Australia has produced two world champions but where are its stars of the future? Jack Butler looks at the past and future of Australians in F1 in this guest post.
Australia is a big country. It’s one of the biggest, in fact. And yet it’s only produced sixteen F1 drivers and two world champions (Jack Brabham and Alan Jones).
Only four Australians (Brabham, Jones, Mark Webber and Tim Schenken) have scored points in F1. Granted, the size of a country does not guarantee F1 successes, as shown by the fact that there have been no Chinese F1 drivers from over a billion people, but Australia is not a developing nation – so why is there only one Australian driver in the field?
The only Australian in F1 today – Mark Webber – got to European racing through the Australian Formula Ford Championship. However, none of the winners of this series have ever gone on to F1, and it’s been running since 1973.
One reason for the lack of Australians in the world’s premier racing series could be that the vast majority of Australian racing drivers go on to touring cars, something which is not considered to be very high-level in Europe, despite prominent series like the British and German Touing Car Championship. The preference for touring cars doesn’t quite add up either, though, as there are no Australians in the BTCC or DTM.
It could also be attributed to the fact that Australia isn’t really the place for F1 racing anyway. The season does traditionally start in Melbourne, but that’s a street circuit, and the geography of Australia (desert outback) doesn’t really lend itself to permanent race tracks.
What it does lend itself to is rallying and road cars, and in Australia there are several series available for sports cars, sedans and touring cars. However, this still means that there isn’t anywhere for potential F1 drivers to learn their trade, unlike in Europe and the USA, where there are tracks all over the place.
Webber is proof that the transfer from Australian kart racing to European single-seaters can be done, borrowing large amounts of money to scramble his way into tests in England, where he proved he deserved his place.
The other recent Australian drivers to come through were the two younger Brabhams in the early 1990s, but this does not vindicate the Australian motor-racing structure as it’s a lot easier to get the budget to run Formula Three in Europe when you’ve got a three-time world champion and national hero behind you.
Australian motor racing is run by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS), and from looking at their website it seems they’re heavily interested in promoting the V8 Supercars series in Australia, as opposed to any single seat racing. The most prominent open wheel racing in Australia is the Australian Formula 3 series, which, again, has produced no F1 drivers (according to Wikipedia).
It’s not just that there’s no established Australians in motorsport either – there’s none on the way. Apart from John Martin, who races for Australia in A1GP and is doing British F3 this season, and Chris Atkinson in the WRC, there is no-one. None in GP2, none in Euro F3, none even in Formula Renault.
Surely it’s time the CAMS formed an infrastructure for drivers to make it into F1? A few more Australians in the world’s premier racing series and Bernie may withdraw his threats to relieve Melbourne of it’s Grand Prix, perhaps?
Read more about Australian F1 drivers:
This was a guest article by Jack Butler. If you’re interested in writing for F1 Fanatic look at the information for guest writers here.