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Piastri the latest to take on home Australian GP 'curse'

COVID aside, the Australian Grand Prix has been going since 1985, with Oscar Piastri the latest to attempt to try and buck a statistical oddity.

As the old saying goes, all Formula 1 drivers want to win at Monaco and their home Grands Prix. Failing that, at least a podium would suffice in front of the adoring locals before the circus is packed up, moved on and onto the next race. While Australia has had a few wins in Monaco down the years, and further podiums, one thing the country has never seen is an Australian driver (officially) on the podium in either Adelaide or Melbourne. F1 first went Down Under in 1985, meaning triple World Champion Sir Jack Brabham never got a home World Championship Grand Prix. 1980 champion Alan Jones raced in the two first editions, retiring from both, with the second in 1986 being his final entry and the famous title decider when Nigel Mansell's tyre exploded. Sir Jack's son David failed to finish either of his two races in Adelaide in 1990 and 1994, while Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo could only muster a best finish of fourth between them. Oscar Piastri is now the resident Aussie tasked with changing one of the weirder quirks in the stat book.

Mark Webber

Now, some say that he stood on the podium in 2002 and that his team boss was terrified of the book being thrown at him for it. All we know is this was Webber's day of days at home. In his first home GP, Webber was racing for Minardi when the famous multi-car pile-up eliminated a lot of fancied runners at Turn 1. And so, Webber eventually found himself nursing the car home in fifth place, with Toyota's Mika Salo behind him, closing in. Salo looped around at Turn 3, handing Webber an emotional P5 finish. Breaking protocol, he and Minardi boss Paul Stoddart - RacingNews365's expert columnist - were invited up to the podium for an impromptu celebration after the official ceremony. Fortunately, Advance Australia Fair was not played, as the scenes were stamped into the mind of fans. He would only better this result at home once, with fourth in 2012.

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A dream points-scoring debut in 2002 for Mark Webber at his home race 😍🇦🇺 And, he got a cheeky step on the podium too! 😆 #AusGP #F1 @AussieGrit pic.twitter.com/1q3KN3l0AZ — Formula 1 (@F1) March 26, 2023

Daniel Ricciardo

Between mid-2011 and 2013, there was a brief overlap of Australians on the grid as Webber's F1 career wound down and Ricciardo's got going. Only it seemed the Perth-native inherited even worse luck than Webber on home asphalt. His moment seemed to come in 2014 when he finished second to Nico Rosberg in the first race of the turbo hybrid era. That he even finished was a shock owing to Red Bull's struggles in pre-season with the complex new units, but a few hours after the podium ceremony, the smile was taken from his face as news filtered through he was being disqualified. The RB10 had exceeded the legal fuel flow rate of 100 kilos an hour, and so his P2 was chalked off. That's about as good as it got for Ricciardo in Australia. In 2015, he lost an engine in practice but did finish sixth, while fourth in 2016 was his best legal finish, which was emulated in 2018. In 2017, his race was ruined before the start when he stopped on the formation lap, and then retired early from the race. Two years later, now with Renault, the front wing was ripped off in an unlucky incident at the start and hitting a service road. His last Australian GP was in 2022, where he took sixth place in a solid drive, but owing to poor performances lost his seat to Piastri.

Can Piastri do it?

While it is certainly possible for Piastri to end the long drought for a home driver to stand on the Australian Grand Prix podium this weekend, it is extremely unlikely. McLaren are in a holding pattern until their much-talked about upgrade package arrives for the next race in Baku at the end of April. Focusing on the floor, the team hope this will lift them back up into the higher midfield to snipe at the heels of the big four. McLaren have been very impressed with Piastri's tenacious approach during his two races, including a standout performance in qualifying in Saudi Arabia where he qualified ninth and started eighth after other penalties, one place behind Lewis Hamilton.

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