First families of Formula One prove that speed is in the genes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 October, 1996, 12:00am

If there was ever any doubt that sporting talent is implanted firmly in the genes, next season's Formula One championship should make it test-tube clear.

While the 'like father, like son' and 'he's so like his brother' cliches hold good in politics (the American Kennedy clan) and business (Li Ka-shing and Sons Incorporated), it's in sport that inherited characteristics are amazingly apparent.

In football, Bobby Charlton and brother Jack were in the England team which won the World Cup in 1966, the Underwood pair of Tony and Rory have played together in England's rugby union side, and the brothers Jensen form a famous and outrageous tennis partnership.

But heading the way in filial and sibling associations is motor racing.

The love of speed, the willingness to throw a dice with danger on all six sides, and an uncanny talent for negotiating a car through bends at more than 150 mph has been passed from gifted fathers to skilful sons.

This season's world championship will go to one of them in Japan next Sunday. Damon Hill, whose late father Graham took the title in 1962 and 1968, is in pole position as he needs just one point, while teammate Jacques Villeneuve, son of the extraordinarily accomplished Giles who died behind the wheel, must win and hope Hill fails to earn a point.

Hill and Villeneuve have dominated the season for Williams-Renault and both would love to take championship honours as a tribute to their famed fathers who blessed them with natal faculties - the steering wheels necessary for success in life's fast lane.

As if to underline that the family connection in motor sport is more than mere coincidence, three-time world champion Jackie Stewart and son Paul have formed a team to compete on the Grand Prix circuit next year.

Jackie Stewart, while not exactly born with motor oil in his veins, soon had it on his jeans as he helped out in his father's garage in Scotland.

Son Paul resisted the pull of the racetrack until after his education was complete, but he showed enough skill behind the wheel to prove he had inherited many of Jackie's qualities.

The Stewarts have yet to decide on their driving line-up for next season but rivals Jordan have ensured that kinship will be highlighted further by gaining the signature of Ralf Schumacher.

Ralf is a virtual clone of his elder brother Michael, the reigning world champion who opted to take the fortune offered by Ferrari rather than chase further fame in a more competitive car.

The younger Schumacher has not been handed a Formula One place just because of his name.

He has served his apprenticeship in lower-profile racing and is poised to win the Formula Nippon title in Japan.

Presumably, like most brothers, the Schumachers have been highly competitive with each other since they were old enough to ride a tricycle - and it will be intriguing to watch their rivalry develop out on the track.

Oh brother.