10 most iconic father-son racing duos

    Hill, Sainz, Schumacher and more. To celebrate Father’s Day, we list out some of the most popular father-son pairs in motorsport.

    Published On Jun 17, 2023 03:00:00 PM

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    10 most iconic father-son racing duos

    It’s no surprise that we have so many renowned father-son duos in motorsport. To be a successful racer, you need to have natural talent, but that’s just one part of the puzzle. Having someone from the industry mentoring you, and the financial and sponsorship advantages that come with having a famous surname are undoubtedly advantages. However, on the flip side, there’s the added pressure of living up to a certain reputation. Some buckle under this pressure, while others thrive.

    So, to celebrate Father’s Day today, we’re taking a look at some of the most popular father and son racers – in no particular order.

    Graham Hill and Damon Hill

    Graham and Damon Hill are the most successful father-son duo in F1 history, with Graham winning the championship in 1962 and 1968, and Damon replicating his father’s success in 1996.

    Graham, of course, is one of the most renowned figures in motorsport. Alongside a storied F1 career spanning 17 years, he remains the only driver to secure the triple crown – winning the Indy 500 in 1966, Le Mans 24 Hours in 1972 and the F1 Monaco GP five times (a feat that earned him the nickname ‘Mr Monaco’). He died in a plane crash in 1975, nearly 18 years before his son would follow in his footsteps and make his F1 debut.

    Coincidentally, both Graham and Damon started their racing careers pretty late. Graham didn’t even get his driver's licence until he was 24 years old. Damon started racing motorcycles at the age of 21, but eventually made the move to F1 as a test driver for Brabham. A dominant 1996 season saw him clinch the title for Williams that year. 

    Gilles Villeneuve and Jacques Villeneuve

    Gilles Villeneuve never won an F1 title, but he left an indelible mark on the sport in his brief six-year career. He won a total of six races (all of them with Ferrari) before losing his life during the 1982 Belgian GP qualifying. His former teammate Jody Scheckter, to whom he lost the 1979 title, would even call him the “fastest driver in the history of motor racing”.

    After tasting success in the CART IndyCar World Series (winning the Indy 500 and the 1995 title), Jacques Villeneuve made his F1 debut with Williams in 1996. He was on pace almost immediately and narrowly missed out on winning the title to his teammate Damon Hill. He did win the title the following year after an infamous battle with Michael Schumacher. The latter was leading the championship heading into the final race, but was disqualified after colliding with Villeneuve, handing Jaques his only F1 title.

    Keke Rosberg and Nico Rosberg

    Along with Graham and Damon Hill, Keke and Nico Rosberg are the only other father-son duo to win F1 titles. Keke made his F1 debut in 1978, but spent the first few seasons of his career racing in uncompetitive machinery. That changed when he was signed by Williams for the 1982 season. Despite winning just one race that year, his consistent performance helped him secure the drivers’ title that year.

    Nico would go on to eclipse his father’s F1 accomplishments, winning a total of 23 races. After racing for Williams from 2007-2009, he moved to Mercedes to drive alongside Michael Schumacher. But what he’s probably most well-remembered for is his rivalry with teammate Lewis Hamilton, when the Silver Arrows were at the peak of their F1 dominance with the dawn of the turbo-hybrid era. After narrowly missing out on the championship in 2014 and 2015, Rosberg finally clinched the title in 2016, only to announce his retirement from the sport just days later.

     

    Jos Verstappen and Max Verstappen

    Jos Verstappen is now a regular in the F1 paddock as he supports his son Max from the sidelines, but he raced in F1 himself for eight seasons. While signed to Benetton as a test driver in 1994, he was promoted to a full-time race seat the same year alongside Michael Schumacher. Jos scored two podiums in his debut season, but this would also be his most competitive season in F1. From his 106 starts, he scored points just seven times.

    Nevertheless, Jos played a key role in honing and developing his son Max’s natural racing ability. Max’s mother Sophie Kumpen was also an accomplished racer and former karting champion, so racing is in his blood. He broke onto the racing scene as a prodigy and less than two years after making his single-seater debut, he was offered an F1 seat with Toro Rosso in 2015 – making him the youngest F1 driver of all time at 17 years old.  

    Since then, he’s gone on to establish himself as one of the best drivers in the sport. He already has two titles under his belt and is at his dominant best in the current 2023 season.

    Carlos Sainz Sr and Carlos Sainz Jr

    Carlos Sainz Sr is a living rally legend, with two World Rally Championship and three Dakar Rally titles to his name. Even at the age of 61, he continues racing in some of the world’s toughest conditions. His last outing was at the 2023 Dakar Rally, where he competed behind the wheel of the electrified Audi RS Q e-tron E2. He retired from the rally, having sustained multiple spine fractures, but has since recovered and even participated in a recent test session for Audi.

    Rather than following his father’s footsteps in off-road racing, Carlos Sainz Jr has carved a name for himself in single-seater circuit racing. As part of the Red Bull young driver programme, he won the Formula Renault 3.5 title in 2014 and then stepped up to F1 with Toro Rosso in 2015. He’s since parted ways with Red Bull, and has driven for Renault and McLaren before earning a spot at his current team Ferrari.

    Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti and Marco Andretti

    The Andretti family is racing royalty, so it’s not surprising that this is the only entry on our list spanning three generations. Mario Andretti is often credited as one of the finest American ‘all-rounder’ racers. He remains the only driver ever to win the Indy 500, Daytona 500 and an F1 world title.

    His son Michael didn’t enjoy the same success in F1, but is an Indycar star in his own right. He won the Indycar title in 1991 and to date is the third most successful driver in the championship in terms of all-time wins. He remains a part of the sport as a successful team owner. Michael’s son Marco is also an Indycar race winner and in 2022, he won the Superstar Racing Experience (stock car racing) title.

    Michael Schumacher and Mick Schumacher

    Michael Schumacher is widely regarded as one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time, with 91 race wins and seven world titles. He won his first two titles with Benetton in 1994 and 1995, but it is his immensely successful run with Ferrari that cemented his status as a motorsport legend.

    Mick is hoping to carry forward his father’s legacy. After some impressive results in junior categories – where he won the F3 and F2 championships – he earned an F1 seat with Haas in 2021. However, after just two seasons, the team decided to drop him in favour of Nico Hulkenberg. He’s currently the reserve driver for Mercedes, and both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have praised the simulator work he put in as being key for the team’s recent double podium finish in Spain. So while there’s no clarity on whether he will bag an F1 seat next year, F1 has time and again shown us that waiting in the wings does pay off; just look at Esteban Ocon and even Nyck de Vries.

    Kenny Roberts and Kenny Roberts Jr

    Kenny Roberts is the first American to win a 500cc title (the championship that would go on to become MotoGP) and he did so as a rookie in 1978. He went on to successfully defend those titles in 1979 and 1980.

    Twenty years later, his son Kenny Robert Jr pipped Valentino Rossi to the 500cc crown. This makes them the first and the only father-son duo to win titles in the championship’s premier class. Kenny Jr’s younger brother also competed in the grand prix and Superbike categories, but not to the same level of success.

    Robert Dunlop and Michael Dunlop

    You can’t have a list of iconic motorsport families without mentioning the Dunlop dynasty, but their story is also marred by tragedy.

    Michael Dunlop is a 25-time winner at the Isle of Man TT, which is widely considered the most dangerous race in the world. This puts him just one win behind his uncle Joey Dunlop’s all-time record. Michael’s father Robert also won the Isle of Man TT five times. However, both Joey and Robert lost their lives while racing in different categories. Robert’s son, and Michael’s older brother, William also passed away in 2018 while competing in the Skerries 100 road races.

    Speaking in the new Isle of Man TT documentary No Room for Error, Michael (who still competes in the annual event) admitted, “Nobody in my mind would have went through what I’ve been through and come back to do this if they didn’t love motorbikes.”

    Dale Earnhardt Sr and Dale Earnhardt Jr

    For this one, we’re travelling to the other side of the pond to take a look at perhaps the most popular father-son duo in NASCAR history. Dale Earnhardt Sr is one of the most successful NASCAR drivers of all time, winning 76 Winston Cup races and seven Cup championships in his career. He lost his life following a last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500.

    His son Dale Earnhardt Jr would go on to win the Busch Series Championship twice in 1998 and 1999, and the Daytona 500 twice as well, in 2004 and 2014. He collected a total of 26 Cup Series wins before retiring in 2017. 

    Also see:

    Father’s Day gift ideas for auto enthusiasts

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