Formula One

Australian drivers in Formula 1: The race winners, the World Champions and the future

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Photo by Icon Sport

Australia doesn’t amass large numbers in terms of F1 drivers or wins, but it has a large history in the sport. The country has been represented on the F1 grid by fourteen drivers, some more successful than others. It has produced four race winners for a total of 43 victories, with two of those going on to become World Champions. Finally, Australia also has it’s own track in the F1 season.

In this article, we will dive into the history of Australian drivers in F1 and look into the future of the Land Down Under.

The Grand Prix winners and the World Champions

Jack Brabham

The championship’s second Aussie driver was its most successful. Jack Brabham started racing in midgets on dirt ovals and his talent was soon evident. He was then spotted by representatives of the British Royal Automobile Club, who persuaded him to move to Europe.

Brabham took his chance in 1955 and his F1 debut took place in the same year. After a couple of years consisting of part-season efforts in the championships, alongside drives in sportscars and Formula 2. However, a revolution was around the corner. Cooper decided to experiment and place engines behind the driver’s cockpit, leading to a breakthrough for both team and driver.

In the first race of 1959, Brabham emerged victorious and it set the tone for the next couple of seasons. With two wins and three more podiums, he was crowned World Champion for the first time in his career. In the following season, five consecutive victories put him on track for his second title.

After little success in 1961, Brabham set off and created his own team in 1962. It was a turbulent start for the new team, despite a few podiums. He considered retirement, but eventually regretted, and it paid off. In 1966, despite criticism regarding his age, Brabham became champion for the third and final time. He kept racing until 1970, racking up occasional wins and podiums, taking his total up to 14 and 31 respectively.

Brabham left racing to move back to Australia and live a quiet life. He had three sons, all of whom became racing drivers. Two of those, Gary and David, went on to race in Formula 1 as well.

Alan Jones

Alan Jones followed in the footsteps of his father in racing from a young age and moved to Europe in 1967, at the age of 21. After successfully competing in junior single-seater championships, a Formula 1 debut was in order. He raced for Hesketh, Embassy Hill and Surtees, with occasional points-finishing performances, before finding a home at Shadow in 1977 and claiming his maiden victory in Austria that season.

Next up was a move to Williams, which was about to embark on its first full season. After a rough start, things turned around and for the final races Williams fought for victories and Jones grabbed four of them. It set them up brilliantly for 1980 and he capitalised. In a title fight against Nelson Piquet, the Australian came out on top with two commanding victories at the season’s conclusion.

He tried to repeat his success in the following year, but an intense rivalry with his teammate, Carlos Reutemann, brought turmoil within the team and Jones left the championship. Despite sporadic appearances in the following years and a lengthy career in the Australian touring car scene, he never committed to an F1 comeback, but has stayed connected with the sport, as a broadcaster.

Mark Webber

Mark Webber started his junior racing career in his homeland, as he jumped into single-seaters at the age of 18, in 1994. After two successful years, he moved to Europe, trying to chase his F1 dream. Two more seasons in single seaters, he earned a seat at Mercedes’ sports car program for a couple of seasons.

His performances earned him test drives for Arrows and Benetton, which led him to a seat at Minardi for 2002. His debut race was in Melbourne and in front of a packed crowd, Webber unexpectedly finished fifth and gave Minardi its first points since 1999. Despite not scoring more points for the rest of the year, he kept performing very well and moved to Jaguar for 2003. He regularly scored points and, two years later, was snapped up by Williams, where he took his first podium.

In 2007, he made what proved to be a career-changing decision to join Red Bull. After a couple of good seasons, the turnaround came in 2009, aided by new regulations and the arrival of Adrian Newey, who provided Webber and his teammate, Sebastian Vettel, with a championship-contending car. After an emotional first victory in Germany, eight more victories followed for the Aussie, but his ambition of becoming a champion slipped from his grasp in 2010, his best opportunity regarding that.

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Photo by Icon sport

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo started his racing career in Australia, but was on the move to Europe very quickly, at the age of 17. His performances in Formula 3 attracted the interest of Helmut Marko, who signed him up to the Red Bull Junior program in 2007.

Four years later, it was time for his F1 debut, with HRT for half a season, before moving to Toro Rosso. Three seasons there were enough to convince Red Bull to give him the seat vacated by Mark Webber. There, he shocked the F1 paddock, when he started conveniently beating his teammate, four-time reigning World Champion, Sebastian Vettel. In his breakthrough season, he took his first three of his eight total wins.

His risky decision to leave Red Bull for Renault ultimately only gave him two podiums, while his subsequent move to McLaren only gave him a single victory, but his generally mediocre performance left him without a drive for 2023.

Australia’s present and future

Oscar Piastri

Making his F1 debut in 2023 at the age of 22 is Oscar Piastri. The youngster had a stellar rise through the ranks, emerging as a rookie champion in both Formula 3 and Formula 2. In a saga regarding the team he was going to drive for his rookie season, the youngster made headlines as McLaren snatched him from Alpine. He has a promising future ahead, something he made sure to confirm when he scored his first points at his home race in Melbourne.

The others

A few Australian drivers are coming through junior championships. Jack Doohan is the country’s lone driver and has F1 ambitions as Alpine’s reserve. Hugh Barter has shown great promise and is competing in Formula 3 as a rookie, while Noah Lisle has also attracted interest while racing in the British F4 championship.

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