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Inside Line: No more Boys from Brazil

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One of the forgotten sad milestones of the 2018 season-opening Australian Grand Prix weekend, is that there were no Brazilian drivers on the Formula 1 grid for the first time since 1969 when a young Emerson Fittipaldi burst on to the scene.

Since then Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna carried the baton, between the trio they bagged 101 grand prix victories, 126 pole positions and with eight F1 titles between them and the country ranks only third to Britain and Germany in the all-time world champions list.

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Fittipaldi’s final days in Formula 1 coincided with Piquet’s arrival on the scene and of course, there was no love lost between Senna and Piquet whose careers overlapped for several years, but together they added plenty silverware to the Brazilian cause.

Rubens Barrichello was hailed as the successor to Senna when he arrived on the grid with Jordan in 1993, and indeed he did add to Brazilian drivers’ grand prix wins tally but he never won the world title. Senna claimed the South American nation’s final F1 world championship triumph in 1991.

With Barrichello at the nadir of his career in F1, Felipe Massa arrived on the scene and had spells at Sauber, Ferrari and Williams. He came desperately close to winning the world title in 2008 and he was also the country’s last driver on the Formula 1 grid for the foreseeable future.

Apart from the abovementioned, there were many Brazilian F1 drivers who graced the sport with mixed results.

Brabham driver Carlos Pace was considered a driver for the future but tragically the promise came to nought as he perished in a private plane crash in 1977.

Other drivers that broke into the top flight, over the years, include the likes of: Wilson Fittipaldi (Emerson’s brother), Roberto Moreno, Nelson Piquet Junior, Lucas di Grassi, Raul Boesel, Bruno Senna etc etc etc etc.

For a country where football has always ruled, Formula 1 reached its heyday during the Piquet/Senna era, and was sustained in the hope that Barrichello and Massa would deliver grand prix glory once again, but this never transpired. However, they still won races and kept the dream alive.

Now there are no Brazilians on the grid and few if any likely to make it anytime soon because the pipeline of young Brazilian drivers to Europe has dried up.

Globo wrote in a report:

“What happened? Basically, the answer has a direct connection with the absence of junior categories and initial steps to grow from karting. A basic problem and lack of planning. Government, private companies, sponsors… seem to have forgotten about motorsport.”

“The situation has reached a limit and the CBA (Confederação Brasileira de Automobilismo) has decided to take action on the matter. Their new president Waldner Bernardo has revived the Brazilian school of karting, which now operates in Sao Paulo, Santa Catarina and Minas Gerais and will soon open branches in Bahia, Maranhao and Mato Grosso. The federation, meanwhile, is working hard to have a Formula 4 championship in 2019.”

“If they succeed in meeting the FIA standards, they will provide a recognised platform for young driver development similar to what’s happening around the world at that level. In addition, the goal is to greatly reduce costs of racing at national level which right now can only be afforded by the brave or the very well-off.

Over the years in Formula 1 we have witnessed generations of drivers from France making up a quarter of the grid, then there were none. Same story regarding Italian F1 drivers.

Hence 2017 marks the last year in which we had a Brazilian on the grid – an end of a long and fruitful era for Brazil in Formula 1. Noted and not forgotten.