BBC4 are currently screening Michael Sandel's superb series of lectures on political philosophy. This week's episode considered John Rawls's theory of justice, and vividly highlighted the near impossibility of providing equality of opportunity in society. A fairly self-confident chap in the audience, called Mike, argues for a meritocratic society, in which people are rewarded proportionately to how hard they work. In response, Sandel points out that even the possession of a work ethic is strongly related to the accidental economic and familial circumstances into which one is born. To demonstrate his point, Sandel asks the audience of Harvard students to raise their hands if they are the first-born in their families. You can see the result for yourself 22mins into the video.
This is all very well for educational achievement, but does the same thing apply to motor racing drivers? For example, amongst the cohort of successful drivers (those who have made a living from being a racing driver, let's say), how many are the first-born in their families? And in the case of brothers who become racing drivers, do the first-born tend to be the most successful, or does the risk-taking, rebellious streak of a younger sibling actually provide a better basis for a racing career?
These are questions which could only be answered by a serious statistical study, yet a small sample of prominent cases in Formula 1 appears to suggest that this is an arena in which younger siblings might not be particularly disadvantaged:
Ricardo Rodriguez was younger than Pedro.
Emerson Fittipaldi was younger than Wilson.
Jody Scheckter was younger than Ian.
Gilles Villenueve was older than Jacques (Snr).
Michael Schumacher was older than Ralf.