As a Kiwi F1 Fan, I must shout out to New Zealand’s former drivers. There have been ten to date, from Bruce Mclaren in the 50s to Liam Lawson becoming an official F1Newbie by completing a formal practice session in Spa this year. 

Bruce McLaren (1958 – 1970)

The name McLaren is as famous as Ferrari, Mercedes and Williams in the F1 paddock. Bruce McLaren from Auckland, New Zealand struggled with illness as a child and would spend hours driving cars around the backyard. Little did they know then that he would go on to become an F1 icon and the namesake of the Mclaren F1 Team

McLaren won four Grand Prix races from 100 starts. He was killed instantly, aged 32, while testing a race car in England.

Today his memory is maintained in his home country through the Bruce McLaren Trust which promotes the legacy of Bruse, supports young drivers and engineers as well as maintaining key relationships with industry and educators. Visit the Bruce Mclaren Trust website – here

Tony Shelly (1962)

Tony competed in one F1 race, the 1962 British Grand Prix, and retired after six laps with engine problems. One reporter described him as “steady if unspectacular”. 

The Wellington-born driver went on to own a string of successful car dealerships and spent time between New Zealand and Hawaii. He became a US citizen in 1975 and passed from cancer in 1998.

Chris Amon (1963 – 1976)

Considered to be the unluckiest driver of his time – Amon had 96 starts with five pole positions and 11 podium finishes, but not a win to his name. 

Widely regarded as one of the best F1 drivers never to win a championship Grand Prix. His reputation for bad luck was such that fellow driver Mario Andretti once joked that “if he became an undertaker, people would stop dying”

In 1967 he drove for Ferrari, finishing fifth in the drivers’ championship. Amon died of cancer in 2016, aged 73.


Denny Hulme (1965 – 1974)

The only Kiwi to have won the F1 drivers’ championship, achieved in 1967 driving for Brabham

Denny won eight Grand Prix races from 112 starts and was noticed for only taking a single pole, a record for a world champion. He partnered with Bruce Mclaren where the two became great mates. 

He was not your typical F1 driver and cared not for stupidity. Nicknamed ‘The Bear’ he was known for telling the media that they were idiots or just ignoring them.

Motueka-born Hulme retired from F1 in 1974 and died of a heart attack while competing in the 1992 Bathurst at Mt Panorama.

Howden Ganley (1971 – 1974)

A former mechanic from Hamilton, Howden had four fourth places from 35 starts. In the 1960s Howden made his way to Europe with 25 pounds to his name and was one of the first to be employed by the McLaren team in 1964. 

Post F1, Howden set up a racing car business, was secretary of the British Racing Drivers’ club and moved to the States where he took up residence in California.

Graham McRae (1973)

The driver from Wellington was an accomplished driver with success in Formula 5000, however, his F1 career was brief. He had one entry, driving for Williams in the 1973 GP, and retired on the first lap

After driving, he worked as an engineer and race car builder with some success. Graham passed away in 2021.

John Nicholson (1975)

The Aucklander, born racer’s only F1 start was the 1975 British Grand Prix where he was classified as 17th, one of many drivers who crashed in terrible weather. 

John was another to work for the McLaren team, as an accomplished engine builder with two F1 titles to his credit.

Mike Thackwell (1980, 1984)

From Auckland, Mike was considered the youngest driver to have started an F1 GP, at age 19. In total he had five entries with two retirements and no point finishes. 

His retirement from the 1980 Canadian GP was due to Tyrrell team orders requiring him to hand his car to their No 1 driver following a first lap crash.

Brendon Hartley (2017-2018)

Bendon first tasted F1 in 2008 when he was part of a Red Bull shake down. Then in 2013 he filled a sim driver role for Mecedes before replacing Pierre Gasly at Toro Rosso, as Gasly was promoted to a seat in the Red Bull team

With 25 starts he scored a total of 4 points.

I was fortunate to be at Austin Texas for his first outting, then in Mexico and Melbourne the following year.

Liam Lawson (2022…)

Current F2 Driver, Red Bull Academy Driver and reserve driver for Red Bull and Alpha Tauri, Liam tested the Alpha Tauri pre-season and ran an FP1 session at Spa this year. 

Let’s see what the future holds for this talented young Kiwi (who I “raced” once at Hampton Downs – By raced, I mean he was streeks ahead of the formula Ford field, and I was streeks behind so we shared the same space on the track…)

Andrew Burden

The author Kiwi F1 Fan

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