Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso polar opposite father influence revealed

Thomas Maher
Fernando Alonso chatting to Max Verstappen during the press conference. Australia March 2023

Fernando Alonso chatting to Max Verstappen during the press conference. Australia March 2023

Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso may be similarly talented on track, but both can’t point to genetics as a contributing factor…

While two-time World Champions Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso are enjoying a tremendous year on track as the pair have shared six podium finishes in the first eight races of 2023, the duo have had completely different experiences growing up with their fathers.

While Verstappen’s relationship with father Jos is well documented, with the former F1 driver himself helping his son establish himself as a racing driver through extensive racing and practice stemming right back to childhood, the Dutch racer can point to the genetics handed down to him from both Jos and his karting Champion mother Sophie Kumpen as giving him a solid baseline to start from.

But that’s not the case for Fernando Alonso. Unlike Verstappen’s second-generation headstart, the Spaniard carved out his own career and has good-naturedly pointed out that his father had no discernible motoring skills to pass on…

Speaking after the Canadian Grand Prix last weekend, which took place on Father’s Day in many countries, Alonso revealed that it wasn’t the day in question at home in Spain but took the opportunity to pay tribute to him.

“It’s not the day in Spain, in Spain it’s in March, I think,” Alonso smiled.

“But anyway, congratulations to my father… Yeah, my father is different, he has no talent at all to drive!”

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While Alonso senior dabbled in karting as a racer, his profession was that of an explosives factory mechanic for mining – a very different background to the F1 world in which the Verstappens engrossed themselves.

“And so yeah, he [taught] me and educated me in different ways and more for different things in life,” Alonso continued.

“He didn’t have the vision of being a professional driver when I was a kid. Yes, I was racing in go-karts and in different things but he was just thinking that that will end soon.

“And, you know, my life will be completely opposite to professional sport. So he was always very… with the feet on the ground, let’s say, and teaching me all the things and other values because it was difficult to believe that I was able to reach Formula 1 one day and that’s the beauty of our story.”

Verstappen, sitting alongside Alonso in the press conference, outlined the importance of what Jos had done with him during his upbringing as a racing driver.

“I don’t even know where to start to be honest,” the reigning World Champion said.

“We’ve lived through so many things. After my Dad’s own career, he invested all his time in mine. It’s hard to explain how much he has dedicated to me, because I probably still don’t even understand how much he did.

“He was preparing everything, go-karts, engines, and then driving all the way to Italy with me, in between school, then back. So many stories we can share. Sometimes we still talk about it, of course, when we are together. Yeah, it’s crazy.

“I probably only will fully realise how much he has done to me once I get kids, then you start to understand this kind of relationship. But yeah, without him I would not sit here today. He has taught me so much and prepared me so much from a very young age where sometimes I thought ‘Why does it need to be so serious straightaway?’, where you maybe want to play around a bit more and have fun.

“But he was working towards this goal. He had this goal set for me – to be, first of all, better than him and then tried to get to Formula 1. And then I got to Formula 1 and then slowly of course… we still call every day.

“Before the race, I was still talking to him about what we’re going to do with the strategy and stuff like that. He likes to know even when he’s not here and yeah, just like to have that kind of relationship with your Dad.

“After go-karting, when you go into cars, it’s a bit less personal what was happening here. So sometimes you miss these kinds of go-karting times when you’re travelling together in a van all the way there. But yeah, to share these moments together I think is very special. And today [Sunday] was of course also Father’s Day, so I don’t need to buy him a present, I did this [win] so I think he’s happy!”