F1's best hometown debuts: Piastri scores on Australian GP debut


Oscar Piastri arrived in Melbourne as an F1 driver for the first time this weekend. He followed in the footsteps of drivers who have pulled off brilliant first-time performances on home soil

Piastri 2023

Oscar Piastri may have raced in Melbourne before, but today he heard a roar of support never before as he brought home F1 points for the very first time – and he did it at his home race, the Australian Grand Prix.

The boyhood dream became a reality for the McLaren driver as he took on Albert Park as a GP driver, the former F2 champion managing to bounce back from a season filled with misfortune so far.

Qualifying 18th in Bahrain for his much-anticipated F1 debut, Piastri managed just 15 laps around the Sakhir circuit before his McLaren was retired due to an electrical issue. It was a similar story in Saudi Arabia when, despite qualifying a brilliant ninth, opening lap collisions forced the Australian to pit early and demoted him to the rear of the field – hardly the ideal start to an F1 career.

However, the pride of racing on home soil has prompted moments of brilliance from grand prix drivers before, and did so again this time – an opportunistic late McLaren pitstop allowed Piastri to open his F1 account.

From Lewis Hamilton’s first trip to Silverstone, to Louis Chiron’s Monaco masterclass, here are some of grand prix racing’s greatest home heroes.


Louis Chiron

1950 Monaco Grand Prix

Louis Chiron in the 1931 Monaco Grand Prix

Louis Chiron cheered to victory at the 1931 Monaco Grand Prix


Even with his 51st birthday just months away, it was no surprise that Louis Chiron was included in the list of drivers that were selected to compete in the inaugural F1 World Championship in 1950, having enjoyed a successful motor sport career before the start of World War II. But no one expected such a display of greatness when the Monegasque driver arrived for his home race – the first world championship  Monaco Grand Prix.

From the archive

Qualifying eighth for Maserati, Chiron was skilled and lucky enough to avoid a multi-car crash at Tabac on the first lap, caused by a freak wave that breached the circuit walls and caused chaos on track.

The incident eliminated half the grid, but even whilst piloting a car much slower than the likes of Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, Chiron climbed through the field to finish third behind Alberto Ascari and Juan Manuel Fangio – a feat not accomplished by any Monegasque driver since.

After his retirement in 1958, Chiron continued to play a major role in the organisation of the Monaco Grand Prix, even waving the chequered flag throughout the 1970s.


Mario Andretti

1968 United States Grand Prix

Although Mario Andretti‘s first F1 grand prix at Watkins Glen had ended in clutch failure and retirement, he’d already done more than enough to convince the paddock of his supreme ability.

32 laps earlier, the American had arrived at his home race for the first time after convincing Lotus team boss Colin Chapman that he was ready for an F1 seat. Racing alongside Jo Siffert and Graham Hill, who would clinch the world title that same year, Andretti shocked the paddock by taking pole position – beating reigning world champion Jackie Stewart to boot.

By the end of lap one he had been demoted to second, but from there he held his ground until said reliability issue brought his Lotus 49 to a halt.

Andretti made fleeting returns to F1 over the next six seasons, even capturing his debut F1 victory in 1971, racing for Ferrari in South Africa. But he wouldn’t get his hands on a full-time seat until 1975, joining Parnelli before returning to Lotus a year later. Here he would cement a legendary status already established in the US by winning the F1 world title in 1978.


Carlos Reutemann

1972 Argentine Grand Prix

There are many ways to make a statement on your F1 debut, but there’s few better than claiming pole position over a reigning world champion in front of your home crowd.

This was the reality for Carlos Reutemann, who beat Tyrrell‘s Jackie Stewart to the front of the grid at the 1972 Argentine Grand Prix, and out-qualified his Brabham team-mate, Graham Hill, by almost two seconds.

His dream start to life in F1 would ultimately fade, as Reutemann fell back to seventh during the race after pitting for fresh rubber. But his incredible performance was a sign of things to come, as the Argentine would go on to capture 12 grand prix victories and another five pole positions across a decade of racing in F1.


Jean Alesi

1989 French Grand Prix

Political turmoil and a late change of sponsors gave Jean Alesi his shot at an F1 seat in 1989, joining Tyrrell for the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. In the midst of a successful F3000 campaign, the Frenchman’s late call-up meant he had little practice in the sleek yet underpowered Tyrrell 018.

From the archive

Nevertheless, Alesi quickly turned heads during the race, climbing through the field to briefly run second before pitting for tyres. Although the event was eventually won by fellow countryman Alain Prost, all eyes were on Alesi who finished a fantastic fourth and was the last car to avoid being lapped.

His performance rightly earned him a drive for the rest of the season, and claiming his first podium finish in the USA the following season.


Mark Webber

2002 Australian Grand Prix

Racing for Minardi, a team who spent its entire existence as a backmarker, very little was expected from young Aussie Mark Webber as he made his F1 debut on home soil in 2002. But with a whole nation’s support behind him, the Aussie produced the performance of a lifetime.

Qualifying 18th, Webber was one of only eight cars to finish the race, the majority missing out on the chequered flag after a multi-car incident at Turn 1 on the first lap. But despite keeping his nose clean, Webber’s F1 debut didn’t go without drama, as in the closing stages he became involved in a scrap for fifth with Mika Salo‘s Toyota.

Driving without the use of his highest gear, Webber valiantly defended his position until Salo spun with just a handful of laps to go. Although the podium was still far from reach – a full two laps behind Michael Schumacher‘s front running Ferrari – that didn’t stop Webber from visiting the top step with Minardi team boss Paul Stoddart afterwards to celebrate in front of his home crowd.


Lewis Hamilton

2007 British Grand Prix

By the time the 2007 F1 season reached Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton was already a two-time F1 race winner and a genuine title contender. But his performance at the British Grand Prix would truly cement his reputation as a future F1 champion.

Battling Kimi Räikkönen and fellow McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso, Hamilton captured a spectacular pole position – one of six he would seal over the course of the season.

The Brit then held off Räikkönen’s menacing Ferrari for 16 laps before deciding to pit for fresh tyres, but a costly error during the stop meant the Finnish driver held onto the lead until the chequered flag. Hamilton was also leap-frogged by Alonso, who benefitted from a better tyre strategy, demoting the home hero to third.

Having started from pole, Hamilton was rightfully disappointed not to have finished on the top step of the podium on his first home visit, but would ultimately have the last laugh. Over the course of his 16 years in F1, has has collected 103 grand prix victories, seven of which have come on home soil.


Daniel Ricciardo

2012 Australian Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo became a part of an exclusive club when he became only the fourth Australian to win an F1 grand prix at Hungary in 2014. But it was his performance at his first home race in Melbourne, that first showed his full capabilities.

Racing for Toro Rosso, a team that had previously finished eighth in the drivers’ standings, Ricciardo wasted no time in putting his talent on show, qualifying 10th and besting the likes of Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and teammate Jean-Eric Vergne.

During the race, the Aussie’s promise continued to shine through, and despite colliding with Bruno Senna midway through Turn 1 on the first lap, a flurry of incidents and safety car restarts kept him in the hunt for points.

On the final lap, Ricciardo was involved in a four-car race for seventh, and after a perfectly executed switch back on his teammate in the final sector, he held onto ninth to snatch his first F1 points.

Following in the footsteps of Jack Brabham, Alan Jones and Mark Webber, Ricciardo went on to claim eight grand prix victories of the course of his career but never quite reached the podium at his home event.


Oscar Piastri

2023 Australian GP

The 2023 Australian GP couldn’t have been anymore chaotic if it tried – but Oscar Piastri rode the carnage to score points on his home debut.

A difficult qualifying session saw the McLaren driver start 16th, but the Australian managed to move up for field with some crisp passing moves and cars ahead dropping out.

After circulating in and and out of points while duelling fiercely with Esteban Ocon and Yuki Tsunoda, Piastri dived into the pits when the safety car was brought out debris from Kevin Magnussen’s late incident.

The yellow flag turned red as F1 looked to finish the race under racing conditions. After an aborted restart and final lap under the safety car, Piastri finished ninth on the road, which turned to eighth after Carlos Sainz’s 5sec penalty.

Another fantastic home race debut.