Hot List: One (nation) hit wonders

Rounding up the men who have tried and sometimes failed to put their homeland on the Formula One map
Tomás Enge prepares to race at Monza
Tomás Enge prepares to race at Monza © Gilles Levent/Dppi
By Justin Hynes

A decade ago at the Hungarian GP, Zsolt Baumgartner was promoted to a race seat at the Jordan F1 team, replacing Ralph Firman who had crashed heavily in practice. Zsolt qualified 19th but his race ended on lap 34 due to engine failure. As the tenth anniversary of Zsolt becoming the first and so far only Hungarian to race in F1 arrives, we pick out six other nations to have fielded just one GP driver.

Eliseo Salazar (Chile)
Most people remember Salazar for his fight with Nelson Piquet at Hockenheim in 1982 – when he managed to punt the race-leading Brazilian out – and not for the fact that he’s the only Chilean ever to race in F1. He scored three points in a three-season career, finishing sixth at the 1981 Dutch GP and fifth at the following year’s San Marino Grand Prix. Beyond that, from his 37 GP attempts, he had 13 failures to qualify and 16 DNFs.

Tomás Enge (Czech Republic)
Up and coming F3000 driver Enge was thrust into F1 in 2001 when he replaced Luciano Burti at Prost after the Brazilian was sidelined following a crash in Belgium. Enge raced three times, in Italy, USA and Japan, with a best finish of 12th at Monza before Prost folded. Enge returned to F3000, where he won the 2002 title. He lost the crown, however, after testing positive for Marijuana. He went on to race sports cars until 2012 when he failed another drugs test.

Eliseo Salazar has turned his attention to Rally
Eliseo Salazar has turned his attention to Rally © Francois Flamand/Dppi

Alex Yoong (Malaysia)
Enge wasn’t the only new national to join the F1 grid at the 2001 Italian GP. Alex Yoong made his F1 debut in Monza, replacing Tarso Marques at Minardi. After racing the final three races that season and with Malaysian money flowing into Minardi, he inked a deal for 2002. Yoong finished just five times in 2002, recording a best finish of seventh at the Australian GP.

Vitaly Petrov (Russia)
Petrov made his F1 debut with Renault in 2010 at the Australian GP. Perhaps most famous for keeping Fernando Alonso bottled up in the 2010 Abu Dhabi GP, thus denying the Spaniard the title, Petrov was good enough to score 64 career points, including a podium finish in Australia in 2011. His most recent season, with Caterham in 2012, saw him finish ahead of team-mate Heikki Kovalainen in the WDC. With a race in Russia in 2014, he might yet be back.

A race in Russia would suit Vitaly Petrov
A race in Russia would suit Vitaly Petrov © John Michel Le Meur/Dppi

Frederick ‘Rikky’ von Opel (Lichtenstein)
The great-grandson of Adam Opel, founder of the eponymous car company, Rikky began his racing career seeking to distance himself from his family name and drove under the superb pseudonym of Antonio Bronco. By the time he made his F1 debut in France in 1973, he’d reverted to his proper moniker and went on to race 14 times, finishing ninth for Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham at the Swedish and Dutch GPs of 1974.

Prince Bira (Thailand)
Prince Birabongse Bhanutej Bhanubandh, a member of the Siamese royal family, was schooled at Eton and Cambridge in the 1930s and began racing while in Britain. A successful pre-war career morphed into a solid F1 stint following the series’ establishment in 1950. He raced 19 times between 1950 and 1954 for Maserati, Gordini and Connaught. His best results (a brace of fourth places) came in the Swiss GP of 1950 and the French GP of 1954. The prince wasn’t just good at the wheel either. He was a dab hand at the tiller and represented Thailand four times in sailing at the Olympics – in Melbourne, Rome, Tokyo and Munich.

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