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Who’s next? The F1 sons who might follow in Rosberg’s footsteps

13 Dec 2016

Thirteen sons of former F1 drivers have traced their father’s wheeltracks and raced in the world championship, including current drivers Max Verstappen, Kevin Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer and new world champion Nico Rosberg. But could we be set for another influx of second-generation talent in the near future? We shine the spotlight on those drivers with famous surnames who are currently climbing the motorsport ladder…

Mick Schumacher (son of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher)

Living up to a legend is never easy - but it’s got to be especially hard when your dad is the most successful racing driver in history (and your Uncle Ralf was no slouch either). So far though, Mick Schumacher hasn’t looked like a driver burdened by expectation, quite the opposite in fact, exhibiting both speed and professionalism that belie his tender years (where have we heard that before?). This year he finished runner-up in both the Italian and German Formula 4 championships, taking 10 wins, and he’s currently in the title mix in the MRF series - a single-seater championship that takes in various circuits in Asia over the winter. Could he go all the way to F1? Time will tell, but if he can keep progressing at his current rate and continue to deal with the inevitable pressure and interest that will follow him every step of the way, doors will surely open.

Giuliano Alesi (son of Grand Prix winner Jean Alesi)

Mercurially talented, heart-on-sleeve racer Jean Alesi became a beloved hero of Ferrari’s Tifosi, so it seems apt that the Scuderia have taken his son Giuliano into their driver academy, despite his relative inexperience. The 17-year-old, who like his father was born in Avignon but now lives in Maranello, finished fourth in the French F4 championship in 2015, but has found the going considerably tougher in the ultra-competitive GP3 Series this year, with just a single point to his name. However, being so young, there’s still plenty of time for him to show he’s cut from the same cloth as his dad. 

Pedro Piquet (son of triple world champion Nelson Piquet)

Triple world champion Nelson Piquet has already guided one son to F1 - Nelson Jr, who scored one podium across 28 starts for Renault before leaving amid the crash-gate scandal - but could another of his offspring also make the grade? 18-year-old Pedro Piquet was a double champion in F3 in his homeland before switching to the European series, but the Brazilian has found success harder to come by this side of the Atlantic. As new Williams recruit Lance Stroll dominated the championship, Piquet scored just a handful of points (finishing just behind Adrian Newey’s son Harrison in the standings) and suffered a couple of enormous shunts, though he did finish the year with an encouraging ninth at the prestigious Macau Grand Prix. With the best equipment at his disposal, next year could be a defining one. 

Aurelien Panis (son of Grand Prix winner Olivier Panis)

Olivier Panis’ surprise victory at Monaco in 1996 remains the last for a French racer in F1, but is there a possibility that his son Aurelien might one day be the driver to end that drought? As heart warming as that would be, the chances, you’d have to say, are relatively slim. The 22-year-old finished fifth in Formula V8 3.5 this season (behind Roy Nissany, son of one-time Minardi tester Channoch Nissany) with two wins, but having spent several years in the junior single-seater categories, you get the sense that he’ll need to make serious waves in 2017 to attract attention from the F1 paddock. 

Will Palmer (son of F1 veteran Jonathan Palmer)

Jonathan Palmer’s eldest son, Jolyon, has already graduated to F1 with Renault, but might the former Tyrrell, Zakspeed and Williams driver’s youngest one day join his big brother on the grid? Currently plying his trade in the lower reaches of the racing ladder, Will Palmer has already tested an F1 McLaren - his prize for winning the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, which followed a championship-winning season in British F4 in 2015. A 2016 campaign in European Formula Renault 2.0 was less successful, but the trajectory of the young Briton is still very much on the up.

Louis Deletraz (son of three-time Grand Prix racer Jean-Denis Delatraz)

Ok, so his dad wasn’t exactly a star in F1 - in fact he was quite the opposite, having leaned on healthy finances rather than outright talent to secure three starts for tail-enders Larrousse and Pacific in the mid-nineties. But if his results in junior categories are anything to go by, Louis Deletraz has shown that he could do what his father couldn’t and earn a spot on the grid on merit. In 2015 he was the runaway winner of NEC Formula Renault 2.0, and this year, having switched from BMW’s to Renault's young driver academy, he finished runner-up in Formula V8 3.5 behind the considerably more experienced Tom Dillmann. After a promising one-off outing at the GP2 Series finale in Abu Dhabi, an F1 test is surely just around the corner for the young Swiss racer. 

And the third generation talent…

Pietro Fittipaldi (grandson of double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi)

If Pietro Fittipaldi ever needs racing advice, he won’t be short of family members to turn to. Not only is grandfather Emerson a double world champion and 14-time Grand Prix winner, his extended family includes great uncle Wilson (35 F1 starts), first cousin once removed Christian (40 F1 starts) and uncle Max Papis (six F1 starts). The question is, has Pietro inherited the talent of those who came before him? Of course, being part of a famous dynasty is one thing, having the credentials to back that up is quite another, though so far Pietro has shown the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. A champion in BARC Formula Renault in 2014, the Miami-born Brazilian won another title in the MRF Challenge in 2015 alongside a so-so Euro F3 campaign. This year has seen the 20-year-old contesting the Formula V8 3.5 series, with the season finale yielding a first podium. The aim for next year is to fight for the title.