For a little country, Australia has fared pretty well in our Formula 1 ventures.
However, history tells us that we could have performed even better, with some of our most talented racing exports never making it to the pinnacle of motorsport - despite showing enormous promise.
Almost every driver dreams of F1, but the majority of them never make it to the driver’s seat. A lot of the time that’s because they’re simply not good enough, but sometimes there is more to the story…
Young Will Power had incredible raw speed but struggled to find consistency. This, coupled by the strain of funding his Euro campaign, saw the United States win out as his final destination.
Now a veteran IndyCar racer for the titanic Penske Racing team, he has an Indianapolis 500 victory and championship crown to his name. Legendary team boss Roger Penske provided the perfect environment for Power to unleash his raw ability. But apart from a single F1 test with Minardi in 2004, sadly the Queenslander never really made it onto the F1 radar.
This guy’s racing endeavours in the 1960s and ’70s had him tipped as the next Aussie to take on Europe. He was even offered an F1 drive by legend of the sport Colin Chapman, but incredibly turned it down.
“I was rather surprised that he was quite serious, but it just wasn’t practical,” Matich told Autosport.
“I was lucky to have the Total sponsorship going, but they did not have any international racing programs. So out of respect to them, I said no.”
At one point, the legendary Australian touring car racer seemed destined for open-wheel glory. Lowndes arrived in Europe in 1996 ready to dive headfirst into F3000 with RSM Marko.
While he had done all the right things to earn the seat, ‘The Kid’ struggled, eventually being trumped big-time by his teammate Juan Pablo Montoya before returning to Aussie shores for good.
“I have no regrets,” Lowndes told Autosport.
“In hindsight, you could always have made better choices, but it showed me what the world of motor racing was like. The only disappointment was that I didn’t get a second season [in F3000].”
Lowndes did eventually get a taste of Formula 1 when he performed a car swap with 2009 F1 champion Jenson Button at Bathurst, driving the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-23 around Mount Panorama in 2011.
Courtney had the world at his feet when he showed up at Monza on July 11, 2002 for a Jaguar F1 test. All that would change in one day.
The rear wing on Courtney’s Jaguar collapsed, took out the right-rear suspension and sent the car careering into the wall at over 300km/h.
“That shunt fundamentally changed his outlook on F1,” Courtney’s longtime manager Alan Gow told Autosport.
“That’s when he decided he wasn’t going to be cannon-fodder for anyone and we didn’t pursue F1.”
HONOURABLE MENTION: SCOTT DIXON
Technically not an Australian, the Brisbane-born Dixon races as a New Zealander.
One of the world's great open-wheel racing talents, Dixon passed by Europe entirely on his way to the top of the American ladder.
His success in the US earned him a test with Williams in March of 2004, but it unfortunately never eventuated to anything more.
We doubt he has any regrets though, with Dixon's trophy cabinet including 45 IndyCar race wins, 112 podiums, an Indy 500 victory, five IndyCar championships, and three Daytona 24 hour victories.