Full throttle | F1 drivers that get their kicks on two wheels too

Even the most esteemed F1 drivers need to get their kicks off track too... and for many high-profile four wheel stars, that means getting out on two wheels

F1 drivers on motorcycles


There won’t be many things in this world that an F1 driver would consider more of an adrenaline rush than racing powerful, rapid accelerating, muscle squeezing 1,000bhp cars.

But that doesn’t stop many of them trying to replicate the buzz anyway. It’s why, several riders - past and present - have turned to two wheels to either satisfy a passion, challenge themselves or simply sate a lust for all things fast.

Here are a selection of F1 drivers - past, present and dearly departed - that are just like you and me…

Lewis Hamilton

Statistically the greatest F1 driver of all time, seven-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton has often spoken of his passion for motorcycling, both roadgoing and racing.

The Briton even has a motorcycle dedicated to him in the MV Agusta F4 and Brutale LH44, a limited editions of the Italian flagships drizzled in his logos and accompanied by moody catalogue poses of the man himself looking in other directions to the camera. 

MV Agusta’s collaboration with one of the world’s most bankable celebrities - sporting or otherwise - was engineered by its brief spell under AMG part-ownership, the tuning arm-turned-sportscar division of the Mercedes team Hamilton competes with in Formula 1.

Now and again the MV is paraded in front of the world’s press as Hamilton takes the short commute to ‘work’ at the Monaco Grand Prix from his nearby home.

A veritable Valentino Rossi ‘fan boy’, Hamilton got his dream of a ‘job swap’ in 2019 when he completed laps on a Yamaha M1 MotoGP bike, while the Italian got a go in the Mercedes F1 car. It wasn’t plain sailing with talk of a crash for Hamilton, enough to suggest the Briton won’t be doing a ‘John Surtees’ any time soon.

Fernando Alonso

His opinion about the Honda engine powering his McLaren F1 car might not have been, shall we say, “gushing” but two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso was rather more complimentary about the Honda RC213V MotoGP bike he tested in 2015.

Taking part in Honda’s ‘Thanks Day’ - which brings together drivers and riders from Honda’s myriad racing series around the world for a sort of ‘Christmas Party’ - instead of photocopying his arse, Alonso lapped Motegi on Marc Marquez’s machine… before no doubt swapping his helmet for a paper hat and getting hammered.

With his Honda days now way behind him, Alonso - who has since returned to F1 with the Alpine team part-managed by ex-Suzuki MotoGP boss Davide Brivio - has moved with the times by purchasing an Aprilia RS 660 to get around. A fine choice, might we say.

Sebastian Vettel

Four-time World Champion, dropper of F-bombs to race direction, eco warrior, human rights activist… Sebastian Vettel is certainly many things. He’s also a huge motorcycle enthusiast.

Particularly partial to a classic model, while notoriously private Vettel keeps his collection away from prying eyes, he has been spotted on a Kawasaki two-stroke triple in the past, while rumour has it he’s a regular at classic motorcycle shows when he is in town.

The German says he got the motorcycling bug from his first purchase, a Cagiva Mito 125, while eagle-eyed spotters have seen him out on a variety of KTM and BMW models.

Charles Leclerc

Fair play to Charles Leclerc for stepping out of the ordinary with his choice of two-wheels - a Husqvarna 701 Vitpilen. Not an obvious motorcycle by any stretch of the imagination, Leclerc’s Huskie, however, is one-of-a-kind.

Created by French custom house Bad Winners, the ‘Apex 2.0’ takes a Vitpilen 701 base - which is already the platform for the KTM 690 Duke - and amps it up with a unique frame and bodywork, a full system exhaust and decat, Power Commander V, Li-Ion battery, SC-Project end can and gorgeous looking DYMAG carbon fibre wheels.

While we’re not sure about the choice of KTM headlight, it’s icy cool… much like the Monegasque Ferrari F1 driver himself.

Max Verstappen

As though it is a rite of passage for any F1 World Champion, Max Verstappen can also be found on two wheels when he is getting some down time in his native Netherlands.

Like Leclerc, the current F1 World Championship leader has commissioned his own custom, but prefers a lazier style of riding judging by his choice of a Montois-custom Harley-Davidson [it is not clear if it is the one in the image above].

A company with a history of success in custom competitions, their creations caught the eye of Red Bull Racing driver Verstappen, who got in contact to curate his own personal motorcycle.

However, any hopes of seeing Verstappen on a MotoGP bike have been quashed repeatedly, first by Red Bull - who said it was too dangerous - and more recently by the man himself as he focuses on his F1 priorities.

Kimi Raikkonen

It may come as little surprise that Kimi Raikkonen - who somehow managed to make ‘lacking emotion’ totally bad-ass - loves his motorcycles.

Indeed, it is known the 2007 F1 World Champion has a sizeable collection of motorcycles in his native Finland. 

However, his passion is primarily for ‘Choppers’ and Harley-style cruisers and even has a series of special customs made under his ‘Iceman’ nickname.

Having retired from F1 at the end of the 2021 season having started more grands prix than any other before him, Raikkonen spent approximately five minutes with his feet up before taking everyone by surprise by being announced as the new team manager for the factory Kawasaki team in MX1.

Nico Rosberg 

Certainly not the ‘showiest’ of F1’s title winners, 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg has been keeping himself busy since the shock decision to retire just days after landing his famous win over Lewis Hamilton.

Taking up the mantle as an environmental champion way before Sebastian Vettel made it cool, Rosberg has popped up now and again touting the advancements made in automotive technology and electric transport.

Which is why his collaboration with Italian manufacturer Energica made sense, with Rosberg even hired to launch the company’s latest generation Ego sportsbike in 2019. 

Can’t deny though, did Energica gain anything from any one of these naff photos such as these?

Mark Webber

If you’re ever likely to see an F1 driver popping up at a MotoGP event or the Isle of Man TT, it will be Mark Webber.

The fan favourite Aussie has been adopted among two-wheel racing’s inner circle in the years since his retirement to live vicariously through his peers.

His passion stems from growing up with a father who owned a motorcycle dealership. But when his father refused to allow him to race on two wheels, he went and raced on four. Perhaps just as well.

Michael Schumacher

Unlike others in this list, seven-time F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher not only loved his motorcycles, but he even attempted to race them.

Having found life post-F1 to be somewhat mundane, Schumacher channelled his spare time and energies into developing his race craft on two-wheels. It led to him bringing his megastar status to the comparatively modest German IDM Superbike Championship in 2008 aboard the factory Holzhauer Honda.

He wasn’t a front runner on a bike that his team-mate Martin Bauer was winning the title, but he didn’t disgrace himself either. Alas, a heavy crash led to a shoulder injury that not only ended his motorcycling aspirations but ruled him out of a planned return to F1 with Ferrari to replace the injured Felipe Massa.

How different history could have been had he been able to make a glorious return to his beloved Ferrari?

Ayrton Senna

We won’t opine on the merits of whether Ayrton Senna is THE greatest F1 driver of all time, but certainly the Brazilian won devoted fans around the world for his organic passion for anything fast, and that included motorcycles.

He particularly loved his Ducatis and - like Hamilton many years later - he would often arrive in the Monaco Grand Prix paddock riding a Ducati Monster. The Italian firm later created the Ducati 916 Senna sportsbike special edition, an example of which now is immensely valuable.

Alas, the man himself never got to experience his dedication, being launched the year following his tragic and untimely death during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

The bikers turned drivers

Of course, we can’t complete an article such as this without celebrating a couple of other legendary names that went in the other direction.

The late great John Surtees is - and will probably remain - the only racer to have won world titles on both two and four wheels, clinching seven GP Motorcycling World Championships between 1956 and 1960 before following it up with an F1 crown in 1964.

Whereas Surtees went from two to four wheels, Mike Hailwood stands out as switching between them during a glittering career that yielded nine GP motorcycle world titles and 14 Isle of Man TT wins.

While his F1 career wasn’t as successful as his countryman’s, he did achieve two podium results over seven contested seasons and was a race winner in the feeder European F2 Championship. ‘Mike the Bike’ then went on to stun the sport by returning to the TT and reclaiming his spot at the top of the podium.

Then there is Johnny Cecotto, winner of the 1975 300cc GP World Championship, who went on to win the Formula 750 series and compete in F1, before establishing a successful career in touring cars.

Though not quite at the peak of F1, numerous esteemed bikers have gone on to forge careers on four-wheels, including Mick Doohan - who enjoyed a long tenure in the V8 Supercars series - while Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa are currently occupying their time competing in sportscars series’.