Australia has always punched above its weight in Formula 1.
Despite being such a small country, we’ve produced a disproportionate number of Grand Prix winners and World Champions. Did you know Australian drivers have won more World Championships than Italian or American drivers? Hell, our greatest F1 driver of all time, four-time World Champion Sir Jack Brabham, remains (and will probably always remain) the first and only driver to win the world championship driving one of his own cars. Impressive stuff.
Australia is currently represented in F1 by Daniel Ricciardo, who after his amazing win for McLaren at the Italian Grand Prix last year, has racked up an impressive 8 Grand Prix wins – more than many former World Champions including Keke Rosberg and John Surtees.
But in what’s sure to be an exciting development for Aussie revheads, it looks like we might see two Australians on the grid this year, if we have any luck (or misfortune, as the case may be…)
A few days ago, Ricciardo came down with COVID-19, meaning he had to miss the second round of pre-season testing in Bahrain. While McLaren says they think ‘The Honey Badger’ will recover in time to compete in the opening round of the 2022 F1 season, this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, there’s a good chance he might not make it.
In an unusual move, rival team Alpine has offered that Oscar Piastri – the young Melburnian who won the F2 World Championship last year, who’s Alpine’s reserve driver – can fill in for Danny Ric or indeed his teammate, Britain’s Lando Norris, if either McLaren driver is unable to compete this year.
This is music to many racing fans’ ears. It was highly controversial that Piastri wasn’t given the chance to race in F1 this year despite winning the F2 World Championship. The way F2 works is that if you win the F2 title, you’re no longer allowed to compete in the series… So Piastri’s situation has widely been considered unfair.
Alpine giving their young talent as much chance to drive in F1 as possible by offering his services up to McLaren is a very generous move and shows they really care about his development as a driver. It lies in stark contrast to how other junior drivers have been treated by their teams (cough cough, Red Bull).
It’s unlikely and would be terrible to see Lando Norris ruled out of a race this year through COVID or other reasons), but we could see an all-Australian line up at McLaren in Formula One this year. Unreal https://t.co/l9eYAVaGUz— Scott Bailey (@ScottBaileyAAP) March 12, 2022
But as AAP Sport contributor Scott Bailey points out above, if later in the season Norris ends up having to miss a race, we could see both Ricciardo and Piastri on a team together – an exciting prospect. If that happened, it would be the first time in Formula 1 history that two Australians would race for the same team.
Then, when you consider that McLaren was founded by a Kiwi, Bruce McLaren, it seems particularly fitting. Two Antipodeans racing for an Antipodean team? That’s fully sick. Is F1 set for an Antipodean takeover?
Of course, there’s a lot of ‘what ifs’ here. It looks like we’ll probably just see the regular pairing of Norris and Ricciardo at Bahrain on the weekend, or we’ll see Piastri join Norris. While we want to see Ricciardo get well, we must admit we’re excited to see how Piastri performs behind the wheel of an F1 car…