Born on June 13th 1980 in Stuttgart, Germany, Markus Winkelhock is the son of former Formula One driver Manfred Winkelhock and cousins to another F1 driver, Joachim Winkelhock.
Markus grew up with motor sport all around him, his father competing in 47 Grands Prix in the eighties, and his cousin Joachim attempted to qualify for seven races in the 1989 season. So naturally, Markus fell into karting at a young age and by 1998 had been promoted into single seaters. The young German scored a series of wins in Formula Renault and Formula Renault Eurocup before returning to Germany in 2001 to compete in the German Formula Three Championship. In 2001 Markus won three events and was placed fifth in the championship by the end of the season. The following year in 2002 he could only manage one win and slipped to seventh but in his final season Markus finished an impressive fourth. The two wins in 2003 and steady driving got him attention and Winkelhock decided to give his hand a try at Touring Cars.
Unfortunately his move to closed-wheel racing didn’t go well and Winkelhock failed to score a point during the 2004 DTM season, causing him to turn his back on Touring Cars and return to single seaters for 2005. He chose the newly reformed World Series By Renault to relaunch his career and managed to win on three occasions. However, Winkelhocks season was mostly remembered for a series of silly mistakes, most notably during the qualifying session at Monaco and on the first lap of the Monte Carlo race.
2006-2007: Breaking Into Formula One
All was not lost though and in January 2006 Midland signed Markus as a test driver for their Formula One; at last it seemed as though things were looking up for the German. Markus completed Friday Practice Sessions for the team on four occasions, helping the team and drivers set the cars up and gaining vital experience in Formula One.
By the end of the year the team had been sold though, and new owners Spyker had promised more investment and better results. They re-signed Markus for another year and the German dove-tailed his testing duties with another brief foray into Touring Cars. Competing with the Audi and Futurecom teams, Markus entered seven races but achieved very little. Then just before the European Grand Prix, Spyker driver Christijan Albers left the team, freeing up a race seat providing the German with an opportunity.
Spyker chose to run Markus at Nurburgring circuit, but stated they wouldn’t necessarily continue with him for the remainder of the season. Winkelhock’s debut wasn’t easy as the weather was atrocious. However, Markus managed to keep his car running and following a spate of accidents found himself leading the race. And because of a restart, Markus became the only so far to have started last and first at the same race. Needless to say Winkelhock’s lead didn’t last too long and the German eventually retired from the race on lap 15 with a hydraulic problem. He had lead six laps and overtaken Kimi Raikkonen.
Spyker chose to run Sakon Yamamoto for the rest of the year, and when the team was sold again to Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, they chose the experienced Giancarlo Fisichella to partner Adrian Sutil for 2008.