Time was when a father’s son would become his apprentice, with a view to taking over the family business. It happened in all walks of life, and in the days of yore made a great deal of sense. Looking at the line up for the Abu Dhabi young driver test, and the current and recent F1 grid, it would seem that our sport continues this tradition.
Kevin Magnussen, Johnny Cecotto Jnr and Nicolas Prost are all sons of former F1 drivers – Jan Magnussen, Johnny Cecotto and – needing no introduction – Alain Prost respectively. On the grid we have Nico Rosberg, son of Keke, who is a race winner for Mercedes, and Bruno Senna, nephew of the great Ayrton, while Jenson Button’s father, John, was a Rallycross champion in the 1970’s.
Looking a little further afield and we find the trend continues: at the annual Ferrari ‘prize’ test, at Vallelunga, Italy, this year, Eddie Cheever III will get a run in a 2010 F1 Ferrari. Eddie is, of course, the son of long time F1 driver Eddie Cheever Jnr, who also had some success in the Champ Car series in the USA. Ferrari also has strong links to Force India third driver Jules Bianchi, the son of sports car racer Mauro, and grand-nephew of Lucien Bianchi, another Ferrari favourite.
Many other former drivers have sons in the sport: Alex Brundle, son of driver turned commentator Martin, for instance, and Jolyon Palmer, son of Jonathon. Nigel Mansell famously raced with his two sons, Leo and Greg, and – of course – Damon Hill made history by becoming the only son of a former champion, Graham, to take the title himself. Jacques Villeneuve, another 90’s Williams champion, is the son of the legendary Gilles (and not to be confused with his uncle, also called Jacques, and also a racing driver).
The list goes on, and it is fair to say that yes, it is in the blood. Of the current crop of next generation drivers, which are most likely to ‘make it’? Kevin Magnussen looks promising, as was his father before he proved not to be committed to the travails of F1, and Cheever is arguably a lot better than people think (as was his father). Bianchi is seemingly highly rated at Ferrari, and Cecotto has shown signs of notable talent. It is, as we say, anyone’s guess.