July 2nd, 2013 (F1plus/ B. Dixon).- Racing is in the blood. Emerging from the shadow of a father who achieved success in Formula One is no mean feat and one that has had a mixture of endings in the history of the sport.
In his single year of racing in Formula One in 2008, Nelson Piquet Junior failed to make even the tiniest imprint on the impression made by his three-time World champion father. Likewise, Jack Brabham’s three driver’s titles proved too tall a mountain to climb for his two sons, who between them only managed tenth as their highest finishing position. Michael Andretti‘s highest finish of third cannot be compared to the 1978 World Championship won by his father, Mario Andretti.
Not all sons following the path previously trod by their fathers ended so insignificantly. The tragic death of Gilles Villeneuve robbed him of the success he deserved and would no doubt have gone onto achieve, but a Championship was won in the Villeneuve name courtesy of his son Jacques in a Williams in 1997.
The most successful example of a son emulating a father’s success is the Hill dynasty. Damon Hill showed he was able to emerge from the shadows. Although his father, Graham Hill won two World Championships in comparison with Damon’s singular title in 1996, the younger generation scored twenty wins to Graham’s fourteen and took twenty pole positions to thirteen.
A current driver emanating from his father’s prestige is Nico Rosberg. Keke Rosberg was the first Finn to bypass the rally route and really make a name for himself in Formula One, but the road wasn’t an easy one to travel.
His first Formula One outing was with the Theodore team in 1978, where a supreme drive at a rain battered Silverstone to win in the BRDC International Trophy impressed important onlookers. It was only his second race. Despite this explosive start in an uncompetitive car, drives for equally uncompetitive teams followed until a stroke of luck changed his fortunes.
Keke represented the best option for Williams to fill a vacant seat, when they found themselves without a driver last minute due to the retirement of Alan Jones. With a good car finally underneath him he was able to show the promise that had so far been disguised by the uncompetitive nature of the ATS, Wolf and Fittipaldi he had been driving previously.
Kere Rosberg with Prost and Lauda at the podium of his championship winning race at the Dijon-Prenois Circuit in France for the Swiss Grand Prix in 1982. (LAT Photo)
He secured the 1982 Driver’s Championship with a sole win for Williams at the Swiss Grand Prix, with points gained from consistent podiums during the rest of the year meaning the single win was all he needed.
Following his championship-winning year he fell afoul of the turbo era and Williams’ long journey to become competitive again. He won a further four races for Williams between 1983 and 1985 but was replaced by Nelson Piquet for the 1986 season, for which he went to Mclaren to drive alongside Alain Prost. Finding the MP 4/2 to be a car unfavourable to his style, retirement promptly followed.
Twenty years later, in 2006, Nico Rosberg scored a drive with Williams, the team for whom Keke won his championship. Like his father, Nico burst onto the Formula One scene with an impressive early performance in Bahrain, which enabled him to achieve seventh place and record the fastest lap in a car considered uncompetitive. Being the youngest driver to snare a fastest lap entered him into the Formula One record books. From there, the young Rosberg continued along his learning curve, showing consistent improvements.
His first podium came in 2008 in Australia with a third place, which was followed by a strong 2009 season in which he consistently qualified in the top ten, then translated those qualifying positions tangibly into points.
Mirroring the career of his father though, his place at an uncompetitive team saw Nico having to wait patiently for success in Formula One. Good things come to those wait and in 2012, his seventh season in the sport, he finally achieved his first pole position and consequent victory at the Chinese Grand Prix.
2013 has seen his career continue to gain momentum. Capitalising on an improved car and armed with tricks and tools learned during three years spent partnering seven times World Champion Michael Schumacher, Rosberg is taking the season by storm and emerging as a serious contender.
He has used his knowledge and familiarity within the Mercedes team to show he is more than a match for 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. Pole king for three races in a row in Bahrain, Spain and Monaco, he then emulated his father’s 1983 win in Monaco; taking the victory every driver dreams of.
A further win at another classic circuit, Silverstone, has propelled him further through the Keke shadow. With Mercedes now seeming to have overcome their tyre degradation issues, bolstering their pace over one lap with the ability to compete over a sustained period of time in a race, there is a possibility that Mercedes could start to challenge Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel more aggressively.
The feeling that he is not far away from something big is a very tangible one and Nico looks like he may be the first driver to truly break through the shade of their father’s legacy.