F1 Genetics


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There are many famous names in F1, some of these names appear throughout multiple generations which has got me thinking, does the ability to race in F1 come down to genetics?

The first names that spring to mind are usually the ones where the children emulate the success of their Father, Hill, Villeneuve & potentially Rosberg. All sons of champions & legends in the sport.
Damon & Jacques had their greatest success with a hugely dominating car but have shown that having a winning father meant the racing instinct was passed down through the genes. Rosberg has the speed but again he is driving a dominant machine only time will tell if he was a born racer or just lucky enough to have a father who both had the funds and the connections to make sure Nico got the opportunity to compete with the best.

For the argument against genetics three names spring instantly to mind. Brabham, Piquet & Senna, all multiple World Drivers Champions yet their offspring failed to make the cut when it came to F1, Ayrton Senna famously quoted "If you think I'm fast then you should see my nephew" Where that speed is? No one knows.
The less said about Piquet Jr the better.
Although David Brabham had considerable success away from Formula 1 his results in the top tier of motorsport showed he didn't have that little bit extra that a driver needs to be the best although a lot of that could be down to the machinery he was stuck with.

F1 is dangerous, maybe the reason we don't see more generational racers is that many parents don't want to see their children go through the same risks that they put themselves through for the sport they loved. Emilo de Villota isn't a household name but everyone knows his daughter Maria who died due to complications after crashing while testing an F1 car. Henry Surtees was on the way to follow in his grandfathers footsteps but died in a GP3 race. The latest tragedy is Jules Bianchi, currently fighting for his life after a horrific accident in Japan, racing is in his blood though with both his Grandfather & Great Uncle who both competed & won at the top of their fields.

Finally we need to take a look at the future stars. Kevin Magnussen has certainly shown that he is quicker than his father ever was, if he manages to keep his seat at McLaren then I'm pretty sure he will go on to greater success, one of the great unknowns is Max Verstappen who is hotly tipped to become the next big thing while his father Jos was never spectacular there must be something in the blood as Max's sister is also a racer and is on the path to single seater racing.
And lastly we have Jolyon Palmer, the recent GP2 WDC, Son of another journeyman racer but quick and mature, he deserves his shot in F1 but as always in this most cruel of sports talent alone isn't enough.
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...add to that you see the likes of Alex Brundle and Nicolas Prost in your average Le Mans 24 hours line. Conor Daly had a brief spell in GP2 as well.

You're always more likely to appear in F1 if you have a family that believes it is viable. Not every dad takes insane risks like Anthony Hamilton, for example.
There's a huge list of drivers with racing heritage. I've only picked out the ones who raced in F1 or were/are on the path to it. Here's some of the names who didn't get a mention in the opening post.

Mario & Micheal Andretti
Martin & Alex Brundle
Alberto & Johnny Cecotto
Emerson & Christian Fittipaldi
Satoru & Kazuki Nakajima
Alain & Nicola Prost
Jody & Ian Schekter
Jo & Jean-Louis Schlesser
Micheal & Ralf Schumacher
Joachim, Manfred & Markus Winklehock
An unusual one from other sports was Gordan Cohen who was a 1966 Football World cup winner is the father of Ben Cohen 2003 Rugby World Cup winner.

Another one that springs to mind is Liam Rosenior now at Hull, but when playing for Fulham, went up to ex Man Utd Striker Andy Cole and said "My dad played alongside you at Bristol City". Andy Cole wasn't too happy with that statement.
I believe that hard work and hours of practice will take you only so far in any competitive venture, and that genetics contribute that extra little bit that takes competitors to the top of their field. I read "Outliers-Story of success" by Malcolm Gladwell and he talks about the 10,000 hours of practice it takes to master anything and that is true, but with motorsports, there's a lot more to it than car control. Bravery is a big one but where do you get that? It's not training, you see very early on which children are fearless and which ones are scared of everything. Having a racers instinct is another one and seat time helps but either you have it or you don't.
My feelings on it are that being the son or daughter of a racer only gives you an ideal environment to flourish and develop whatever driving ability you have, and to reach your full potential (whatever that potential is). You may or may not have the same traits that allowed your parent to get to the top of the motorsports field.
cider_and_toast I think Rafa Nadal is the nephew of Barcelona hardman Miguel Nadal.

I remember how hilarious it was during the 1996 euro tie betwen England and Spain. He and Stuart Pearce spent more time giving each other "Hard-Men-Stares" than actually trying to play football....
I think it's obvious that the offspring of professional athletes are ideally placed to follow in their parent's footsteps if they truly have the desire and they are raised in the right time frame. Not only are they born with a genetic advantage, but they grow up in an environment where professional sports are simply a way of life. There is a much smaller adjustment period for these kids when they arrive in the big leagues as opposed to someone with no experience in such a pressure cooker. Baseball is perfect example of this phenomenon. The amount of "Jr's" over the years in MLB is astounding.

F1 is no different in that the son of a driver will hold enormous advantages over outsiders and this is just a fact. Ultimately the guy will have to prove his worth to some degree, as plum drives are never just given away, but they will no doubt be afforded opportunities that other people would kill for simply because they were fortunate enough to be born into the right family.
All the Jr's in the MLB but I find it funny how many Sr's there are in American football. Steve Smith Sr., Titus Young Sr., Karlos Williams Sr., and Todd Gurley II, half of those guys are still in college. Having kids early I see. Also naming them after yourself. Egos everywhere.
Naming your child after yourself is a very American thing, closest to that in F1 is Jacques Sr, Brother of Gilles Villeneuve
I imagine it would become an absolute nightmare when your child reaches adulthood, if you name your child after you.

I believe there are three father-and-son combinations to play for the England football team...
George Eastham Jr. and Sr., Brian and Nigel Clough, Frank Lampard Jr, and Sr.
Naming your child after yourself is a very American thing

I'm not sure about that. People were naming their children after themselves well before the 1770's.

My point was only that "Jr's" have a tendency to pop up in Major League Baseball quite often, and that I don't think this is an accident.
Rosberg has the speed but again he is driving a dominant machine only time will tell if he was a born racer or just lucky enough to have a father who both had the funds and the connections to make sure Nico got the opportunity to compete with the best.

If Nico has not proven himself to the world as a racer then there's something wrong with the world. I don't think racing is down to genetics, rather the family culture racers have.
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