A 16-year-old from County Offaly is “probably the prime candidate” to become Ireland’s next Formula 1 star.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Newstalk reporter Sarah Madden took a look at the explosion in popularity Formula 1 has experienced since Netflix documentary Drive to Survive was first released.
The sport has seen crowd attendance doubling in the US since the first season of the documentary came out in 2019 – with revenues up 86% in the same period.
With Irish interest now arguably at an all-time high, Sarah took a look back at the glory days of the 1990s – and investigated whether the tricolour could be on its way back to podiums around the world in the not-too-distant future.
She began by talking to former Formula 1 driver Derek Daly who first joined the circuit back in 1978.
“It started out well until 1980, when I had so many mechanical issues and some big accidents, one being Monaco when I did two and a half cartwheels on the way into turn one,” he said.
“I went from 12th into fifth, but I had no wheels left on the car and all these years later, whenever there are highlights of Monaco played, inevitably I make the highlight reel.”
He said Ireland may never get back to the 1990s when Eddie Irvine was dazzling on-track and Eddie Jordan’s Irish F1 team was competing with the best in the world – but we may yet see an Irish driver back in the paddock.
“Maybe we’re not ready for another Irish F1 team yet,” he said. “Maybe we’ll start with another driver.
“Myself and Eddie Jordan and David Kennedy in particular, I think it is imperative that we help the next generation. I think it’s our duty. It is our job.
“Alex Dunne is probably the prime candidate. He genuinely appears to have raw talent and if he can be kept in the top-class equipment, he can develop that talent to be a winner at almost any level.”
16-year-old driver Alex Dunne has been making serious progress on the Formula 4 circuit in recent times – taking home podium finishes in cars that hit top speeds of 240kph.
Sarah caught up with him at his home in Offaly to find out what it takes to make it to the big time.
“Formula 4 is like the start of the path all the way to Formula 1,” he said.
“I am currently P3 in the Italian Championship and leading the British Championship.”
While drivers at the top level can pull in up to €30m per year, those in the lower Formulas have to pay for their own seats – often at a cost of millions.
“That is probably one of the worst things about motor sport,” said Alex. “How hard it is financially.
“I know personally, as a family, we don’t have the millions you need to get to Formula 1, but we have a lot of loyal sponsors who are helping me along my journey, which is great.”
Dunne is continuing to improve at Formula 4 level and just this weekend, took home another victory at the Red Bull ring in Austria.
You can listen back to Sarah’s full report here.