Has New Zealand Ever Held A Formula 1 Race? 

Has New Zealand Ever Held A Formula 1 Race?
Has New Zealand Ever Held A Formula 1 Race?

New Zealand, a nation passionate about motorsport, has a rich history of racing, but has never held a Formula 1 race. Having produced talented Formula 1 drivers like Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme in its past, the country has remained an enthusiastic fan of this prestigious motorsport.

While New Zealand has not hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix, it did play a significant role in the Tasman Series, an important international racing series during the 1960s and 1970s. The Tasman Series saw several contemporary Formula One drivers competing in races held in both New Zealand and Australia. Although not part of the official Formula 1 calendar, these races contributed to the growth of motorsport in the region and showcased the talent of New Zealand drivers on the world stage.

History of Motorsport in New Zealand

Motor racing has a long history in New Zealand, with various events and series helping to shape the nation’s motorsport landscape. Two of the most significant series have been the Tasman Series and the New Zealand Grand Prix.

Tasman Series

The Tasman Series, which was held between 1964 and 1975, formed a crucial part of New Zealand’s motorsport heritage. The series was an open-wheeled racing championship that took place during the Northern Hemisphere winter. It featured races in both New Zealand and Australia, with competitors using Formula One and Formula 5000 cars. The Tasman Series attracted some of the world’s best drivers, such as New Zealanders Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon, and Denny Hulme, as well as international stars like Jack Brabham and Graham McRae.

Throughout its history, the Tasman Series served as a breeding ground for talent, with New Zealand drivers often competing alongside and against some of the top names in international motorsport. While the series came to an end in the mid-1970s, its impact and legacy are still felt today, particularly in the careers of Amon, McLaren, and Hulme, who all went on to achieve great success in Formula One and other racing categories.

New Zealand Grand Prix

Established in 1950, the New Zealand Grand Prix is an annual motor racing event that is currently part of the Toyota Racing Series. Over the years, various car classes have taken part in the race, including Formula Libre, Formula Pacific, Formula Ford, and others. The event has been hosted at different circuits, such as Pukekohe Park Raceway, Manfeild Autocourse (now known as Circuit Chris Amon), Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, and Highlands Motorsport Park, among others.

The list of previous winners of the New Zealand Grand Prix features many notable names in motorsport, including Stirling Moss, who has won the race three times, and Jack Brabham, who also has three victories to his name. In more recent years, the race has showcased young talents like Lando Norris and Lance Stroll, who have both gone on to compete in Formula One.

Over time, the race has evolved into a key event for up-and-coming drivers looking to progress to higher levels of motorsport. The race attracts motorsport fans from all over the world, and for those who wish to attend the event, a New Zealand visa may be necessary, depending on their country of origin.

New Zealand’s motorsport history is one of perseverance, dedication, and a passion for racing. The Tasman Series and the New Zealand Grand Prix, in particular, have played crucial roles in shaping this history and producing some of the finest talents in international motorsport.

New Zealand’s Prominent F1 Drivers

Bruce McLaren

Bruce McLaren was a prominent Kiwi Formula 1 driver and founder of the McLaren racing team. He began his F1 career in 1958 and achieved four race wins, with 27 podium finishes overall. Bruce was also successful in other race categories such as the Can-Am series, where his team dominated for a period.

Denny Hulme

Denny Hulme was another successful New Zealand F1 driver, who earned the title of World Champion in 1967, driving for the Brabham team. His F1 career spanned from 1965 to 1974, with eight race victories and 33 podium finishes. Denny also won the Can-Am championship twice, driving for the McLaren team.

Chris Amon

Chris Amon, another Kiwi F1 driver, had a career spanning from 1963 to 1976. Despite being considered one of the best drivers of his generation, he never achieved an F1 race win. Chris had a total of 11 podium finishes and was part of the team that won the infamous 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race for Ford.

Brendon Hartley

Brendon Hartley, a more recent New Zealand F1 driver, participated in the sport in 2017 and 2018. He raced for the Toro Rosso team, scoring a total of 4 championship points. Before his Formula 1 career, Brendon won the prestigious FIA World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2017.

Liam Lawson

Liam Lawson, an emerging Kiwi talent, made his F1 debut with the AlphaTauri team in 2023. He was signed by the Red Bull Racing Academy after winning the New Zealand Grand Prix and has competed in the Super Formula, making history as the first rookie to win a race in nearly half a century.

New Zealand and the Formula One Championship

Grand Prix Presence

New Zealand has a rich history in motorsports, particularly in the Grand Prix. While the country has never hosted an official Formula One World Championship race, it has held many prestigious Grand Prix events. One notable event was held at Pukekohe, which started in 1964 and adhered to Formula One rules. This era (late 1950s to mid-1970s) is seen as the “golden age” for New Zealand in the sport, producing several notable drivers who competed at the highest level of Formula One.

Some of the most notable New Zealand drivers during this period include:

  • Denny Hulme: Winner of the 1967 World Drivers’ Championship.
  • Bruce McLaren: Founder of the McLaren F1 team and multiple Grand Prix winner.
  • Chris Amon: Talented driver who competed for teams like Cooper, McLaren, and Ferrari.

International Influence

New Zealand’s presence in Formula One extends beyond its drivers as it has made a significant impact in the engineering and vehicle design aspects of the sport. Bruce McLaren’s work in creating the McLaren F1 team set the path for one of the most successful teams in the championship’s history. The McLaren team has taken numerous wins, pole positions, and fastest laps across multiple seasons.

Despite never having hosted a Formula One World Championship race, New Zealand’s legacy in the sport remains strong through the achievements of its drivers, team contributions, and expertise. This influence in F1 showcases New Zealand’s passion for motorsports and Grand Prix events, fostering a love for competitive racing in the nation.

The State of Domestic Racing Series

Toyota Racing Series

The Toyota Racing Series is a premier open-wheel motorsport category held in New Zealand. Launched in 2020, the series shifted to a new chassis called Tatuus FT-60, the same as the Tatuus F.3 T-318 used in Europe. This new chassis has an engine capacity of 2.0L and develops a competitive 270 bhp. By 2023, the Toyota Racing Series underwent a rebranding and became a fully certified FIA Formula Regional championship, named the Formula Regional Oceania Championship.

Notable events in the series include the prestigious New Zealand Grand Prix. Scheduled for 2023, the event is expected to generate significant interest in New Zealand’s racing scene after a challenging period during the pandemic.

Circuit Chris Amon

Circuit Chris Amon is located in Feilding, New Zealand and is a popular venue for domestic racing events. Previously known as Manfeild Autocourse, the circuit was renamed in 2016 in honor of the late Chris Amon, a renowned New Zealand Formula 1 driver. Circuit Chris Amon has been a host to numerous racing events, including the New Zealand Grand Prix and the Toyota Racing Series.

Some highlights of Circuit Chris Amon include:

  • A 3.03 km (1.88 miles) circuit with 11 turns
  • Named in honor of legendary Formula 1 driver Chris Amon
  • Hosts yearly events, including the New Zealand Grand Prix

Ken Smith, a local racing icon, plays a significant role in the racing community by promoting the sport and mentoring young drivers. The New Zealand Automobile Association supports these events and racing series, ensuring compliance with rules and safety standards.

The impact of these racing series in New Zealand is visible in the growth and development of the domestic motorsports community. The Toyota Racing Series and Circuit Chris Amon not only showcase the country’s racing talent but also contribute towards nurturing the next generation of drivers, engineers, and other professionals in the industry.

Significant New Zealand Racing Circuits

New Zealand is home to several remarkable racing circuits, all with their unique history and characteristics, playing an essential role in the country’s motorsport culture.

Pukekohe Park Raceway

Pukekohe Park Raceway is one of the oldest racing circuits in New Zealand, located in the town of Pukekohe, 40 km south of Auckland. The circuit has a rich history, with its construction dating back to 1963. Pukekohe Park Raceway has hosted various national and international motorsport events over the years, including the renowned New Zealand Grand Prix in the 1960s and 1970s. The 2.91 km long track features 11 turns; its layout encourages high-speed racing and offers many overtaking opportunities.

Hampton Downs

Another significant racing circuit in New Zealand is the Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, which was initially built in 2006. Located in North Waikato, about 60 km south of Auckland, Hampton Downs is one of the most advanced circuits globally, equipped with state-of-the-art technology and infrastructure. The circuit is known for its technical features, including a complete integration between race control, start lights, flag point lights, pit lane lights, CCTV system, timing systems, and many more. These attributes make the Hampton Downs Motorsport Park a desirable destination for both local and international races.

Highlands Motorsport Park

Highlands Motorsport Park, located in Cromwell, Central Otago, is another crucial racing circuit in New Zealand’s motorsport scene. Inaugurated in 2013 as a world-class, multipurpose facility, Highlands Motorsport Park boasts an incredible 4.1 km long track incorporating multiple configurations. The circuit was designed to accommodate a wide range of motorsport events and experiences, such as racing, driver training, and even go-karting for amateurs. Its beautiful location, combined with its top-notch facilities, has quickly positioned Highlands Motorsport Park as a premier destination for motorsport enthusiasts and professionals alike.

These three racing circuits—Pukekohe Park Raceway, Hampton Downs, and Highlands Motorsport Park—cement New Zealand’s position as an essential player in the world of motorsports. The tracks’ unique layouts, well-maintained facilities, and advanced technology provide a firm foundation for New Zealand to continue hosting various motorsport events, both national and international, in the future.

Formula 1 in New Zealand – Final Thoughts

Although New Zealand has a rich history in motorsports with notable figures like Bruce McLaren who have largely contributed to the global racing scene, it is yet to host an official Formula 1 race. The primary reason behind this is the substantial amount of funding required to secure a race date, which neither the government nor local promoters seem inclined to invest.

New Zealand’s involvement in the world of Formula 1, however, is not limited to motorsport legends. Recently, up-and-comer Liam Lawson made his debut during the 2023 F1 season, joining the ranks of Kiwi drivers participating in the prestigious racing series. Hailing from Pukekohe, Lawson’s journey to Formula 1 is inspiring for the local talent and fans alike.

In terms of watching Formula 1 races, New Zealanders have options available for catching the thrilling events. With the sport’s growing popularity and the emergence of new talent from the country, it wouldn’t be surprising to see an increase in interest and demand for Formula 1-related content in the nation.

While hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix in New Zealand might seem like a distant possibility, the country’s participation in the sport remains prominent and gives fans a reason to celebrate and support their home-grown talent. As the sport evolves and grows, one can hope for a day when the beautiful landscape of New Zealand could become a part of the official Formula 1 calendar.

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