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Monday, 18 June 2018
Page: 3187

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (22:11): You may be aware that I have spoken in this place before about the widespread participation in and the positive impact of motorsport across Australia. Every week many thousands of Australians participate, officiate or volunteer at grassroots events right across our country, often involving families and bringing communities together. I have also spoken in this place about motorsport at the elite level, celebrating the extraordinary contribution of Sir Jack Brabham, following his passing, and to acknowledge the maiden win of current Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo.

The events of the weekend just gone, 26 May and 27 May, prompt me to again rise in this place to speak on motorsport. On that weekend, three Australians participated in, and won, in three different categories of motor racing against the best the world can offer. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere congratulations to each of them. Possibly the most high-profile of these wins was the win by Daniel Ricciardo at the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix. For anyone unfamiliar with the Monaco Grand Prix, it takes place on the streets through Monte Carlo and is characterised by sharp turns and numerous chicanes, and is a notoriously difficult course on which to overtake other drivers. It is also one of the highest profile races on the F1 circuit and one of the most challenging.

On this circuit, Daniel earned a pole position with the fastest lap of qualifying and then went on to hold the lead from start to finish. What makes this win even more remarkable is that around 28 laps in, or just over one-third of the way through the race, he suffered a major mechanical issue causing him to lose around 160 horsepower—almost 25 per cent of his power—while also sending his rear brake temperatures through the roof. Yet, despite this challenge, which would normally be expected to completely put him out of contention, Daniel went on to win from Sebastian Vettel with a winning margin of 7.3 seconds. This feat has prompted many observations about his skill, including a comparison from his team boss, Christian Horner, to a similar feat by F1 great Michael Schumacher. He said, 'You've done an amazing job that is right up there with what Schumacher did in 1995.'

News Limited, reporting on the win, noted:

He has been operating as one of the elite - absolutely of comparable calibre to Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel - for years. But the perception outside of the paddock has yet to catch up with that reality. Because only results are recognised and he's not been in a car sufficiently competitive to rubber stamp what is glaringly obvious close-up.

At Monaco a few weeks ago, Daniel proved that even with a patently uncompetitive broken car his skill can still deliver results.

On the same weekend, Will Power became the first Australian to win the Indianapolis 500. I venture to suggest that Will is less well-known across Australia than Daniel Ricciardo but his achievement is no less extraordinary. Will took first place from pole position in the 85 lap race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Some may be unfamiliar with the difference between Formula One, which has its roots in Europe, and the US based IndyCar. At its heart the difference is that every driver in IndyCar drives the same car produced to the same specifications and in Formula One each vehicle is constructed separately by different manufacturers to comply with a set of rules, each seeking to maximise an advantage within those rules. F1 competition takes place between teams, or constructors, as well as between drivers.

Will Power, driving for IndyCar Team Penske, delivered a victory that spoke very strongly of his skill as a driver in a race which saw him overcome some of the most talented drivers in the sport, including one of America's most successful female drivers, Danica Patrick. Will, who hails from Toowoomba, started his racing career in a Datsun 1200 and in 1999 started racing a seven-year-old Swift Formula Ford. He worked his way up through various racing formats in Australia and then Europe and represented Australia in the now-defunct A1 Grand Prix series.

In 2007 he started his racing career in the US and in 2010 joined Penske as a full-time driver, winning five races, scoring a record eight pole positions and finishing second in the championship that year. Since then he has won a further 25 races, a championship and many close seconds in the championship. His driving skills are better known and recognised in the US than they are in Australia, but his achievements are undoubtedly ones that all Australians should be proud of.

The third driver who enjoyed success on the weekend of 26 and 27 May is—as a Tasmanian—one close to my heart. Eighteen-year-old Hobart driver Alex Peroni achieved a first place and a second place in the two Formula Renault Eurocup championship support races at the Monaco F1. I've spoken about Alex before and how this young driver demonstrates all that is required to be Australia's next Formula One driver, continuing the long, prestigious and extraordinarily gifted lineage of Australian talent in this arena. When I spoke to the Senate about Mr Peroni in 2016 I noted the unusual juxtaposition of him being one of the world's most promising drivers in Formula 4, as he was then, yet as a learner driver not being able to drive on Tasmanian roads without being accompanied by one of his parents or another fully licensed driver.

In his win at Monaco last month Alex started from pole position and finished ahead of French rival Charles Milesi by 4.3 seconds. Whilst a short amount of time to us, 4.3 seconds is a significant margin by which to win in this sport, particularly at Monaco, and the biggest winning margin of the Eurocup races in 2018 so far. To go from his debut Eurocup season in 2017 to placing first in one of the most challenging circuits in motorsport in 2018 speaks to not only Alex's natural skill but also the fortitude and hard work which he puts into honing his talents.

What many do not fully appreciate is the personal financial challenge needed to make your way in motorsport at this level. Alex has had to raise his own funds to buy into his racing teams, to run his cars, to buy practice tyres, to travel and to live away from home. The costs of competing are immense. Alex's budget for 2018 was $600,000. He has an incredibly hardworking and selfless team supporting him in this regard—many from Tasmania—and some fantastic sponsors who have helped him get this far, including iconic Tasmanian bootmaker Blundstone and the Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania.

Many individual Tasmanians, including me, have also played a role, providing small donations to help Alex achieve his potential. Alex's personality makes it easier, though. He stays in contact with his team, builds strong relationships with the mechanics, the engineers, his teammates and his supporters, and entirely immerses himself in the processes that make him and his team such a success. I wish him well and will continue to do what I can to support him to ensure that his talent is fully developed and recognised.

The achievements of these three very different racers at very different stages of their careers, particularly what they achieved on this one weekend in late May, highlight how Australians with talent can compete and win on the world stage against the world's best. Congratulations to each of them.

Senate adjourned at 22:19