If you’re heading down to Albert Park this weekend, don’t blink – you might miss a chance to see one of the Aussie drivers who made their own assault on the F1 scene before Mark Webber’s sterling efforts rekindled home interest in the World Championship.
The highlight will be the planned appearance of our two World Champions, Sir Jack Brabham and Alan Jones, as they take part in a special parade lap before Sunday’s big race.But what do you know about some of the other Australians who have flown the flag in F1 over the years? Here are the drivers who will be with us at Albert Park in 2011…
Warwick, who was born in Sydney in 1949, took part in just one race in a Grand Prix car. He had already won the 1975 Tasman Series on home soil and was in the United States racing in F5000 when the call came. The great New Zealand driver Chris Amon was injured and unable to start the 1976 United States Grand Prix East at New York’s Watkins Glen circuit, so Brown stepped in to his Wolf Williams instead. He qualified 23rd and finished the race in 14th.
Remarkably, Tony Gaze has just celebrated his 91st birthday. In World War 2 Gaze was a Spitfire pilot; he was shot down in 1943 but subsequently escaped and returned to Britain. He was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1952 he took part in three Grands Prix in an HWM-Alta. In Belgium he qualified 16th and finished one place higher; the British round saw him qualify 26th but retire because a cylinder head gasket blew; he failed to qualify in Italy, and his last F1 race, in Germany, brought 14th place on the grid and another non-finish with engine trouble.
This man needs no introduction to Australian racing fans. The great Victorian is, after all, a six-time Bathurst winner and a Hall of Fame inductee. Before those heady V8 days, however, Larry was a superb single-seater racer. He came through Formula Vee, Formula Ford and Formula 2 before taking the 1975 European F3 title.
He failed to qualify for the German GP in 1974 in an Amon-Ford, but Perkins then had 11 World Championship starts in F1, from Spain `76 to Belgium `77. He wrestled with a variety of machinery: Ensign-Ford, Brabham-Alfa, BRM and Surtees. His best result was eighth in the `76 Belgian GP.
Like Perkins, Gordon-born Tim is a familiar figure on the Australian racing scene as Director of Racing Operations for CAMS and a central figure in Australian Grand Prix weekend as Clerk of the Course at Albert Park. Tim enjoyed an outstanding single-seater career, winning both the British Formula Ford and F3 titles before making his F1 debut for Frank Williams in 1970 in a De Tomaso-Ford in Austria.
In all he contested 34 Grands Prix from then till 1974, his best moment coming in Austria in 1973 when he finished third in a Brabham behind Jo Siffert and Emerson Fittipaldi. Tim also carved out a brilliant sportscar career, sharing winning drives with the great Ronnie Peterson for Ferrari.
Best-known for his exploits in sportscars at Le Mans, where he won in a Porsche in 1983, South Australian Vern was a Formula 1 contemporary of Larry’s. He did nine Grands Prix between 1974 and 1977, starting with an Ensign-Ford in Belgium in `74. His best result came in a Surtees-Ford in `77 when he qualified 19th in Germany but came home in seventh place.
Another Sydneysider, David campaigned a Lotus with great success in British F3 in 1969 and later competed in 11 Grands Prix. He started with a one-off drive in a Pratt & Whitney-powered Lotus in Holland in 1971, then did a season as Emerson Fittipaldi’s team-mate with Lotus in 1972, when the Brazilian became World Champion. He did 10 races that season with a best result of ninth in Spain, even though he ran out of fuel and was not running at the finish!