Will 2009 Be The First Time Only One Briton Competes?

Will 2009 Be The First Time Only One Briton Competes?

The 2009 season could mark the first time a championship has only featured one British driver. From the sport’s beginnings back in 1950, the Formula One World Championship has attracted many Britons and never before have we seen only one British competitor sign up to the official entry list. Of course, we are still awaiting for Scuderia Toro Rosso to fill their final seat, and Jenson Button may still make it if Honda are purchased. But so far, the signs don’t look too optimistic.

This sorry state of affairs comes at a time when Britain should be embracing motor sport, not making fans worry about the future of the British Grand Prix, seeing two British-based teams withdraw in less than a year and potentially seeing two British drivers having to sit out due to these withdrawals. Incidentally, Super Aguri refugee Anthony Davidson was hopeful for a Honda role before they too pulled the plug.

Even if Jenson Button managed to make it to the Melbourne grid in March, only seeing two Britons in Formula One is fairly rare, an instance of which has only happened twice in the last 58 seasons (’04 and ’06). At times in the ’50s and also in 1981, the field came close to only fielding two Brits, but somebody always managed to qualify for a race to make it three-plus.

The problem with motor sport in the UK is funding, support and encouragement. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that motor sport is expensive, and with the government unwilling to put its hands its pockets for the sport, the situation is unlikely to see any real stability for a long time. Combined with Bernie Ecclestone charging extortionate fees to hosting circuits and refusing to listen to those who want revenue shared out fairly, it isn’t any surprise that Formula One could be dwindling in the UK.

Of course, the sport has plenty of British fans, and passionate they are too. The sport is on the increase in terms of viewers, but the very foundations it rests on are in trouble. Silverstone was continually slated by Ecclestone until the billionaire finally signed a deal with Donington Park (and the suspicions still rumble on about this).

Also, some former British drivers seem to be frowned upon with some regularity. Sir Jackie Stewart has been called a “certified halfwit” by the FIA president, Martin Brundle was almost sued for suggesting a McLaren “witch-hunt”, Damon Hill had the carpet pulled from under him as the British Grand Prix was moved without much warning…

Despite all this though, the 2009 reigning world champion will be a Briton, and Lewis Hamilton will proudly line himself up on the Australian grid in March with a number 1 emblazoned on the front of his McLaren. However, how far McLaren get into the campaign before the dubious penalties rear their ugly head is anyone’s guess. Hopefully, with a more transparent policy from the FIA, this can be avoided.

It would be great to say that Formula One has a bright future in the UK; circuits, drivers, teams… At the current time though, it appears to be a little overcast. The British Grand Prix is in some doubt, Prodrive are apparently unable to enter Formula One and be competitive and financially secure. As for upcoming drivers, the 2008 GP2 season fielded a couple of British hopefuls, but it will be some time before they can progress into the pinnacle series. Some may have even missed the chance entirely.

So what do you think of motor sport in the UK? The fans are certainly there, no question, but in terms of hosting events and fielding teams and drivers, is it dying out? Or do you think the turbulent times will pass to leave the British contingent stronger? The comments are open, so please have your say.

Image © Reuters/Stephen Hird.

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8 comments

  • The list of British drivers currently bubbling underneath the F1 radar is pretty depressing. The only half-decent drivers I can think of are either Mike Conway or Adam Carroll and possibly Paul di Resta. But what are the chances of those making an appearance in F1 with so few opportunities available?

    With the economic doom and gloom currently hanging over the country, I can only imagine that any potential British drivers working the way up the motor racing ladder will be severely hampered in the short-term with a lack of sponsors forthcoming. So it might take some time before we see another Brit line-up on the grid alongside Lewis.

  • Mike Conway or Adam Carroll

    It was these two I was thinking of, then remembered Ben Hanley. I always forget about Paul di Resta, probably because his name doesn’t sound British (or even Scottish) and he’s off doing DTM rather than GP2. I also think Carroll is starting to get on a bit and his chance for F1 has perhaps already gone. A real shame.

    And the more I think about it, the more I realise that IndyCar has more Brits than Formula One! According to the 2009 wiki, Wheldon and Franchitti are already signed up for drives, and Manning and Wilson I presume are looking Stateside for seats.

    Shame on you, Formula One.

  • Time to kick out these spec formula Renault, formula BMW etc series that cost £200,000 a season and bring back Formula Ford racing where you can run a team from your back yard and with pre qualifying fields of 100 cars

  • > The list of British drivers currently bubbling underneath the F1 radar is pretty depressing. The only half-decent drivers I can think of are either Mike Conway or Adam Carroll and possibly Paul di Resta

    Well, let’s see. In British F3 International you’ve got Oliver Turvey, who was season runner-up and is currently trying to sort out a GP2 drive “with a top team”. There’s also the very young but very talented Max Chilton just signed by his Carlin team. James Winslow also swept all before him in Australian F3 this year.

    In Formula Renault you’ve got Alexander Sims who just won the BRDC Young Driver award and Adam Christodoulou is another one to watch from that formula. James Jakes has himself a drive with Super Nova in GP2 Asia, and it will be interesting to see if he can turn it into anything more.

    Adam Carroll’s taken himself off to A1GP where he’s loving life driving for Team Ireland – because he no longer has to fight for funding and says he can concentrate on the driving. The aforementioned James Winslow is the Team GBR rookie and Danny Watts is doing great things in the race car.

    Another great A1GP story story is Yorkshire lad Adam Khan who’s taken over the running of Team Pakistan as well as driving for them – although he’s currently too tall to fit in the car at 6ft 1in, so his season’s been a bit curtailed.

    F2 starts up soon – and the drivers we know about include Alex Brundle, son of Martin,

    Come and have a read of Brits on Pole and you might feel quite a bit more optimistic about it all! The only time to get depressed about British motorsport is if you think F1 is the be-all and end-all.

    We also cover IRL in depth – the current stamping ground of Justin Wilson and Dario Franchitti, and we recently did a detailed interview with Darren Manning when he was over here for a sportscar race. Youngsters Martin Plowman and Pippa Man are in the Indy Lights development series.

    And, for what its worth, we’re backing Jense to be on the grid in March.

  • The only time to get depressed about British motorsport is if you think F1 is the be-all and end-all.

    As this is a blog about F1… 🙂 but I totally see your point, I’m glad you popped along and left a comment. A lot of the drivers you mention I have never heard of (I live and learn). But as Dank says, it’s going to be a while before any of them become “household names”.

    Come and have a read of Brits on Pole and you might feel quite a bit more optimistic about it all!

    I sometimes do when an article catches my eye. You’re in my feed reader, although I sometimes visit because I like the Union Jack design.

    And, for what its worth, we’re backing Jense to be on the grid in March.

    I don’t think anyone is against Button getting onto the grid. I hope he can make it, although realistically speaking, it’s getting more and more desperate with each day that passes.

  • It certainly is getting more and more desperate for Honda and the Britons! Each day I log onto the F1 blogs hoping to see some positive news about Honda… and each day it doesn’t happen

  • I don’t think it is just a British issue. There are currently 18 cars scheduled to be on the grid in Australia. In the late 80s and 90s there were 34 or 35 cars entered in each race. There are fewer drives available.

    Paul di Resta will be in F1 in the next couple of years. I expect him to be lewis’s team mate before long. There may be a few others who make it on to the grid but keep an eye out for Wayne Boyd in two or three years because he is something special.

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