Like many occupations, motor racing tends to be a family affair. The children of professional racing drivers often become racing drivers themselves, to varying degrees of success. In very rare cases, both generations reach the pinnacle of their chosen racing categories. Let’s have a look at how this has happened in Formula 1.
In the history of motor racing, it’s not all that unusual for multiple members of the same family to race in Formula 1 (examples include Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve; Emerson, Wilson Jr and Christian Fittipaldi; Jody and Ian Scheckter; Michael and Ralf Schumacher; Jos and Max Verstappen) . Winning the World Championship, however, is a much more elite affair, so much so that only twice has a World Champion been related to a previous World Champion. In both cases, the relationship was a that of son-father.
The first son of a World Champion to win the title himself was Damon Hill, in 1996. Damon is the son of double World Champion Graham Hill, who won the title in 1962 for BRM and 1968 for Lotus. While Damon was certainly exposed to racing from a very young age due to his father’s career, it was by no means a given that he would find success in Formula 1. Having started his racing career on motorcycles, Damon only started racing racing cars from 1983, when he was already 23 years old.
Damon Hill made his F1 debut for Brabham at the 1992 Spanish Grand Prix. At the time, he was 31 years old, which even then was unusually old for a driver to break into Formula 1. In the same season, he was a test driver for Williams, who signed him for a race seat in 1993 when Riccardo Patrese moved to Benetton. Hill won 3 races in 1993, providing his team-mate and eventual champion Alain Prost with a stronger challenge than expected.
In 1994, Damon remained with Williams to partner Ayrton Senna, and would no doubt have expected to spend the season as Senna’s number two. Tragically, Senna was killed at the San Marino Grand Prix, and Hill inherited the role of team leader and challenger to championship leader Michael Schumacher.
Schumacher would go on to take the title in 1994 and 1995, with Hill second in both seasons. 1996, however, was Hill’s year, and he fended off a strong challenge from Williams team-mate Jacques Villeneuve to realise his dream of becoming Formula 1 World Champion. In doing so, he became the first son of a World Champion to win the title.
For a while, it seemed that the Hill family might have a chance of producing a third-generation champion. Damon’s son Josh raced single seaters for a few years, progressing as high as the European Formula 3 Championship in 2013, but decided to retire from racing that season.
Nico Rosberg became only the second son of a World Champion to win the title himself when he beat Lewis Hamilton to the 2016 crown just a few weeks ago. Nico is the son of Keke Rosberg, who won the title for Williams in 1982.
Success at F1 level was a long time coming for Nico Rosberg. He made his debut for Williams in 2006, but had to wait until the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, his 111th Grand Prix start, to take his first win in Formula 1. It was worth the wait, however, as the younger Rosberg would go on to win 23 races and eventually the 2016 World Championship.
Nico Rosberg owes his F1 success to a significant extent to the dominance of the Mercedes team over the past few seasons. That’s not to minimise his achievement – the vast majority of F1 championships have been won in the fastest car. However, being at Mercedes has also brought the challenge of being team-mate to Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg finished runner-up to Hamilton in 2014 and 2015 before finally besting his illustrious team-mate in 2016. Such was the dominance of the Mercedes team, though, it could easily have been Rosberg who topped the standings in all three seasons. His defeat of Hamilton in 2016 was testament to Rosberg’s determination and consistency. Never before in the history of F1 has a driver beaten his own triple-World Champion team-mate to the title.
In winning the 2016 World Championship, Rosberg became only the second son of a World Champion to win the title. His shock retirement from F1 immediately after securing the crown means there are no drivers currently in Formula 1 who can repeat the achievement – assuming they continue to race in 2016, Max Verstappen, Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer are all the sons of former F1 drivers, but none of their fathers won the World Championship.
Who will be next?
In the junior ranks of single seater racing, no name is currently attracting more attention than Mick Schumacher. The son of seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher, Mick is 17 years old and looks likely to make his Formula 3 debut in 2017.
Mick Schumacher seems to be more than just a young driver with a famous name. In 2016, he competed in Italian Formula 4 and German Formula 4 and finished runner-up in both championships, with a combined total of 10 wins and 8 pole positions.
The young Schumacher is currently racing in the 2016–17 MRF Challenge Formula 2000 Championship, which takes place from November 2016 to February 2017. He is fourth in the championship, with 2 victories.
Rumours over the last couple of years have linked Mick Schumacher with the junior programs of the Ferrari and Mercedes Formula 1 teams. Given the close ties both F1 teams have to the Schumacher family, it seems possible that Mick could be under consideration for a Formula 1 drive in the future, assuming that he continues to impress as he makes his way through the junior ranks.
In motorsport, there are three events that stand out above all others. In no particular order (none is possible, really), the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans are racing’s greatest stages. The first two take place today..
Formula One is in Monte Carlo for the 71st running of the Monaco Grand Prix. The first race in Monaco took place in 1929 and was won by William Grover-Williams in a Bugatti. The race became part of the Formula One World Championship in1950 and has been featured in the Formula One calendar every year since, with the exception of 1951, 1953 and 1954. The track layout has undergone minor modifications over the years, but has retained most of the original course.
Ayrton Senna holds the record for most victories at Monaco with six, followed by Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher on five each. Schumacher will be hoping to equal Senna’s record today. Other past winners on the grid for the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix are Fernando Alonso with two victories, and Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen with one win each.
The Indianapolis 500 is the major event on the North American racing calendar. 500 miles of the world’s most famous oval track decide who will be immortalised in racing history. The first Indy 500 was run in 1911, and won by Ray Harroun in a Marmon Wasp. This year’s race is the 96th Indianapolis 500, with only 6 years having been missed out since the event started due to the first and second World Wars.
Three past winners are on the grid for today’s Indy 500: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), Dario Franchitti (2007,2010) and Scott Dixon (2008). The record number of victories is four, which means Castroneves could become joint most successful Indy 500 driver in history if he triumphs today.
A few former Formula One drivers will be taking part in the Indy 500 today. Rubens Barrichello joined the Indycar series for 2012, and starts today’s race 10th after a strong qualifying performance. Takuma Sato joined the Indycar series in 2010, and starts 19th. Sebastian Bourdais starts 25th. Jean Alesi makes a popular comeback to single-seater racing at the age of 47 after retiring from Formula One at the end of 2001. He starts the race in 33rd position.
Only two drivers in history have won both the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 in their careers. Most recently, Juan Pablo Montoya won at Indy in 2000, and at Monaco in 2003. Graham Hill won both events in the 1960s, but his achievements in motorsport’s most significant events are far more startling than that.
Hill is the only driver to have won what is known as the “Triple Crown of Motorsport”: The Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Monaco Grand Prix. He is also the only driver to have won the Indianapolis 500, the 24 hours of Le Mans and the Formula One World Championship. Known as “Mr. Monaco”, HIll won five Monaco Grands Prix, the 1966 Indianapolis 500, the 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Formula One World Championship in 1964 and 1968.
The Monaco Grand Prix starts in just under an hour’s time. The Indy 500 is five hours away. The greatest day of the 2012 motorsport calendar is about to get underway.