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What if Motorsport Was in the Olympics? — Part II

Written by the DIVEBOMB Team


Motorsport is truly an international affair, drivers from all over the world participate on different venues scattered around the globe, all with the same desire - to win. In the arduous F1 summer break, the international affair lined up with the biggest international sporting event in the world - the Olympic Games.


The 2028 Los Angeles Olympics has been rumoured to host motorsport for 2028, so that got us thinking: Who could represent their respective countries at the 2028 Games? Well, here’s our findings into them, as we present our next five selections.

James Wharton, a member of the esteemed Ferrari Driver Academy; Image Credit - Ferrari

Australia


Driver 1: James Wharton

(Jasmin Low)


When having to think about who could represent the land Down Under, it was surprisingly hard to choose just one driver to represent Australia at the Olympics in 2028. There have been a few more Aussie flags flying high on the motorsport stage in the recent past. Jack Doohan has done well in both this year and in 2022 in Formula 2, as well as being signed to the Alpine Academy like fellow Aussie Oscar Piastri was during his time in the feeder series. Daniel Ricciardo is another of the Land of Oz’s most loved drivers, but will be nearing 40, come 2028. With the precariousness of his racing career right now in 2023, it is likely that he will have hung up his racing boots by the time the 2028 Olympics roll around.


I’m going to take a gamble on James Wharton stepping up to represent the green and gold in 2028. The 16 year-old was the first winner of the Ferrari Driver Academy’s World Scouting Finals, joining the prestigious junior team in 2020, and becoming one of only eight of the Scuderia’s young proteges. He began racing in Australia in 2016, and moved to Europe the following year, experiencing his first taste of single seater racing in 2022. He won the Formula 4 UAE championship in a ‘winner takes all’ battle with Prema Racing teammate Tuukka Taponen in the final race of the season, a race that saw both of them retire on the first lap itself. He looks to have found his feet racing in Europe this year, not only with his results becoming better and better, but his racecraft and confidence as a driver improving as well.


Prema and Ferrari both don’t just sign drivers. They are both some of the most successful teams in the motorsport world, and obviously see Wharton’s true potential, even if he had a rocky start to his first few seasons racing in Europe.


Wharton has confirmed that he has his sights set on FRECA for next year, and an F3 seat in 2025, still giving him plenty of time to develop before 2028, when he will be 21 years old.

Piastri is the rising star from Down Under; Image Credit - Formula One

Driver 2: Oscar Piastri

(Maria Gadalla)


Oscar Piastri is another case of ‘The obvious choice’ for national representation for motorsports in the Olympics come 2028. With Daniel Ricciardo’s comeback postponed due to injury - and the fact that he will be 38 years old when the Olympics do come around - it’s likely that McLaren’s rookie who will take the cake. Except that, by then, Piastri won’t be a ‘young’ and ‘promising’ driver, but someone nearing the height of his career, and have come into his own.


Looking at his track record, it seems Piastri was primed for racing. He has been standing on podiums from the age of 15, and this success has carried on with his domination of the Renault Championship, the F3 and F2 Championships. Before even debuting in F1, his legacy was already so well-known that it brought about the infamous Alpine/McLaren debacle. Currently driving for the latter in F1, Piastri has already come frighteningly close to the podium on numerous occasions already, and even grabbed a podium at the recently-concluded Japanese Grand Prix.


Hence, it’s safe to say — amongst those wearing the famous green and gold, Oscar Piastri will be amidst the other Australian Olympians waving their hands in the opening ceremony,

if not being amidst other Olympians wearing a medal around their neck.

Verstappen would be first-choice to compete in the Olympics; Image Credit - Red Bull

The Netherlands

Ellie Nicholls


Driver 1: Max Verstappen


Max Verstappen is the most obvious, and the most popular choice to represent the Netherlands, not only because of his immense talent, but also his large fan following within the country, billed the ‘Orange Army’. The two-time Formula One World Champion is already far and away the most successful Dutch driver that the sport has ever seen, having broken records right from the very beginning of his Formula One career. And, having recently taken the record for the most wins in a row at the Temple of Speed, Monza, he is showing no signs of stopping, or even slowing down.


Additionally, with Verstappen previously expressing interest in pursuing other motorsport such as Le Mans, and his contract with Red Bull ending in 2028, I think competing in the Olympics is likely to be the next step in his already impressive career.

Haverkort is a youngster poised to take the second Dutch seat in the Olympics; Image Credit - Formula Regional European Championship

Driver 2: Kas Haverkort


The Netherlands is a country still relatively underrepresented within motorsports, despite Verstappen’s success in Formula One. Two Dutch drivers that may be in contention are IndyCar driver and past race winner Rinus VeeKay, and former Formula E champion Nyck de Vries. However, with de Vries resurrecting his career, following his infamous axing from AlphaTauri, and VeeKay lacking consistency in IndyCar, I decided instead to take a chance on a young talent in the form of Kas Haverkort.


Haverkort is a 19-year-old driver currently fourth in the Formula Regional European Championship, with a win and three podiums in 2023. However, it is his utterly dominant 2020 Spanish Formula Four season that proves he has the speed and talent to compete at a higher level. Against a competitive field including current Formula Three drivers Mari Boya and Oliver Goethe, as well as F1 Academy race winner Léna Bühler, Haverkort won 13 of the 21 races, with 17 podium finishes, and claimed the title by over 100 points.


Though he currently lacks experience, I would argue that Haverkort is more than capable of making his nation proud in the Olympics.

Palou would be Spain's first pick for the Olympics; Image Credits - IndyCar

Spain

Ellie Nicholls


Driver 1: Alex Palou


Alex Palou, a two-time IndyCar Champion, and multiple race winner, is the most obvious choice to represent Spain in the Olympics, after a very dominant 2023 IndyCar season.


After a very strong start to the year, Palou went on to win five races and clinch two pole positions — even setting a new pole record speed during qualifying for the Indy 500. However, what allowed Palou to claim his second title by an impressive 78 points was his consistency. Palou finished inside the top ten at all of the 17 races, and 13 within the top five.


Outside of IndyCar, Palou also has a very impressive racing record- including 2nd place in the 2014 Spanish F3 Championship, 3rd in the 2017 Japanese F3 Championship, and 3rd in the 2019 Super Formula Championship.


Across various different series, Palou has proven that he is able to compete at a very high level. Not only is he a talented driver, but he also has the consistency needed to claim victory for Spain in the Olympics.

Sainz is the man in form at the moment; Image Credits - Getty Images

Driver 2: Carlos Sainz


There are many talented Spanish drivers and karters who could potentially be chosen to represent Spain — the most notable being Marta Garcia, the current leader of the F1 Academy Championship, and Pepe Marti, a Red Bull Junior, and Formula 3 race winner.


However, despite their talent, they currently cannot match the experience and expertise of Carlos Sainz.


Since his rookie season in 2015, Sainz has proven himself to be a competitive and reliable driver, claiming 17 podiums and two wins across his career. His recent run of form after returning from the summer break has been particularly impressive, clinching two pole positions, and the only non-Red Bull victory of the season so far in Singapore. Not only this, but Sainz's consistency so far proves that he is a mature and dependable driver, having finished outside of the points only twice in 2023.


The combination of Palou and Sainz, already proven to be strong, reliable drivers individually, would certainly be a force to be reckoned with.


New Zealand

Dan Jones

Lawson beats out a number of other candidates to be first pick for the Kiwis' Olympics team; Image Credit - Scuderia AlphaTauri

Driver 1: Liam Lawson

The picks for New Zealand were always going to be extremely difficult, as I will touch on later, but even before his outstanding substitute appearances for AlphaTauri, Liam Lawson was an absolute guarantee for this slot.


Lawson is about as versatile as it gets. A race winner on every single step of the feeder series ladder, and that's before his sensational rookie season in the highly competitive Japanese Super Formula. It's not just single seaters either — Lawson would have won the DTM in 2021, in his rookie year, had it not been for a not-so-subtle crash from Kelvin van der Linde.


Come 2028, Lawson will be 26, and entering his prime years — and at this stage I would not be surprised if he was a Formula One race winner, and Red Bull Racing driver.

van Gisbergen shook the NASCAR world, winning on debut around Chicago's streets; Image Credits - Meg Oliphant

Driver 2: Shane van Gisbergen

Now this is where it gets very, very difficult. Let me throw out some names: Scott Dixon, Nick Cassidy, Scott McLaughlin, Mitch Evans, Marcus Armstrong, Brendon Hartley, Earl Bamber — this is arguably the hardest choice of anyone on this list.


I'm going to give it to Shane van Gisbergen, who just ekes out McLaughlin and Cassidy. van Gisbergen's adaptability is second-to-none — dominating Supercars right in its heyday, with his NASCAR victory in Chicago being one of the most monumental in the sports history — he's done it in single seater too.


Had you have asked me now, I probably would have gone with a Cassidy - Dixon line-up, but even the great Dixon would struggle at 48 in 2028, and although Cassidy would still be a mighty force, van Gisbergen is almost superhuman. I could go on with my analysis, but it's testament to this small country's mighty motorsport scene.



Japan

Max Smolarski

Iwasa currently sits third in the F2 standings; Image Credit - Formula Motorsport Ltd

Driver 1: Ayumu Iwasa

The 22-year-old is currently competing in FIA Formula 2. His climb up the feeder ladder has caught the eyes of many, especially after being signed to the RB Junior Academy in 2021. After a few short but impressive campaigns in lower formulae, Iwasa's career went a step further in 2020, following his announcement as Honda Junior Driver, as well as a full-time Formula 4-class seat at the French F4 championship. What followed was a near-flawless campaign, with 15 podiums in 21 races, 9 of which were race wins, as well as finishing no lower than 6th all year.


Iwasa was announced as a Red Bull Junior prior to his Asian F3 (Now Formula Regional Asia) and FIA F3 campaigns in 2021, and he has since proved his worth multiple times over. He had a more quiet outing in Asian F3 with a singular podium, but managed a little more success in the international series. His only win in the series arrived at Hungaroring, after Campos’ Lorenzo Colombo was penalised for being too far behind the Safety Car.


Iwasa was promoted to FIA Formula 2 with DAMS, after an impressive outing at the post-season tests at Yas Marina. He told an F2 reporter “I think the first part of my F3 season was too safe, which I don't want to repeat in F2,” and despite some fluctuations in performances from bad luck and a few incidents, his words were proven at an impressive feature race win at Le Castellet, and another at Yas Marina to secure 5th in the standings. In 2023, he stayed with DAMS, and has stepped up his game once more, with three wins, and currently sits 3rd in the standings, before the final round at Abu Dhabi.


Why is Iwasa, who will be 26 by the time the 2028 Olympics roll around, my choice for Japan’s motorsport team? It’s because of his aggressive speed when put under pressure. He’s managed to pull away for dominant victories in his time, as well as charging up the field when he has to. When bad luck is out of the equation, Iwasa knows what he’s doing, and where his place is.

Tsunoda has impressed for Alpha Tauri in 2023; Image Credits - Scuderia AlphaTauri

Driver 2: Yuki Tsunoda

The 23-year-old had an astonishing rise up to Formula One, winning seven of the 14 races in Japanese F4 to storm to the 2018 title. This title was also enough to secure a spot at the Red Bull Junior programme. His campaign in the inaugural FIA F3 season in 2019 with Jenzer Motorsport was less impressive, however, his only win at the feature race in Monza would be an impressive feat, considering it was Jenzer’s only win until 2023’s Spa feature race.


Ninth in the F3 standings was enough to put Tsunoda in Formula 2 for 2020 with Carlin. Even he was surprised at the call-up, saying “Honestly I was thinking I might be in F3 for another year, so I’m very happy that people believe I’m capable of the step up.” And step up he did. He secured four pole positions, three race victories, and four additional podiums, to finish third in the standings, close in points behind Callum Ilott and Mick Schumacher.


Tsunoda was called up to replace Daniil Kvyat at AlphaTauri for the 2021 season, but despite the performances he achieved in feeders, he hasn't been able to perform as well as he did in other series, mainly due to machinery that is far away from the leading teams. Pierre Gasly did completely outscore him 110-32 in his first season, however this performance can be somewhat excused for a rookie who rose to F1 so quickly.


He impressed in Abu Dhabi, finishing fourth, and challenging for the final podium spot on the final lap after a successful divebomb on Valtteri Bottas. He made massive gains the following season in worse machinery, gaining nine places over a sprint and race distance in what he described as his “best race […] in F1”. He gained another nine places at the US Grand Prix (19th to 10th), and, for his third season in 2023, has been praised for scrambling the currently worst-performing car on the grid, to three of its four points finishes.


Why is Tsunoda, who will be 28 for the 2028 Olympics, my choice for Japan’s motorsport team? This young driver does not give up position that easily, and is very determined to do as well as possible, no matter if he makes a mistake, or finishes firmly in a points-paying position. His recent machinery hasn’t been exactly competitive, but there’s no doubt he can make the most of whatever he is driving.







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