Australia’s Home Race Heroes

Australia has had two Formula 1 World Champions; Jack Brabham and Alan Jones. While Australian drivers dominated the pre-F1 history of the Australian Grand Prix, a driver from the nation has failed to finish in the top three at their home event since the race joined the F1 championship in 1985. 

Australia’s Grand Prix history dates much further back than the country’s first appearance on the F1 calendar. It’s widely accepted that the first ‘Australian Grand Prix’ was held in 1927, though that race was held under the title of the ‘100 Mile Road Race’. These first races were held at the Phillip Island Circuit and all eight held there before the Second World War were won exclusively by Australians.

After the war, the race moved venues each year, including a few visits to the original Albert Park circuit, and continued to be mostly dominated by drivers from Australia and New Zealand. The only exceptions up to 1979 were victories for British drivers. Stirling Moss took victory at Albert Park in 1956, Graham Hill won at Lakeside Park in 1966, Jackie Stewart finished first at Warwick Farm Raceway in 1967 and Jim Clark won at Sandown International Raceway in 1968.

During the post-war period, Lex Davison became the most successful competitor in the Australian Grand Prix. The Melbourne-born driver took four victories in the race between 1954 and 1961. His tally of Australian Grand Prix wins matches that of Michael Schumacher – the current F1 record holder for most Grand Prix wins in the country – which Sebastian Vettel could equal over the 2019 Australian Grand Prix weekend.

The Australian Grand Prix found a more permanent home at the Calder Park Raceway in the early eighties and Alan Jones’ victory there in 1980 remains the last time an Australian has won their home Grand Prix. For the next four years, the race was won by future F1 drivers – three times by Roberto Moreno and once by Alain Prost.

The race finally became a round of the F1 World Championship in 1985, where it held the final race of the season each year up until 1995 at the popular Adelaide Street Circuit. Alan Jones and David Brabham are the only Australian drivers to have competed in the event during this time. Neither had much luck, though. Jones – the only Australian F1 World Champion to have appeared in an F1 race on home soil – retired from both the 1985 and 1986 races with mechanical issues, while Brabham failed to finish on both of his appearances in 1990 and 1994.

The race moved to Albert Park in Melbourne as the season-opening Grand Prix in 1996. It wasn’t until 2002 that an Australian competed in the event, with Mark Webber taking part in his maiden F1 weekend with the Minardi team. Webber pulled off a race which would please the partisan crowd, finishing in an unlikely fifth place in the unfancied car. He and team boss (and fellow Australian) Paul Stoddart were invited on the podium after the official celebrations to share the result with the crowd. Webber bettered that result at his home event only once in his career, finishing fourth for Red Bull in the 2012 Australian Grand Prix. When Webber announced his retirement, Red Bull replaced one Australian with another.

Daniel Ricciardo took the vacant cockpit and impressed on his début for the Red Bull team in 2014, starting from the front row and finishing runner-up to Nico Rosberg. The celebrations were short-lived, however, as Ricciardo was excluded from the results due to a breach of the technical regulations. Since then, Ricciardo has equalled Webber’s best of fourth position twice, in 2016 and 2018. 

Ricciardo moved to Renault for the 2019 season, and retired from the Australian Grand Prix due to damage caused by running over the grass at the start of the race. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Australian Grand Prix was cancelled and 2019 was to be Ricciardo’s only appearance at home with Renault. In 2021, Ricciardo has moved to McLaren. With the team on the pace in 2021, could Ricciardo return to the Albert Park podium?

Who has been your favourite Australian Formula 1 driver? Let us know in the comments!

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