For some drivers, a famous surname can be a help. Damon Hill (son of Graham) did reasonably well in his motorsport career, winning the F1 World Championship with Williams in 1996. He did make something of a meal of it, however, losing the ’94 and ’95 championships to better drivers in inferior cars.
But for others, it can be a bit of a nightmare. Here’s a list of drivers who most definitely are not a chip off the old block
Tomas Scheckter son of Jody, the South African-born racer, whose 1979 World Championship for Ferrari was the Scuderia’s last for more than 20 years. Tomas looked to be on course for a reasonably promising single-seater career until he fell in with the politically-riven Jaguar F1 team. A year of testing was going OK, but when he was pictured coming out of a special-interest nightclub, he was dumped by Jaguar, and went off to pursue a career in America. He has not covered himself in glory, never managing to make the most of being in the right team at the right time, and one wonders whether his night-time proclivities were an excuse rather than a reason for his leaving the leaping cat. Nonetheless, it’s clear that Tomas lacks his father’s fighting spirit on and off the track.
Dale Earnhardt Jr, son of NASCAR’s closest equivalent to Ayrton Senna. When Earnhardt was killed at Daytona, the NASCAR world mourned. That Jr (as he is now simply known) was already racing made the switch of allegiance all the more poignant. Dale Sr had a perfect combination of talent, roughness, determination, and skill, both on and off-track, to carry off the racing and the team management. Dale Jr fell out with the family-run team, and despite being picked up by NASCAR’s superteam Hendrick Motorsports, Jr has singularly failed to impress with on-track results. He’s still loved, but NASCAR fans will one day realise that they’re in love with a shell, that they’re not in love with Jr, they’re in love with the idea that Jr may one day realise an inherent greatness like his father did. It’s not going to happen.
Nelson Piquet Jr. Struggled through the lower formulae in a way which suggested that he didn’t have ‘it’. Only came second in GP2, and that was with his own team. The suspicion was already being aroused that money was the primary force behind his career, not talent. Into F1 with Renault under a management deal with Renault F1 CEO Flavio Briatore. A “fortuitous” crash in Singapore 2008 engineered a win for his team-mate, and a surprising contract renewal for 2009. In 2009 it all fell apart, and we were left with a small man with no talent.
Matthias Lauda. Son of Niki, whose hard-headedness was legendary and which delivered F1 World Championships where there shouldn’t have been any. Matthias has never seemed to show the same level of speed as his father. Some back of the grid work in GP2 led to the death of his single seater career. A switch to tin-tops in DTM resulted in further back of the grid work, and as of 2010, he is no longer a Mercedes driver.
The jury’s still out on:
Nico Rosberg, who showed excellent speed and persistence in GP2, and whose F1 career has been peppered with such, but he’ll need to assert himself more stringently if he’s to echo or better his father.
Graham Rahal, who needs to knuckle down and get on with winning races and the IndyCar championship.