When Formula 1 meets MotoGP01 August 2023
Over the years, many riders and drivers have entertained the notion of switching two wheels for four or vice versa. On only one occasion did these endeavours bear considerable fruit in a competitive sense, but that hasn’t stopped many great Formula 1 and MotoGP champions from trying their hand in a fundamentally different discipline from their own. From simple machinery swaps right the way through to multi-category races, there have been many weird and wonderful collaborations between the two sports, providing fans with a kind of motorsport entertainment detached from traditional race weekend formats.
1964 – John SurteesThe earliest example of the two sports overlapping is of course, John Surtees. A name forever etched into Formula 1 and MotoGP folklore. To this day, Surtees is the only person in history to win world titles on both two and four wheels. Having won seven motorcycle world championships from 1956 to 1960, including four in the premier class and three doubles (350cc and 500cc titles in the same year), Surtees switched his attention to the pinnacle of four-wheeled motorsport, beginning with his first full-season entry in 1961. His efforts culminated with the Drivers’ Championship in 1964 ahead of compatriots Graham Hill and Jim Clark, making his already legendary name even more revered among bike and car racing fans alike.
1960s & 1970s – Mike Hailwood Often in the conversation of ‘greatest bike racer of all time’, Mike Hailwood was highly regarded for his affinity for bike control. This natural ability saw him claim nine world titles between 1961 and 1967 – including four back-to-back in the premier class as well as 14 Isle of Man TT victories. Despite racing for Surtees’ own Brooke Bond Oxo Team Surtees squad when he switched to four wheels, Hailwood’s transition to Formula 1 wouldn’t be quite as seamless as his fellow bike/car racer, with his best result of second coming at the Italian Grand Prix in 1972 and one further podium at the South African Grand Prix in 1974.
2000s – Valentino Rossi and Ferrari It is well documented that Valentino Rossi, a man that transcended MotoGP and motorsport more broadly, took part in several Formula 1 tests with Scuderia Ferrari. Most notably, ‘The Doctor’ drove in a group test at Fiorano in April of 2004 with Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher, Robert Kubica and Mark Webber also in attendance. He was famously just seven tenths shy of a lap time set by M Schumacher himself, and several subsequent tests over the coming years followed, the last of which took place at the 2006 pre-season test at Valencia.
In the end, Rossi opted not to pursue racing on four wheels and continued to add to his long list of accolades in MotoGP instead. Following Felipe Massa’s injury at Hungary in 2009, another chance presented itself and the nine-time champion was under serious consideration for a Monza race seat that year. It wasn’t to be though, and his lack of testing quashed any hopes of Rossi on the grid. He would get another chance to drive an F1 car with another manufacturer, but we’ll get to that later.
2014 – Top Gear Festival SydneyRed Bull is known for their jaw-dropping stunts (such as David Coulthard’s donuts on top of the Burj Al Arab helipad), but one stands out, pitting three disciplines of motorsport against one another in one spectacular showcase. A special episode of Top Gear not only saw presenters from the UK and Australian shows side by side, but also MotoGP champion Casey Stoner, V8 Supercars champion Jamie Whincup and Formula 1 race winner Mark Webber going toe-to-toe around the Sydney Motor Sport Park. The five-lap contest tasked Webber – at the wheel of his F1 car – with lapping Stoner on a superbike and Whincup in the V8 Supercar. The race culminated with all three machines crossing the line together in an incredible photo finish.
2015 – Fernando Alonso and Marc Marquez Honda’s annual day of motorsport celebration – Honda Thanks Day – featured many eye-catching on-track demos in 2015 including Super GTs, Formula Nipon, go-karts and a 1991 McLaren Honda MP4/6 among other thoroughbred racing machinery. One run that may have caught the attention of MotoGP and Formula 1 fans more than any other, was Fernando Alonso and Marc Marquez taking to the Twin Ring Motegi circuit on a pair of Honda motorbikes, completing several laps together.
2016 – Jorge Lorenzo and MercedesIn 2016, it was Jorge Lorenzo’s turn to try his hand at driving a single-seater racing car. With help from the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team, the five-time champion got behind the wheel of the all-conquering 2014 MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS F1 W05 Hybrid at Silverstone. Whilst on track, the smooth and systematic approach he became famous for on two wheels shone through, striking a chord with the Mercedes engineers. He set a fastest lap time of 00:50.452 on the Silverstone International Circuit.
2018 – Marc Marquez and Red BullWith access to a vast talent pool of athletes across multiple disciplines – not to mention having its own FIA Grade 1 circuit at its disposal – it’s unsurprising that Red Bull utilised its resources to orchestrate a Formula 1 outing for Marc Marquez who was in the middle of securing the fifth of his six MotoGP titles. Also in attendance at the Red Bull Ring were none other than Mark Webber, Helmut Marko and Niki Lauda, as the eight-time World Motorcycle Champion got behind the wheel of the 2012 title-winning Red Bull RB8 adorning a Torro Rosso livery.
2020 – Lewis Hamilton and Valentino Rossi As the only true driver/rider swap on this list, it seems pertinent that it was two of the biggest names to grace a racing circuit in the modern era. Held at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo and facilitated by their mutual sponsor Monster Energy, the order of the day began with Rossi behind the wheel of the 2017 Mercedes AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+, followed by Hamilton hopping aboard the 2019 Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1. Once they were both up to speed, and after a quick debrief, they hit the track together on a pair of YZR-M1s and finished the most comprehensive MotoGP/F1 crossover by lapping together on track, Rossi in the Formula 1 car and Hamilton on the MotoGP bike.