The second-generation racers looking to break into F1

Jolyon Palmer

Who will join Rosberg, Magnussen and Verstappen in F1's second-generation club next season?

With Max Verstappen joining fellow second-generation drivers Nico Rosberg and Kevin Magnussen on the grid next season, we're taking a look at some of the other F1 offspring ready to graduate to motorsport's top tier.


Son of Jonathan Palmer: 83 grand prix starts between 1983 and ’89

More than 30 years after his old man won the European F2 championship, Jolyon Palmer is on course to secure a similar triumph by conquering GP2. The Brit leads Felipe Nasr by 32 points with three rounds to go, and his recent consistency suggests he should get the job done.

Whether Palmer will then graduate to F1 full time - as dad Jonathan did in 1984 - is another question. While Jolyon has talent and brings some backing, he’s not got quite enough of either. Fourth-year GP2 drivers tend to be overlooked by F1 teams under the assumption that real talent shines through in the first two seasons, hence previous champions Davide Valsecchi and Fabio Leimer failing to land F1 berths. It’s easy to imagine the same fate befalling Palmer.

That would be a shame, but there are currently a dozen or so drivers worthy of F1 who cannot find a way in to the sport. If he does land a seat Jolyon will certainly deserve his opportunity, but he will also count himself rather lucky.

F1 FUTURE? It wouldn’t be undeserved, but the market is very tight at the moment and Palmer may miss out to richer or more naturally gifted racers.

Jolyon Palmer


Son of Johnny Cecotto Sr: 18 grand prix starts between 1983 and ’84

The younger Johnny Cecotto has earned such a reputation for on-track madness that most people forget he is the son of a former racer. Johnny Sr. made his name on two wheels, beating the legendary Giacomo Agostini to the 350cc world title in 1975.

He later switched to cars, competing in two largely unsuccessful F1 campaigns during the early 80s. He enjoyed more success in tin-tops, winning 14 German Touring Car races and finishing second in the championship in 1990.

The idea of Johnny Jr. on a motorcycle is worrying in the extreme, so we should be thankful his old man steered him towards cars. Now a GP2 veteran, he’s earned a reputation for on-track behaviour that veers from aggressive to downright dangerous. On more than one occasion Cecotto has been guilty of manoeuvres that warranted severe punishment, though he has largely escaped with a slap on the wrist.

In fairness, he has matured this season, but given that he is now in his fifth GP2 campaign that should be a given. Cecotto Jr. could yet end up in Formula 1, but it would be for his financial backing rather than his abilities behind the wheel.

F1 FUTURE? Perhaps, if a team needs a well-funded Venezuelan who is either lightning fast or in the midst of a shunt. So basically, another Maldonado.


Son of Olivier Panis: 157 grand prix starts between 1994 and 2004, one race win (Monaco ’96)

Although he’s been in cars longer than Verstappen Jr., Aurelein Panis’ single-seater career is still in its infancy. The Frenchman has predominantly raced in various Formula Renault 2.0 championships, this year contesting the top-tier Eurocup.

Panis has performed reasonably well in his second full season in that category, taking a maiden race win in Moscow and currently sitting seventh in the standings. Chances are he will stick around for a title push in 2015.

Early signs are that he doesn’t possess the same natural talent as his old man - who was always more cerebral anyway - but there’s a fair bit of development to go yet, so watch this space.

F1 FUTURE? It’s too early to make a definitive judgement, but his results in FR2.0 haven’t been stellar, suggesting diminishing returns as he climbs the career ladder.


Son of Derek Daly: 49 grand prix starts between 1978 and 1982

Dublin-born Derek was a decent peddler who didn’t get a chance to shine until 1982, when he replaced the abruptly-retired Carlos Reutemann at Williams and scored a string of points finishes.

He then relocated to America to race in IndyCar and has since made his home there, hence Conor’s American nationality. The young Daly was something of a sensation in his native junior series, utterly dominating the Star Mazda Championship in 2010 before taking the bold step of switching to Europe. Three years in GP3 yielded two wins and third in the 2013 standings; not bad, but not outstanding.

Daly took his time to get up to speed in GP3 and is having an equally tough start to life in GP2, albeit with a tail-end team. He’s at something of a career crossroads, too: there may be the option to return to America next year to race in IndyCar, and that would probably be his best option. After all, he’d be looking at paid employment in the States, while he is always likely to have to bring money in Europe. If he does return Stateside his racing education on this side of the pond will serve him well.

F1 FUTURE? Daly has never shown stand-out form in the European junior series and isn’t wealthy enough to simply buy a seat. IndyCar may be a better bet.


Grandson of Sir Jack Brabham: 126 grand prix starts between 1955 and 1970, three-time World Champion

We’re bending the rules a little here. While Matthew Brabham’s father Geoff was a respected racing driver, he never actually competed in F1. However Matthew’s grandfather was none other than three-time World Champion Sir Jack Brabham; we’re willing to make exceptions for racing royalty.

Australian-born Geoff competed extensively in America, hence Matthew being born in Florida and making his name in U.S single-seaters. However, as a Brabham, he holds dual nationality with Australia.

He’s also continued the family tradition for winning. In 2012 he claimed the U.S F2000 title, then stepped up to the Pro Mazda Series and won 13 of the 16 races - breaking Conor Daly’s victory record in the process. This year he moved up to Indy Lights and finished fourth in the standings.

It’s unlikely that Brabham will find his way to F1. Having followed the U.S ladder system, his future is likely to lie in IndyCar or with Andretti Autosport’s Formula E squad.

But it can’t be ruled out. Brabham has plenty of talent and one of the most famous names in the sport. That makes him a sponsor’s dream, so a European adventure could be around the corner.

F1 FUTURE? Unlikely, though if he lands a Formula E seat and shines there his name will be on the global radar

Matthew Brabham