Father and son: not as easy as it looks

Columns: Focus
Father and Son: a relationship that is often the heart of track activity, but that has changed over the past 30 years. Fathers who are less and less "mechanics" and increasingly more "managers", when they're not a pain in the neck of Racing Departments. How has the relationship between father and son on the track changed? (fm)

Urban legends tell of kids locked in the van in the dark in the midst of their dad's chassis, as a punishment when returning from a race gone bad. Older tales tell of big fights in the paddock with fathers hitting each other in the parc fermé. For sure, the passion of fathers is often the initial spark in each driver's racing path, whether he becomes a professional over the years or even when the track just remains a Sunday hobby. The famous fathers and sons we've talked to confirm this special combination, even if more factors revolve around the two figures today - especially when there is a career to aim for.

“Today's drivers, even if only 14 years old, live a very professional environment. Under the large tents is the telemetry technician, the physiotherapist, everything is already set up like in the Formulas and the space for dads, even when they are former drivers, is reduced,” says Riccardo Patrese, famous ex-F1 driver and father of Lorenzo, today GT driver after one season in F4 in 2021 and a brilliant karting career. “I'm happy with the relationship I had in the early 70s with my father on the track, when we'd load the kart over the car roof and worked together on the chassis before the races. Although in the last two years, when I ran the World Championship with Baroni and then with Birel, the context changed slightly, he was always present. 95% of the role of the fathers on the track has changed, also because this world is much more professional today and the idea of ​​being able to see a father pushing his son's kart to a World Championship is not even imaginable, something common in the old days. To some extent this is negative, because before there was a way for the driver to grow and mature more gradually in the presence of the figures of reference for him. Even on the eventual arrival in Formula 1 (he got there at the age of 24, ed's note) no one presumed that he was a winner immediately. This was because the boy was given the time to become a man as well as a professional and, therefore, a complete athlete. Today, if at 20 you haven't yet won an F1 World Championship, things get complicated. But the world has changed as a whole, so it's clear that there's no going back entirely.” One tends to think that fathers can often force the choice of racing in karts, imposing on children what is actually their own passion. If perhaps this may be true, and can happen at a very young age, when the kids decide to continue beyond the Minikart, it is, instead, the kids to really love this discipline. “My dad was fundamental at the beginning, obviously, although I was the one who asked to start running. He certainly didn't force me to race,” says Lorenzo Patrese about the beginning of his career.

Enzo Trulli, now Super Formula Driver in Japan after a few seasons in karting, also confirms that nobody had to insist he choose his dad's sport: “My father Jarno has an important role, but it was me who absolutely wanted to start racing. There are many advantages and disadvantages to having a multiple world champion dad, of course. On the one hand, he teaches me every technique, since he knows every trick to go faster and I try to listen to him and do it and this is definitely an advantage for me, but it is also a challenge, sometimes, as he can see any of my mistakes from outside and I'd like to try instead to understand where I went wrong on my own. But I'm happy to have him close: he is present just the right amount, both on and off the track, and I'm very happy that he leaves me my spaces.”

A father who has become very popular over the years, also thanks to his son's frequent praise whenever the opportunity arises, is certainly Anthony Hamilton. A common worker (computer programmer) who supported his son on the long journey towards Formula 1. “Papa Hamilton is a true British-man, a very polite and discreet person,” says Dino Chiesa in describing him, with Dino also hosting Nico Rosberg's father, former F1 World Champion Keke, in the same period of the beginning of the century in his tent. “At the beginning, there was a bit of concern that Nico, already with me from his past in CRG, could have had a better treatment, but then the results of Lewis, immediately winning, took away any doubt. The two dads got along well and, indeed, often in the evening, they kept each other company until late to make up a bit for the long days in the paddock, which for a dad can also be boring, come to think of it. An hour a day, two at most to follow his son on the track, perhaps from the stands, the rest of the day is often boring.”
Dino Chiesa, who knows something about fathers and sons, having Patrese Jr, Badoer Jr, Trulli Jr and Fittipaldi Jr in his team, has got an idea of ​​what crosses to bear and delights to share are involved in having to deal with fathers. “The North European and German fathers are always very dry, curt, of few words, even when the results do not arrive: from them, never a complaint or a word too many, for better or for worse. With Italians, Frenchmen, Spaniards and Portuguese the talk is a little different (laughs): when there is no result, the dads become track engineers and then the engine is not up to par, or the chassis is not okay and on they go with complaints. I now let the dads watch telemetry too, which helps them reflect on what's happening on track. As for "famous" fathers, it's not always an advantage in my opinion: on the one hand, because there's always the risk of being considered "favored" and also because in any case, if there's no consolidated presence of the parent in Motorsport (as it had been for Keke Rosberg, for example), the path to professionalism is not that easy. Paradoxically, great talent being equal, it can be easier for an unknown: on condition that the talent is really a lot, however. Then, however, one thing remains always valid, which I use to say about Nico: as important as having a well-introduced ex-driver dad can be, it's the driver who goes on the track and it's him who holds the steering wheel in his hand. If you're not fast enough, you will not make your way just because you're part of a legacy: you cannot become F1 World Champions only with your surname.”

Created by: fmarangon2 - 06/03/23

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