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Formula 1 Down Under: The past, present, and future of racing in Australia

Written by Ilona Datchary; Edited by Meghana Sree


From 21st March to 24th March 2024, the Melbourne Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place at Albert Park, and we will have the third round of the 2024 season. Australia has had such a rich history of Formula 1, complete with iconic drivers and the circuit being a significant venue in the F1 season. 


Drivers from Down Under 

In the history of the sport, there have been 18 Australian Formula 1 drivers, with two of them winning the World Championship. The first is Jack Brabham, who won three World Championships in 1959, 1960, and 1966. The other is Alan Jones, winning one in 1980.


Two other drivers from Australia who have won at least one Grand Prix and are well known, are Daniel Ricciardo and Mark Webber. Ricciardo has won eight races and Webber has nine wins.


Jack Brabham racing in 1967; Image Credits: National Archives of Australia

Brabham, who can be vouched as the best driver to come from down under, had created his own Formula 1 team in 1960 called “Brabham”. In 1966, he successfully won the World Championship which indeed bore his name.


Two out of his three sons joined Formula 1, however, both were unsuccessful and won no Grands Prix nor made a name for themselves in this racing series. Following his 1966 win, Brabham had a very successful course and even won two Constructors’ Championships, 1966 and 1967. His success lasted until 1992, where financial struggles took over. 


The one-time World Champion, Alan Jones, was the first-ever winner for the Williams Formula 1 team. In 1980, when Jones won the World Championship, he managed to get five Grand Prix wins and ten podiums. 


Alan Jones winning his fourth race during the 1979 season; Image Credits: Bernard Cahier/Getty Images

Mark Webber, a more recent Formula 1 driver who is now managing the newest Aussie on the grid, Oscar Piastri, started racing in F1 in 2002.


A very serious decision had to be made for Webber for the 2005 season. He had to choose between joining the Williams F1 team or Renault, and in the end, Webber chose Williams. It’s safe to say that Webber might’ve regretted the decision after seeing Fernando Alonso join Renault and win the 2005 and 2006 World Championships.


The closest the Australian ever got to winning a World Championship was in 2010, but unfortunately, due to an issue at a pitstop during one of the races, his teammate Sebastian Vettel won it instead. 


Mark Webber winning in the Hungary Grand Prix with Redbull in 2010; Image credits: Reuters

Currently, on the grid there are two Australian Formula 1 drivers: Daniel Ricciardo, 34 years old, driving for Visa Cash App RB Formula One Team; and Oscar Piastri, 22 years old, mentored by none other Mark Webber, racing for McLaren in his second year as a Formula 1 driver. 


The Melbourne and Adelaide Grands Prix Circuits

The Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix has been held since 1985, the first venue being in Adelaide, which was a street circuit, until it was moved in 1996 to Albert Park, Melbourne.


There had also been a huge switch with the Australian Grand Prix’s place on the calendar, with Adelaide initially being at the end of the Formula 1 season, but Melbourne being towards the beginning of the season. 


An Australian Businessman, Ron Walker, wanted the Grand Prix to be in Albert Park, and in 1993 it was confirmed. However, people were unhappy due to Albert Park being a public park that would have to be closed for one week a year, and it was expensive to maintain. However, these complaints were ignored and the plans were proceeded with.


The Albert Park Australian Grand Prix track layout from 2021; Image Credits: FIA

Albert Park then officially became the new F1 Australian Grand Prix venue, with 58 laps, 5.278 km (3.27 miles); with Sergio Perez driving for RedBull setting the fastest lap of 1:20.235 in 2023. 



Future of the Australian Grand Prix 

In 2023, Formula 2 and Formula 3 were introduced into the Australian Grand Prix and now again in 2024, both will take place alongside Formula 1 at Albert Park. As of June 2022, the Australian Grand Prix was extended until 2035, and then in December of the same year, it was further extended to 2037. 


Oscar Piastri, newest Australian F1 racer, winning his fifth race in his Formula 2 season; Image Credits: Formula Motorsport Limited/Joe Portlock

All in all, Australia has had a very successful history of Formula 1, having two World Champions and currently having two drivers competing in the sport. Who knows what big achievement is in store for them in the future?


Could Oscar Piastri become a World Champion, and give a new World Championship to Australia? Or could we even see a new circuit come up in the country? All we can tell is that there is no slowing down with the sport down under, as it continues to expand its presence in the country.  


 



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