Home » Global Drivers: Which F1 Drivers Are the First to Represent Their Nation?

Global Drivers: Which F1 Drivers Are the First to Represent Their Nation?

Formula One Racing is enjoying an unprecedented era of popularity. Thanks to hits like Netflix’s Drive to Survive and the fact that Red Bull has finally toppled Mercedes’ decade-long domination of the racing series, fans the world over have started to spread the F1 fever.

To meet new interest, F1 has added new races to its docket, including stopovers in locations like Miami and Abu Dhabi. Sportsbooks have also taken a closer look at the racing series, improving markets for bettors. For example, offers like William Hill free bets can be used for a wide range of popular sports—along with F1 markets like driver props, futures, and more. With more interest comes more coverage. 

But Formula One’s boost in popularity hasn’t only improved the fan experience. Additionally, it’s helped propel interest in the sport in countries and regions where motorsports are still relatively new. In reality, some regions have been focused on improving access to F1, F2, rally, and other types of racing.

As infrastructure to support up-and-coming drivers improves, so does the number of opportunities geared towards racers. Since 2000, five racers have competed and represented their nation for the first time in Formula One racing. Of these five, one is still competing and cutting his teeth. Another, Alexander Albon (the second Thai citizen to step behind the F1 wheel), could be a hot topic in F1 in the future. 

Let’s take a closer look at which F1 drivers are the first to represent their country in a Grand Prix.

Alexander Albon, Thailand

Alexander Albon, who shares British and Thai ancestry, has made headlines in F1 for years. He’s spent time on Red Bull’s Junior Team and Scuderia Toro Rosso, nabbing the FIA Rookie of the Year award back in 2019. He now races for Williams after having his Red Bull senior seat nabbed by Checo. Albon flies the Thai flag with Williams—though he’s not the first to come from Thailand and make it in Formula One.

Birabongse Bhanudej was an esteemed member of Thai royal family with an interest in motorsports back in 1950-54, participating on Maserati, Gordini and Connaught teams throughout his illustrious racing career.

Zhou Guanyu, China

Zhou Guanyu currently races on Ferrari’s secondary team Stake F1, having made headlines worldwide as the inaugural Chinese driver to land an F1 contract a few years back with Alfa Romeo where he shared teammate Valtteri Bottas and Zhou. For 2019, however, their partnership remains intact even as Alfra Romeo will rebrand as Stake F1.

This is a particularly big year for Zhou, as he’s going to be competing in his home country for the first time when the Shanghai Grand Prix rolls around in April. It’s certain to be the most important race that Zhou has ever entered—and many are pulling for him to finish in the top ten, if not make a run for his very first podium finish.

Rio Haryanto, Indonesia (Former, 2016)

Rio Haryanto wasn’t long for Formula One racing; his tenure with Manor Racing only spanned one season in 2016. Many may recall Haryanto from his debut race at the Australian Grand Prix when he collided with Romain Grosjean during pit stops; unfortunately this set off an unfortunate year which resulted in his demotion to Alpine racer Esteban Ocon’s spot being taken over.

Robert Kubica, Poland (Former, 2006)

Our last Formula One driver to grace the track for his nation is Poland’s Robert Kubica. Kubica is a rally driver to this day and also competes for AF Corse in the World Endurance Championship. However, Kubica has appeared in multiple F1 races starting back in 2006. From 2006 to 2009, he drove for BMW before moving to Renault in 2010. But in 2011, a near-fatal crash changed Kubica’s future in F1. Not only did it end his season, but inspired him to seek out other racing opportunities. Since then, he’s performed a few uncontracted tests for F1 teams, including Williams and Renault.

About the author

Jack Reuben Fletcher

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