winkelhock Spyker Nurburgring 2007

In his one F1 start, Markus Winkelhock managed something his father Manfred failed to do in his 47 grands prix – he led the race.

It was a fine cameo performance on that one-off with Spyker at the Nurburgring in 2007, even if that position was down to an inspired tyre call from the pitwall as the weather changed.

A successful career in GT racing followed his one-off F1 start, and he remains a competitive force to this day.

11. Michael Andretti

Michael Andretti McLaren Kyalami 1993

On paper Michael Andretti seemed to have everything needed to make it in F1. He was the quickest driver in CART IndyCar before he signed for McLaren – a tough, uncompromising racer, who was fast on all types of circuit.

There are many theories behind why it didn’t work out for him in F1, but whatever the reason, a run to a distant third place at Monza aside, his 13-race stint was a massive disappointment.

Sep 10 : S2 E5: Two crazy weeks in F1 history - 1993 Portuguese GP

Victory on his return to CART – the first for the Ganassi team – only served to underline how baffling and underwhelming his F1 sojourn had been.

10. Kazuki Nakajima

Kazuki Nakajima

Toyota backing brought Kazuki into F1 in much the same way Honda had created the opportunity for his father Satoru. A haul of nine points, including a fine sixth on his debut, was a respectable showing for his first season with Williams in 2008.

But things went horribly wrong during his second year. The 2009 Williams was a regular points-finisher in the hands of his team-mate Nico Rosberg, but Nakajima failed to score.

The fact he had the pace to qualify the car a career-best fifth for the British GP only underscored the disappointment that he was unable to produce the level of performance he would subsequently show as part of Toyota’s all-conquering LMP1 programme.

9. Jolyon Palmer

Jolyon Palmer Renault SIngapore Grand Prix 2017

Jolyon graduated to F1 as GP2 champion, but over two seasons at Renault he struggled to match the pace of team-mates Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen.

There were the occasional flashes of promise, with his sixth place in the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix the stand-out moment. He has gone on to be a top-notch pundit/commentator.

8. David Brabham

David Brabham Monaco Grand Prix 1990

The only driver on this list to race in a car with his family name, the sentimental pull of following in Sir Jack’s wheeltracks in 1990 was greater than the reality of the uncompetitive machine the Brabham team produced in its death throes.

May 07 : S1 E8: The backmarker madness of F1's pre-qualifying era

The Simtek he returned in four years later was little better, but he generally had the legs on whoever paid to be his team-mate each weekend after Roland Ratzenberger’s death and Andrea Montermini’s injury.

Brabham’s long and successful career as a topline sportscar driver hinted at what he might have been capable of in F1 if he’d had half a chance.

7. Nelson Piquet Jr

Nelson Piquet Jr 2008

Having emulated his father by winning the British F3 title, Nelsinho pushed Lewis Hamilton the hardest as the seven-time-F1-champ-in-waiting took the 2006 GP2 crown.

Like Hamilton he was paired with Fernando Alonso for his rookie F1 season, but there the comparison ends.

Piquet made the most of the situation to lead the 2008 German GP before eventually taking second, but then there was that race in Singapore.

The subsequent fallout brought his F1 career to a premature end, but he rebuilt his reputation in the States before ensuring a place in the history books by becoming the inaugural Formula E champion.

6. Christian Fittipaldi

Christian Fittipaldi Minardi Interlagos 1993

Christian is best remembered for back-flipping a Minardi over the finish line in the 1993 Italian Grand Prix, but Fittipaldi did his best to uphold family honour in F1 despite limited machinery.

Qualifying the Footwork FA15 sixth for the 1994 Monaco GP was a stellar, if unheralded, achievement, and he was unfortunate to have the gearbox break on him when he was in line for a solid points finish.

A leg-breaking shunt interrupted his CART career just when he appeared on the verge of a breakthrough, but he would go on to win races there as well as numerous sportscar honours.

5. Kevin Magnussen

Kevin Magnussen 2014

Magnussen never again scaled the podium heights of his debut with McLaren, but over five subsequent seasons at Renault and Haas, Kevin was a combative racer who on his day could pull off a top drawer performance.

There was little to choose between him and Romain Grosjean during their time together at Haas, with drives like that in Hungary in 2020 showing how he could capitalise on the good days to deliver precious points when they are on offer.

It will be interesting to see how his post-F1 career pans out.

4. Damon Hill

Damon Hill Williams 1996

The ultimate zero to hero. While there might not have been much in Hill’s junior record to mark him out as a future F1 world champion, when the opportunity presented itself at Williams he grabbed it with both hands.

Fate thrust him into a team leader role he could never have expected, but with drives like his stunning win at Suzuka – as good as anything Schumacher or Hamilton have produced in the wet – he took the 1994 title down to its infamous final round.

May 14 : S1 E9: Schumacher v Hill - 1994's controversial ending

An error-strewn 1995 campaign sealed his fate at Williams, but not before he’d delivered the championship in 1996.

That he almost achieved the impossible by winning a race for Arrows before going on to make Jordan a winner showed he could do it without the best car. A top bloke too.

3. Jacques Villeneuve

Jacques Villeneuve

Carrying the burden of one of the most evocative names in motorsport, Villeneuve burst onto the scene with one of the all-time great F1 debuts.

With moves like his pass around the outside of Michael Schumacher at Estoril, combined with his laid-back image, he quickly became a fan favourite.

Mar 04 : S3 E9: Jerez 1997 - Villeneuve vs Schumacher

He started his title-winning campaign with one of the most crushing performances in F1 history and ended it with another infamous clash with Schumacher.

The switch to BAR did more for his bank balance than it did his reputation, while – despite the odd flashes of his old self – his stint at Sauber/BMW Sauber is largely forgettable.

2. Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg wins 2016 F1 title

The inaugural GP2 champion had done a solid job at Williams before switching to Mercedes for its full works return.

Few eyebrows were raised as he saw off an aging returning Michael Schumacher, but when reunited with his old karting buddy Hamilton, there was a genuine yardstick by which to measure him.

He gave it everything he had to beat the most successful driver in F1 history to the 2016 title, and his decision to retire while on top showed just how much it had taken out of him.

One of the smartest drivers to get behind the wheel, he was ideally suited to the mental dexterity required in the hybrid/turbo era.

1. Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen wins Austrian Grand Prix 2019

While his achievements to date don’t yet match those of drivers directly above him on this list, that is a reflection of the standard of the cars he has had at his disposal, not his performances and ability.

All evidence points to Verstappen being a once in a generation great. He’s super -fast over one lap and a race stint, he’s stunning in wheel-to-wheel combat and phenomenal in the wet.

Mar 22 : Season preview: Hopes for a Verstappen v Hamilton title fight

He’s every driver’s worst nightmare of a team-mate, and it’s only been the performance advantage of the Mercedes over the Red Bull that’s left one question open: can he put a title run together over the course of the season?

I’d bet my house that he can.

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