Despite having good careers in Formula 1, the likes of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello failed to get a taste of victory in their homeland
By Jonas Souza
Emotions were running high at the Monaco Grand Prix last weekend even before the red lights were off.
Racing at home and basically in his backyard, Charles Leclerc had car problems in the installation lap due to a qualifying accident and had to retire before the start of the race. The gearbox issue put an end to his third appearance in Monaco as a Formula One driver, a fifth in total if we count Formula 2. He’s yet to complete a race in the streets of Monte Carlo.
But the 23-year-old Monegasque is far from being the only driver who has to live with the “bad luck at home” narrative. Some other successful F1 drivers have failed to perform well racing in front of their fellow countrymen. F1total.ca compiled a list of five of them.
Rubinho, as the driver is known to Brazilians, grew up as close to Interlagos as he could have. Not not only is he a native of São Paulo, the city that hosts the Brazilian Grand Prix, but his grandmother’s house was located on the outskirts of the Interlagos racetrack, the venue of the Formula 1 race.
But all this knowledge wasn’t enough to achieve glory at home. In 19 starts at the Autodromo José Carlos Pace, Barrichello had 11 DNFs, nine of them in a row. Despite the bad luck, he still managed to get on the podium once in 2004, when he was racing for Ferrari.
The British driver never managed to get a podium racing at Silverstone. His best results were three fourth places in 2002, 2010 and 2014. Button also had four DNFs in the 17 times he took part in the British Grand Prix.
The bad luck at home even extended itself into the 2009 season, when he became the world champion with the legendary Brawn GP. Button finished his home race in sixth place, his worst result of the season at that point.
The driver with the biggest smile on the current grid has never made it to the podium in ten races in Melbourne. Despite racing in top-of-the-grid teams, the Honey Badger still doesn’t have a great result at home. Or does he?
The Australian driver managed to take his Red Bull to second place in a great performance at home in 2014. But the FIA found an irregularity in the flow of fuel in Ricciardo’s car after the race, disqualifying him from the Grand Prix. It meant his best result at home so far are two fourth places in 2016 and 2018. Maybe he can change that in November, at the 2021 Australian Grand Prix.
The 1997 world champion also did not have many successes running at home. On the track that bears the name of his late father, Gilles, the best result Jacques had was a second place in his debut season in 1996. Villeneuve never returned to the podium in Canada and had to endure six DNFs in 11 starts, three in a row between 2001 and 2003 when he raced for BAR.
Looks like the land down under doesn’t bring happiness to its drivers.
Many imagined that due to the very beginning of Webber’s career he wouldn’t be on this list. His first major result in F1 was at home, with a fifth-place finish for the mythical, but always troubled Minardi in the Australian’s debut season.
But that turned out to be one of his best results at home. In the rest of the races held at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, his best result in 12 appearances was a fourth place in 2012 for Red Bull. Webber also has four DNFs at home.
On the current grid, many say the lack of luck at home extends to four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. He only managed to win in Germany on his sixth attempt and that was his only home win out of the 53 he achieved in total.
In addition, it was at the Hockenheim circuit that he had one of his worst losses in 2018. The German driver crashed by himself at turn 12 as a result of the combination of dry tyres with an increasingly wet track. He retired from the race instantly. Championship rival Lewis Hamilton ended up winning that Grand Prix, making it a tragedy in the German’s campaign for that years’ drivers’ title.
For some, the curse eventually ended
Some other drivers went through this issue of not getting good results at home but managed to end the curse, including two three-time world champions.
Niki Lauda, despite a few podium finishes, only managed to clinch a victory at the Austrian Grand Prix in his 11th attempt in 1984, while Ayrton Senna only won in Brazil after eight attempts in 1991 (yes, on THAT race in which he crossed the finish line with the sixth gear still working, so maybe still unlucky to a degree). Senna won again in São Paulo in 1993.