F1

2010 Formula 1 Driver Profiles

Detailed profiles of all drivers competing in the 2010 Formula One season which begins on March 14.

Obviously, the pre-season headlines have been grabbed by the return of former champion Michael Schumacher, who will race for new team Mercedes along with Nico Rosberg.

Two of the new teams, Campos Meta and USF1 have run into financial difficulties and speculation is rife that they will not make it to the starting grid come raceday on March 14 in Bahrain.

While Campos team principal Colin Kolles has given assurances that his team will make it, USF1 has run into major financial difficulties with the withdrawal of sponsors. They have already asked FIA, the sport’s governing body, to excuse them from the first four races as they try to set their financial house in order.

Neither Campos nor USF1 have confirmed their second drivers, although India’s Karun Chandhok is being heavily linked with the former.

McLaren

Jenson Button

Born: 19.01.80
Birthplace: Frome, Somerset
Team: McLaren
2010 Car Number: 1
Last season: Champion

Jenson Button may be the reigning F1 world champion, having claimed the crown in 2009, but too many questions still remain regarding his talent or whether it was just right car, right time.

It’s hard to remember when a driver’s debut caused quite so much controversy, but when Frank Williams announced that a 20-year-old was to line up alongside Ralf Schumacher for the 2000 season, the media went in to overdrive.

The Frome youngster (as he was then known) managed to silence his critics with a series of impressive track performances however.

A nightmare qualifying hour in Australia saw him start his first race from 21st on the grid, but things got noticeably better as the season progressed.

Button claimed his first world championship point in Brazil and the youngster went on to finish eighth in the 2000 drivers’ championship with 12 points.

One of the highlights of the year was in Belgium, where a third-placed Button lined up on the grid ahead of hero Michael Schumacher.

But this was one occasion when his inexperience let him down; an over-ambitious passing manoeuvre dropped him back early in the race, spinning an unimpressed Jarno Trulli into retirement at the same time.

Despite a strong debut season, Jenson was dropped in favour of ChampCar star Juan Pablo Montoya, and the Englishman found himself on loan to Benetton (soon to become Renault) for the next two seasons.

2001 was a disaster for the team and particularly for Button as he was outperformed by Giancarlo Fisichella.

Subsequent criticism claimed that Jenson was too keen on the trappings of being an F1 driver and his focus on the job had diminished.

Things came to a head when the Monaco harbour master provided Jenson’s yacht a better position than his team boss Flavio Briatore during the grand prix weekend. Suffice to say, Flav wasn’t amused.

Jenson’s subsequent split with managers Steve and David Robertson, who had landed him his Williams contract, led to a more stable period during 2002 when he frequently outraced and outscored new team-mate Jarno Trulli, even if he wasn’t able to outqualify him.

Button was on course to claim his first-ever podium position in the Malaysian GP, but a suspension failure an agonising two laps before the end of the race meant he had to limp home in fourth place.

At the end of 2002 Jenson switched to BAR. It was a move that was to be the making of the young Englishman.

Paired with Jacques Villeneuve, Jenson more than matched his illustrious team-mate, even if that elusive first podium remained just out of reach.

But if 2003 was an impressive retort to his critics, 2004 muted any claim that, to quote Villeneuve, Button was merely a ‘boyband member.’

Driving with the smooth style that was a highlight of the campaign, Jenson broke his podium duck in the second race of the season.

Another duly followed at Bahrain, and Jenson then went one better by finishing second at Imola having started the race on pole.

He finished second again at Monaco, and in all made 10 separate trips to the podium during the season.

Yet if Jenson was never out of the limelight in 2005 it wasn’t entirely due to his eye-catching performances on the track.

At the start of August, Jenson stunned the world of F1 by announcing that he had signed a contract to drive for Williams.

A shocked BAR team immediately claimed that they were the only team to hold a valid contract with Jenson.

The increasingly-tedious saga dragged on for months and while Jenson’s performances never waned, the issue proved to be an unwelcome and unedifying distraction.

It wasn’t until the week before the season finale at Brazil that F1’s Contract Recognition Board ruled in BAR’s favour and confirmed that Jenson had to remain at Brackley.

Not that the fall-out ended there, however, with Jenson ditching manager and advisor John Byfield over the winter.

Jenson’s desire to join Williams seemed justified when his 2005 campaign began with a string of nine pointless finishes, three of which were courtesy of a FIA ban imposed on BAR after the San Marino Grand Prix.

But the team bounced back with JB scoring points in every one of the final 10 races.

The grit and determination shown by BAR also convinced Jenson that Honda and not Williams held the key to him winning a drivers’ championship title.

Yet another contractual fiasco ensued, although instead of leaving this one to the courts, JB bought his way out of his Williams deal and signed a long-term contract with Honda Racing.

2006 saw him race alongside a new team-mate in Rubens Barrichello, and it wasn’t long before Jenson had the upper hand and was clearly entrenched as Honda’s No.1 driver.

That was further highlighted when the Brit, and not experienced race-winner Barrichello, clinched Honda’s first-ever victory at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.

And although some would argue that Button’s win was handed to him by the misfortunes suffered by the likes of Alonso and Schumacher, a win is a win no matter how it comes about.

Even his ‘Button-bashing’ detractors acknowledged that Jenson produced a fabulous drive in extremely difficult circumstances.

The ten points earned through his long-awaited maiden victory helped the Brit to sixth place in the Drivers’ standings.

Despite starting the 2007 season with high hopes, which included predictions of more wins to come, the season-opening Australian GP quickly put things into perspective for Jense and Honda.

He qualified down in 14th place as a result of handling problems and the race was no better as he endured considerable understeer throughout, was given a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane and finished 15th.

It was to prove a dismal season with Honda’s car aerodynamically poor, difficult to drive and too slow.

Jenson himself described it as “a complete dog” before threatening to leave unless the team.

The appointment of Ross Brawn as the team’s technical supremo quelled that threat but Brawn’s arrival ultimately failed to spark the revival sought in 2008.

Just one points-scoring finish in the 18 races was all the Jense was able to achieve, leaving him down in 18th place in the standings.

In fact Honda’s performances from the start were so dismal that the team almost immediately turned their attention to the 2009 Championship, which will see new rules change the face of F1 and the cars.

But everything was thrown up into the air at the end of the year when Honda announced they were selling their F1 team.

And after weeks of speculation it was finally announced on March 6 that Ross Brawn had bought the team.

With only a week or two of testing before the start of the new season, Button and Brawn GP started on the back foot, however, they were quickly up to speed.

Many, though, believed running on fumes was the reason for their pre-season pace but they were quickly proven wrong at the season-opening Australian GP.

Button clinched pole position, proving the BGP001 had genuine pace, and followed that up with the victory much to the joy of Brawn GP and the amazement of those watching the Brawn story unfold.

The Brit followed up his Melbourne win with another five in the ensuing six races, giving him a very healthy lead in the Drivers’ Championship with only his team-mate Rubens Barrichello up there to challenge him.

His Monaco GP victory also saw him put his name in the record books, joining the likes of Schumacher and Fangio as one of only five drivers to have won five from six.

But with the Brawn’s rivals adopting the controversial double-decker diffuser incorporated in the BGP001 from the very start of the season, Button and his team found their form faltering from the British GP onwards.

Just two podium finishes in the final ten races led to major criticism of both Button’s talent and his mental ability to cope with pressure.

However, the massive lead he created in the first half of the Championship ensured that he won the title at the Brazilian GP, coming from 14th on the grid to finish fourth and earn the points needed to ensure he could tackle the season-finale without any pressure on his shoulders.

In a shock move after the season, though, Button threw himself into the pressure pot, announcing that he was walking away from Brawn GP in favour of partnering Lewis Hamilton at McLaren in 2010.

There has been mixed reaction to his decision with some questioning his sanity and others feeling this is perhaps the only way Button can prove that he won the 2009 title, not the car.

Lewis Hamilton

Born: 07.01.85
Birthplace: Tewin, England
Team: McLaren
2010 Car Number: 2
Last season: Fifth

Just three seasons into his F1 career and Lewis Hamilton finished second, won a World title and found himself at the heart of numerous controversies.

Already, it is difficult to imagine motorsport with Hamilton – but, then, F1 has been cast as his destiny from an early age.

Lewis began his motorsport career in 1995 when he crowned the Super One British Champion as well as the STP Champion. It was the start of his dominance in all the series that he would enter.

The following year, still in the Cadet Class, he won the Sky TV Kart Masters as well as the Five Nations.

The year he also began his association with McLaren, winning the McLaren Mercedes Champions of the Future series.

In 1997, in Junior Yamaha, he again was crowned the Super One British Champion as well as winning the McLaren Mercedes Champions of the Future series for the second successive season.

A fourth in the Italian Open Championship the next season resulted in Lewis being signed by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz to Young Driver Support Programme.

The Brit then spent a year in Intercontinental A before moving to Formula A where he was crowned the European Champion.

After that is was off to the British Formula Renault, where he won the title in 2003 and then on to the F3 Euroseries, winning the Championship in 2005.

Lewis’s latest Championship success came in 2006, when he won the GP2 series with ART Grand Prix.

The Brit’s achievements in junior series earned him a test driver role with the McLaren F1 team and after impressing team boss Ron Dennis, Lewis landed the coveted role of team-mate to Fernando Alonso in the 2007 F1 season.

And he quickly rose to the occasion.

Fourth place in his first qualifying and a third-placed finish in his debut grand prix in Australia saw Dennis’ faith in Hamilton immediately vindicated.

The McLaren driver went on to record a further eight consecutive podium finishes, including race wins in Canada and the United States before finishing his first race off the podium and out of the points in the European GP, round 10 of the Championship.

However, he bounced back with a win in Hungary and followed that up with three more points-finishes before claiming his fourth win of the season in Japan.

With two races remaining on the calendar, Lewis looked set for the world title, but a poor tyre decision led to him retiring from the Chinese GP, although he still entered the final race of the season as the leader in the Drivers’ Championship.

Unfortunately for Lewis, though, it wasn’t meant to be as a gearbox problem cost him roughly half a minute and put an end to his quest of becoming the first rookie F1 World Champion.

But he still finished runner-up in the Championship, beating his double World Champion team-mate Fernando Alonso.

After a difficult and controversial driving ‘partnership’ with Fernando Alonso provided fertile ground for gossipers throughout Hamilton’s rookie season, the pair were separated for 2008 with Alonso moving to Renault and Hamilton remaining at McLaren where he was partnered by Heikki Kovalainen.

And the Brit immediately emerged as the stronger of the Woking drivers.

Four podium finishes, including two wins, in the opening five races saw Hamilton get his season off to a solid start.

However, a crash in the pit lane in Canada, where he failed to see the red light and took out rival Kimi Raikkonen, earned him condemnation from his detractors.

It also saw him penalised for the French GP.

Hamilton came back at the British GP to win his home race in stunning fashion while his peers struggled to cope with the wet conditions, while another win in Germany was followed by a string of five points-finishes.

But along with the points came the penalties which at times seemed to be aimed at stopping Hamilton from winning the world title.

After being stripped of victory in the Belgian GP, Hamilton was also penalised during the Japanese GP when he was punished for pushing Raikkonen wide at the start, even though fitting 20 cars into one corner invariably means some run wide.

The McLaren driver, though, rose above it all, including racist abuse in the build-up to the Brazilian GP, to put aside 2007’s disappointment to win the Drivers’ Championship title by one point over Massa.

However, his title defence in 2009 was anything but stellar largely due to his early transgressions coupled with McLaren’s failure to produce a race winning car.

The season started in controversy for Hamilton as he was at the heart of controversy during which he found guilty in Australia when he “deliberately misled” stewards as to the reason why Jarno Trulli had been able to overtake under a Safety Car situation.

Trulli was initially punished but later it emerged that Hamilton had not been entirely truthful with the stewards – and on more than one occasion.

As such he was thrown out of the Australia’s results and his reputation suffered an almost fatal blow.

From there it went downhill for the Brit, who amidst numerous apologies for his earlier behaviour, went another eight races before finally making his way onto the podium.

But despite winning in Hungary it was evident that Hamilton had no chance of retaining the World title.

McLaren continued their fightback in form which saw Hamilton claim a further four podium finishes, one of which was the victory at the Singapore GP.

His season ended on 49 points, a marked difference to that of Championship winner Jenson Button, who claimed 95 on his way to the World title.

Interestingly, McLaren announced post-season that Button would be partnering Hamilton in 2010 in an all-British dream team.

Unfortunately for Button and luckily for Hamilton, many are predicting that the latter will have the upper hand.

Mercedes

Michael Schumacher

Born: 03.01.69
Birthplace: Hürth-Hermülheim, Germany
Team: Mercedes
2010 Car Number: 3
Last season: N/A

Often controversial, often brilliant, pretty often the F1 World Champion but always immensely talented, Michael Schumacher was undoubtedly one of the finest drivers to grace motorsport’s centre stage.

His shrewd racing mind and awesome driving ability, especially in the wet, brought him deserved praise and respect – if not popularity.

The winner of more grands prix and World Championships than any other driver in F1 history, Michael Schumacher is set to make a return to Formula One in 2010, swapping his beloved Ferrari for Mercedes GP.

Following his F1 debut for Jordan in 1991, Schumacher made rapid progress up the F1 ladder and took his first World title in 1994.

But along with success came controversy with race suspensions and accusations of bad sportsmanship that date back to 1994 when he was involved in a series of incidents, culminating in a collision with Damon Hill in the Australian GP, which won Schumacher his first Championship title.

Another infamous incident, this time with Jacques Villeneuve (at Jerez in 1997), was blamed on Schumacher and resulted in a one-race ban and the loss of his runner-up status in the Drivers’ Championship.

The following year he again came close, challenging Mika Hakkinen for the title right to the wire at Suzuka.

However, Schumacher’s hopes died when he had to start from the back of the field after his car stalled on the grid. Many suspect Schumacher of making a rare mistake – Ferrari blamed the car.

1999 looked as though Schumacher might finally take the Drivers’ Championship back to Maranello. However a first-lap accident at the British

GP left the German with a broken leg. Despite missing six races, Schumacher returned in style in Malaysia, where he utterly dominated the entire weekend.

A year later Schumacher finally completed the job that he joined Ferrari to do.

He clinched the Drivers’ Championship in Japan, handing the Italian team their first world title for 21 years. In Malaysia, he went on to complete the double.

Armed with the dominant Ferrari F2001 in 2001 and the F2002 in 2002, Schumacher, who’d previously won world championships in cars that weren’t

the best, proceeded to rewrite the F1 record books (almost certainly for ever). He won his fourth title easily in 2001 and cruised to his fifth world title in 2002.

But 2002 wasn’t without huge controversy. At the Austrian GP, the sixth race of the year, Ferrari team boss Jean Todt asked team-mate Rubens Barrichello to gift Schumacher the race.

A furious Austrian crowd booed them on and off the podium and Schumacher was so embarrassed he put Barrichello onto the top step to take the winner’s trophy. He was booed heavily in Monaco and Canada afterwards.

Later in the year, at the US GP, it looked to be another Schumi victory when he backed off close to the line, attempting a dead-heat with his team-mate.

It backfired and a surprised Barrichello found himself the winner.

Schumi’s success continued in 2003 despite the FIA implementing new rules intended to slow him down and level the playing field.

The season though was a lot closer than the previous one with both McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen and Williams’ Juan Pablo Montoya still in the running for the title at the penultimate race.

A controversial penalty at the US GP for Montoya however meant only Raikkonen could put an end to Schumacher’s run of success.

The Finn, though, needed to win the final race of the season and for Schumi not to score. It was not to be.

Barrichello stormed to the victory and assured his team-mate of his sixth world title.

To be safe though Michael brought his car home in eighth place and won the title by a slim two-point margin, which gave his rivals a glimmer of hope ahead of the following year’s Championship.

Although Schumi’s rivals saw a glimmer of hope ahead of the following year’s championship, it was soon extinguished as Michael blitzed the field to win the first five GPs.

Victory number six eluded him when he did or didn’t brake-check Montoya in Monte Carlo. Either way, the result was Schumi crashing into the tunnel walls.

However, his campaign was back on track at the European GP, which was the start of a seven-race long winning streak.

His next non-victory came at the Belgium GP where he finished second behind Raikkonen. The eight points though were enough to ensure the German bagged title number seven.

But with the title came a change of fortune and the remaining four races resulted in just one victory and too many rookie errors for the World Champion.

They also yielded his worst-ever qualifying position, a P19 at the inaugural Chinese GP.

That race was also the only one of the 17 that he failed to score a single point in despite reaching the chequered flag.

Schumi’s fortunes did not recover in 2005, which saw the rule changes play an important role in the changing of then guard, especially the tyre regulations. Bridgestone struggled to produce a tyre capable of recording a competitive pace for an entire race distance.

Schumacher’s only win occurred at the United States Grand Prix, which took place sans the Michelin runners who had all withdrawn due to safety concerns.

That win was one of only five podium finishes for the German, who could not nothing to stop Fernando Alonso from ending his five-year reign.

Schumi finished the season third in the Drivers’ standings having lost out to Kimi Raikkonen as well.

However, in 2006 the German bounced back strongly and, following a mid-season revival, was in contention for the World title right up until the final race of the season.

It was not to be, though as a puncture sent him to the back of the field.

That race, the Brazilian Grand Prix, will forever be remembered by F1 fans around the world, as not only did it produce one of Schumacher’s most phenomenal drives ever but it was also his very last F1 grand prix.

Alonso was crowned champion, but with such a dignified and magnificent exit, Schumi had earned a host of new admirers.

The seven-time World Champion hung up his helmet at the end of the 2006 season, bringing to an end a career that spanned 16 years, yielded seven titles, 91 victories and 68 pole positions – records that many doubt will ever be broken.

His retirement, though, was short-lived as after a three-year break from racing, during which he served as a special advisor to Ferrari and rode motorbikes, Schumacher confirmed in December 2009 that he would return to the sport that gave him so much pleasure.

But not with Ferrari, instead, he’ll be racing for Mercedes GP.

In what could is being viewed as the coupe of the decade and one of the biggest gambles ever, Mercedes GP have signed Schumacher in a three-year deal that will once again partner the German with Brawn, the man behind his World titles.

But at 41, Schumacher’s return could either highlight a legend or darken a falling star.

Nico Rosberg

Born: 27.06.85
Birthplace: Wiesbaden, Germany
Team: Mercedes
2010 Car Number: 4
Last season: Seventh

Nico Rosberg certainly has the pedigree and the talent to make it in Formula One, but as others have shown life isn’t easy when the comparisons start rolling in.

Nico, the son of 1982 World Champion Keke, began his motorsport career with the usual karting route, winning the Regional Côte d’Azur mini-kart Championship in 1996 before moving on to the French and North American Championships in 1997 and 1998.

The following year he entered the Junior European Karting Championship, finishing in fourth place.

Two more years of karting followed, where he took second place in the Formula A European Karting Championship and in 2001, the Super A World Karting Championship title.

A switch to single-seaters was next on the cards for Nico, who won the Formula BMW ADAC Championship in 2002 before moving on to the F3 Euro-series.

During his two-year stay in F3, he claimed four race wins.

In 2005, Nico landed his big break in F1 when BMW-Williams signed him as their second test driver.

The German, who was also competing in the GP2, tested regularly for the team and after easily winning the GP2 title was confirmed as Williams’ second driver for the 2006 season.

However, his first season in Formula One was a difficult one for the young German, largely due to Williams’ failures rather than his own.

Although Nico scored points in his very first grand prix and even finished the race with the fastest lap time, the rest of the season was a struggle.

Only one other points-scoring finish followed as Williams-Cosworth battled with pace and reliability.

During the first half of 2007 season luck had not been with Rosberg, who had been forced to watch as his team-mate Wurz scored the greater amount of points, despite Rosberg’s greater pace.

Later on that season Rosberg eventually passed his team-mate in world championship points as he began to make a name for himself in F1.

The German netted a total of 20 points during his second season in F1, including a fourth placed finished at the season-ending Brazilian GP.

Coupled with his strong qualifying performances compared to Wurz’s, Rosberg proved to be a sort after commodity when McLaren announced they’d sacked Fernando Alonso.

Williams, however, were quick to confirm Rosberg for the 2008 Championship during which he partnered rookie driver Kazuki Nakajima.

Rosberg easily got the better of his team-mate, although once again it was not the best of seasons for the German.

A podium finish at the very start in Australia and one in Singapore proved to be the highlights of an otherwise topsy-turvy season.

Rosberg eventually finished the season 13th in the Championship on 17 points and almost immediately warned Williams that if 2009 isn’t any better he will consider looking elsewhere for a drive.

And that’s exactly what he did. Another mediocre season without a podium finish saw Rosberg finish seventh in the Championship, however, it’s not seventh he wants, it’s a win.

As such the German opted to leave Williams in favour of a deal with Mercedes GP, the team that won the World titles as Brawn GP in 2009.

The move appeared to be a great one for Rosberg right up until the time Mercedes announced they had also signed seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher.

However, Schumacher’s return could play into the hands of Rosberg as with the world focusing on his team-mate, the younger German is without pressure and is free to do his thing.

And if he can beat Schumi, he will make a name for himself. And if he can’t, well, Schumacher is arguably the greatest driver ever.

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel

Born: 03.07.87
Birthplace: Krebs, Germany
Team: Red Bull
2010 Car Number: 5
Last season: Second

Born in Germany, Sebastian Vettel is one of the young hotshots rising up the Formula One ranks.

He started as BMW’s test driver from the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix onwards and made his Formula One race debut when he drove for the German team at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix.

Vettel was called upon to stand in for the injured Robert Kubica.

That race weekend saw Vettel set a few F1 records when he became the sixth youngest driver to start a grand prix and the youngest driver to score points in a World Championship point.

He finished the race in eighth place.

Vettel returned to his role at test driver the next day for BMW, however, it wasn’t long before he was back racing after signing a deal with the Scuderia Toro Rosso outfit to replace Scott Speed.

The German driver made his STR debut on the 2007 Hungarian GP and almost scored Toro Rosso’s first podium finish at the Japanese GP in September.

However a crash with Mark Webber brought an end to that dream.

He did, however, redeem himself one race later when he claimed fourth place at the Chinese GP – earning Toro Rosso their best result ever.

Vettel remained with Toro Rosso in 2008 where he partnered ChampCar Champion Sebastien Bourdais, although it was his team-mate who had the better results in the opening stint, it was Vettel who came to the fore with the introduction of the STR3.

The German soon began putting in results many predicted were beyond the car’s capabilities, including pole position and the victory at a wet Italian Grand Prix.

It was a moment that sealed Vettel’s description as a future F1 World Champion and landed him a Red Bull race-seat for the 2009 Championship.

Vettel backed up Red Bull’s faith in him with an impressive run in 2009, bagging four race victories as he fought Jenson Button tooth and nail for the World title.

However, the fact that Red Bull’s start to the Championship was not as dynamic as Brawn GP’s, nor where their Renault engines are reliable as Mercedes’, meant Vettel came up short, losing the title to Button at the penultimate race of the season in Brazil.

The German, though, showed his tenacious side, highlighting that a world title is just around the corner, when he came back from the disappointment to win the season-ending Abu Dhabi race.

Looking ahead to 2010 and another season with Red Bull Racing, Vettel is being widely tipped to win the Drivers’ Championship title.

But he’s going to need better from Red Bull to fulfill his potential.

Mark Webber

Born: 09.04.71
Birthplace: Queanbeyan, Australia
Team: Red Bull
2010 Car Number: 6
Last season: Fourth

Mark Webber finally came into his own in 2009, clinching two races victories as he entered the title fight for the first time. But it wasn’t to be and he eventually finished fourth in the standings.

Webber made his junior karting debut at national level when he was 15, and in 1992 became New South Wales State karting Champion.

He then made his Formula Ford debut in 1994, and continued to make a name for himself with a series of impressive performances.

In 1996 he won the Formula Ford Festival, and finished second in the British Formula Ford Championship while driving for Van Diemen.

His achievements led to him being voted Australian motorsport’s ‘Young Achiever’ and ‘International Achiever’ of 1996.

Moving to F3 for the following year, Mark competed with Alan Docking Racing; taking five podiums and a win at Brands Hatch before becoming Mercedes’ official works junior driver for the following year.

Webber took part in the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hour Race with Mercedes, but his season with AMG was cut short when the company cancelled its sportscar programme.

Webber and Peter Dumbreck both spectacularly somersaulted their cars at Le Mans, though neither thankfully was injured.

In 1999 he also made his Formula One test debut by participating in a two-day test with Arrows at Barcelona in December.

A busy 2000 saw Mark finish third in the F3000 Championship driving for Eurobet Arrows, as well as acting as the official tester for their F1 outfit (although contract problems meant that he failed to drive the A21).

He did complete a successful three-day evaluation test with Benetton however, and the team was quick to sign him up as their official 2001 tester.

During the same year, he battled it out with Justin Wilson in F3000 but had to make do ith second place in the Championship.

However with a Flavio Briatore contract in his pocket, many Australians held their breath that at last they were going to have their first decent driver in F1 since Alan Jones.

When he signed for Minardi for 2002 they got their wish – and more.

A dream debut saw Rubens Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher take out a large proportion of the grid at the first corner in Melbourne and Webber scrapped with Salo for a fifth-place finish.

That was as many points as Minardi scored all year, but a fifth place was more than Toyota could manage in 2002.

A switch to Jaguar duly followed and Webber proved quick to put new team-mate Antonio Pizzonia in the shade.

Points were few and far between, and yet Webber finished the season with the reputation of a top-rate driver.

He remained at Jaguar for 2004, but by the halfway stage, with the team falling a long way short of the performance-related clause in his contract, it was an open secret that he would be leaving at the end of the season.

The only question was whether it would be to Renault or Williams.

Eventually, and in spite of a late big-money offer from Toyota, Webber plumped for Williams.

And after three years of impressing at the lower end of the grid, Webber was determined to make an immediate impact at the front with his new team.

Alas, the wins didn’t follow in 2005, during which Webber’s team were dealt one blow after another off the track with the news that sponsor HP, engine partner BMW and soon-to-return driver Jenson Button wouldn’t be a part of squad in 2006.

On the track it wasn’t much better either.

Mark failed to turn his good grid slots into strong race results, bagging just one podium finish the entire year.

And although he was in the points more often than the less hyped-up Nick Heidfeld, Mark only edged ahead of his team-mate when an injury sidelined the German five races before the end of the season.

Mark finished the year tenth with 36 points.

But while 2005 wasn’t exactly what Williams and Webber had hoped for, the following season was even worse.

In fact it was Williams’ worst season in more than a decade.

The team struggled with pace, reliability and just about everything else, with Mark claiming a measly seven points on his way to 14th in the Championship.

The poor results from both the driver and the team resulted in Webber and Williams ending their partnership after just two seasons and him moving to Red Bull Racing to partner David Coulthard.

In the first race of the 2007 season, in Melbourne, Webber qualified an impressive seventh place and held that position for the early part of the race, managing to finish in 13th position after the RB3 suffered from a throttle-related malfunction and a jammed fuel flap.

It was to be the story of Webber’s season as one malfunction after another eventually added up to seven retirements.

And although he continued to qualify well for most of the season, those retirements hampered his and Red Bull’s progress, resulting in just three points-paying finishes for the Aussie throughout the season.

One of those, though, did include the second podium of his career at the European GP, after qualifying in sixth position.

A rain-spiced race, and the retirement of Kimi Raikkonen who was running third at the time, allowed Webber to claim the final position on the podium.

However, he almost lost it on the penultimate corner, barely holding off Alex Wurz.

Webber also had his best chance yet of winning a race come oudone at the Japanese GP when Toro Rosso rookie Sebastian Vettel crashed into him.

Webber was running P2 in the tricky wet conditions and closing in on the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton when Vettel ran into the back of him under a Safety Car taking both cars out of the race.

The season-ending Brazilian GP summed up Webber’s season when he retired while running in fourth place with yet another mechanical failure. It was his seventh DNF of the season.

Webber continued with Red Bull in 2008, however, once again the results weren’t the best.

Although he put together a run of five successive points-scoring finishes at the start of the season, the latter stages saw Red Bull being outstripped by junior team Toro Rosso, who even claimed a win in Italy.

It was a huge disappointment for Red Bull with Webber and the team vowing (once again) to do better in 2009.

But a broken leg in late November put the Aussie on the back foot at the start of the new season.

However, it wasn’t long before he found his footing, claiming a podium finish in the third race of the Championship in China.

It was the start of the Red Bull racer’s fight for the World title, which he entered with an impressive run of six points finishers, four of which were podiums and one was his first ever race victory, which he achieved at the German GP.

Unfortunately for the Aussie, he was soon out of the fight as five point-less finishes saw him drop down the order.

Webber, though, showed the tenacious streak that has earned him many a fan, coming back to win the penultimate race of the season in Brazil, adding another podium in Abu Dhabi.

He finished the season fourth in the Drivers’ standings, a marked improvement on his previous years’ results, earning another year at Red Bull Racing.

In 2010, though, Webber will once again need to up his pace if he wants to challenge his young team-mate Vettel for the world title.

Ferrari

Felipe Massa

Born: 25.04.81
Birthplace: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Team: Ferrari
2010 Car Number: 7
Last season: 11th

Once regarded as the ‘enfant terrible’ of F1, Felipe Massa has come into his own with Ferrari with many expecting a title challenge from the Brazilian when he returns from injury in 2010.

Massa’s joined the F1 grid in 2002 with Sauber with reputation being enhanced by Peter Sauber’s astute signing of Kimi Raikkonen the previous year but as the season progressed it became clear that Massa was more wild than wonderful.

Although he got very close to Nick Heidfeld’s performances he was guilty of overdriving the Sauber C21 and at Monza was fined by the stewards and deducted 10 grid places for a needless accident with Pedro de la Rosa.

As it was, Peter Sauber signed up Frentzen for 2003, offering Massa the role of test driver, which he declined in favour of a test role at Ferrari.

Following a season of testing for the Scuderia, Massa was once again confirmed as a Sauber driver for 2004 in what speculation suggested was a calculated move by Ferrari to bring the Brazilian back in F1 so that he could gain more experience before moving back to the Scuderia at a later stage.

After struggling to match Giancarlo Fisichella, Felipe remained with Sauber in 2005 where he was joined by 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, and thereby given the chance to really demonstrate his talent.

However, had it not been for his sixth-placed finish in Bahrain, Felipe would have spent the entire season trailing his team-mate in the points table despite largely having the upper hand on GP weekends.

His reward was considerable: a race seat with Ferrari as a replacement for the outgoing Rubens Barrichello.

Alongside Michael Schumacher, 2006 was to prove the pivotal season in Massa’s nascent career.

Felipe performed more than admirably after a slow start to the season and was soon challenging Schumacher in both qualifying and the races.

He claimed three pole positions and more importantly, two victories, Turkey and Brazil, with the latter seeing him become the first Brazilian since the late great Ayrton Senna to win the Sao Paulo race.

A third-placed finish in the Drivers’ Championship saw him finish the season ahead of the likes of Giancarlo Fisichella and his 2007 Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

However, the Brazilian lost out to Raikkonen in their first season as team-mates, finishing fourth in the standings while the Finn clinched the ’07 Drivers’ Championship title.

Although he claimed three wins and an additional eight podium finishes, Massa found himself out of the title race with three races remaining.

From there his role was to support Raikkonen, which he did admirably, giving up the season-ending Brazilian GP win in order to ensure his team-mate clinched the title.

However, in 2008 it was Massa who emerged as Ferrari’s No1 driver despite a shaky start to the campaign that led to calls for the Scuderia to sack him.

Failing to score a single point in the first two races Massa soon found himself suffering at the hands of the Italian media and the tifosi, who reckoned his days were numbered.

The Brazilian, though, returned to form – and approval – at the Bahrain GP when he clinched the victory, adding another four podium finishes in the next five races, which put him firmly back in the hunt for the world title.

But rain, reliability and silly errors eventually cost him as the failed to find any grip in Britain, suffered an engine failure two laps from winning in Hungary and drove off with the fuel hose still attached to his car in Singapore – Ferrari’s mistake, not his.

As a result he went into the season-ending Brazilian GP needing to win the race and have Hamilton finish sixth or lower to clinch the world title.

And even though Massa did everything asked of him, Hamilton’s P5 saw the McLaren driver take the title by one point ahead of Massa.

The Brazilian’s dignity and class in defeat, however, served to underline just how impressive his season had been – and how far he had come from his wild days in 2002.

But wild days aside, Ferrari’s efforts at the start of 2009 did little to help Massa towards his dream of winning the world title.

An underperforming F60 coupled with comical errors in strategy saw Massa’s season kick off with a run of four point-less races.

And although Ferrari got their act together with put in a string of five point-scoring finishes, including a podium in Germany, Massa’s 2009 season ended during qualifying for the Hungarian GP.

The Brazilian was hit on the helmet by a spring that had broken loose from a rival’s car, knocking him unconscious and sending him hurtling into the barriers.

With his life hanging in the balance, he was rushed to a Budapest hospital for emergency surgery having suffered skull fracturers and a brain concussion.

Massa was placed in a medically induced coma as doctors waiting for the swelling to subside before he was finally able to leave hospital 10 days after the accident.

Fears still remained about his vision as the spring hit him just above the left eye after weeks later he was given the all-clear.

However, due to the nature of his injuries, Massa was not able to compete for the remainder of the season, instead spending his time focusing on his fitness and put in a few laps in an old Ferrari as rival teams gave the Scuderia permission to run him despite the test ban.

The Brazilian will make his much-awaited return to F1 in 2010 but only time will tell if his life-threatening accident has taken the spark out of racing.

Fernando Alonso

Born: 29.07.81
Birthplace: Oviedo, Spain
Team: Ferrari
2010 Car Number: 8
Last season: Ninth

After years of rumours, whispered confirmations and shouted denials, Ferrari finally confirmed late in the year that Fernando Alonso will be racing for the Italian marque in 2010.

Alonso made his F1 debut for Minardi as a 19-year-old at the 2001 Australian GP.

It was quickly obvious that Fernando was too quick to be a mere backmarker and it was no surprise when manager Flavio Briatore promoted Fernando to the role of Renault tester and then handed him a race seat for 2003.

Since then his rise has been astonishing, with the next 12 months witnessing Fernando becoming the youngest driver ever on pole, the youngest to set a fastest lap and his win in Hungary in 2003 made him the youngest ever GP winner.

However, Renault struggled to match their 2003 exploits in 2004 and for a while Fernando’s star appeared to be on the wane.

Yet he returned to something akin to his previous form in the latter half of the campaign, finishing third in successive races at Hockenheim and Budapest.

The back-to-back podium finishes, though, were only a hint of what was to come and even before the halfway point of the 2005 season it was clear to (almost) everyone that in Fernando Alonso, F1 had found its new king.

While his rivals suffered with either a lack of pace or an abundance of reliability gremlins, Fernando, his R25 and its Michelin tyres were bordering on the flawless, claiming seven wins, eight podium finishes and the ultimate prize, the Drivers’ Championship title.

Fernando clinched the title at the Brazilian GP, race 17, ending Michael Schumacher’s five-year reign, Kimi Raikkonen’s title dream, Spain’s title drought and Emerson Fittipaldi’s long-standing record for being the youngest-ever F1 World Champion.

Despite announcing in November 2005 that he would be joining the McLaren team for 2007, Alonso stayed with Renault for the 2006 season where, once again he partnered Giancarlo Fisichella.

As predicted, Fernando went on to claim back-to-back World tiles, although it wasn’t as easy as it had been the previous season.

Not only was the season dogged by controversy and the banning of Renault’s mass dampers, but the Spaniard was also pushed all the way to the finish line by Michael Schumacher.

And one could argue that in the end Fernando’s title efforts were helped by Schumacher’s misfortunes in the final two races.

But no matter how it came about, it was Alonso who was crowned the 2006 World Champion when he finished second at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.

However, his first season – and perhaps his last – with McLaren didn’t produce the results expected.

Although he claimed four race wins and finished the year third in the Drivers’ standings, albeit one point behind the 2007 World Champion, his season was fraught with arguments and bitter accusations.

First there was Stepneygate, which saw Alonso’s email conversations with test driver Pedro de la Rosa sink McLaren, earning them a massive fine and their disqualification from the Constructors’ Championship.

Second there were his on-going arguments with Ron Dennis over his desire preferential treatment. And thirdly there was his on-and-off-track fights with his team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

It was far from being Alonso’s finest hour, with the Spaniard billed as the villian and two weeks after the conclusion of the season it was announced that he would be leaving McLaren after the two parties failed to see how they could continue working together.

After much debate and the news that Renault won’t be punished after being accused of being in possession of McLaren’s secret technical data, it was announced that Alonso would return to the team with whom he won both his World titles.

And although the 2008 season did not yield a World title for the Spaniard, it did cement his place as one of the sport’s greatest drivers as he produced results beyond the car’s capabilities.

After a dismal start to the Championship, with Renault well off the pace, Alonso helped turn their fortunes around, living up to his “I bring 6/10ths of a second” to the team statement made while at McLaren, winning back-to-back grands prix in Singapore and Japan.

He finished the season fifth in the standings, ahead of his McLaren replacement Heikki Kovalainen, and also helped Renault achieve fourth place in the Constructors’ race.

In 2009, Alonso remained at Renault in a year that would be best forgotten.

Results were few and far between while only one podium finish, Singapore, brightened up a year marred with controversy.

Following the sacking of his team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr, Alonso and then-team boss Flavio Briatore found themselves at the centre of a cheating scandal unlike any seen in F1 as Piquet accused Briatore of ordering him to deliberately crash at the 2008 Singapore GP, thereby handing Alonso the victory.

And although the Spaniard was kept away from the controversy and ever side pretty much denied his involvement, Alonso must have breathed a sign of relief when Ferrari decided not to keep Kimi Raikkonen, instead offering his seat to Alonso.

Away from Renault (and also McLaren’s scandals), Alonso and Ferrari will be hoping for a smooth season where the only headlines with be of victories and glory.

Williams

Nico Hulkenberg

Born: 19.08.87
Birthplace: Emmerich, Germany
Team: Williams
2010 Car Number: 10
Last season: Did not compete

The incumbent Champion of the GP2 Series, Hulkenberg has long looked set for a berth in Formula One, having won numerous races and Championships in other series.

Like many F1 stars, Hulkenberg’s racing career began in karting, where he claimed both the junior and senior German Karting Championships.

Winning seemed to come naturally to the German, claiming the German Formula BMW in his first full season, before becoming the most successful driver in A1GP history in his debut season.

The 22-year-old followed in the footsteps of Lewis Hamilton by joining the ASM team in the Formula Three Euroseries.

It didn’t take long for Hulkenberg to dominate the series, claiming the title in 2008.

Hulkenberg was rewarded for his consistent showings with a test for Williams F1 in December 2007.

Having impressed the Williams hierarchy, Hulkenberg was offered the role of Williams test driver, a position he continued to hold in 2009.

It therefore was no surprise when the talented youngster was awarded a race-seat by the Grove-based team, partnering Rubens Barichello in 2010.

Rubens Barrichello

Born: 23.05.72
Birthplace: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Team: Williams
2010 Car Number: 9
Last season: Third

Following the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994, Rubens Barrichello inherited the hopes of Brazil’s F1 fans.

This massive responsibility, together with his admirable yet unrewarding loyalty, has meant that Rubens has largely failed to live up to the promise shown earlier in his career.

Nonetheless, regarded as one of the most decent men in F1, he remains a hugely likeable figure in the paddock.

Barrichello began his F1 life with Jordan in 1993 and went on to be their longest-serving driver.

He recorded a solid first season, though as a result of unreliable machinery and cruel luck, he finished in the points just once – at Suzuka.

The following year he began in style with his first podium finish at Aida in the Pacific GP and a fourth in his home GP at Interlagos.

Rubens’ horrific crash during Friday practice for the San Marino GP in 1994 was to prove a portent of what was to come that fateful weekend when Senna and Roland Ratzenberger lost their lives.

However Rubens fought back, taking pole at Spa and finishing sixth overall in the race.

The next two seasons at Jordan proved fruitless, and in 1997 he moved to pastures new, signing for the new Stewart team.

If things were frustrating at Jordan, his first season at Stewart must have been unbearable with the car beset by problems. In 17 races, his Stewart suffered mechanical failings on 13 occasions although at Monaco he did manage a second place.

1998 and 1999 saw much of the same, with the Stewart constantly letting him down at the final hurdle.

It is typical of Rubens’ luck, that when the team finally came good and won a race, it was team-mate Johnny Herbert who took the victory.

In late 1999 Rubens revealed that he was to join Ferrari for 2000 where he would line up alongside Michael Schumacher.

And although he did claim his maiden victory that year at the German GP after a strong drive from 18th on the grid, there were many stages during the season when he failed to impress.

Though he had joined the team saying he had equal status to Schumacher, it soon became clear that Rubens’ role was as a support, no matter how it was dressed up.

In 2001 the Brazilian failed to make the top step of the podium and was made to give up second place at the Austrian Grand Prix to Schumacher by team boss Jean Todt.

Todt gave him the assurance that if he had been leading he wouldn’t have been made to move over. Rubinho finished third in the Championship with 56 points, including seconds at the Hungaroring, Hockenheim, Monza, Monte Carlo and Sepang.

The 2002 season started with Rubens claiming pole at Melbourne with the F2001.

A spectacular first-corner accident with Ralf Schumacher took out a large number of cars, and Rubens was to suffer reliability problems in the subsequent races.

The points difference between himself and Schumacher was so great by the time they got to Austria for round six that, even though Rubens had control of the race, Todt still asked him to gift the win to Michael, resulting in arguably the most controversial F1 incident since the championship finale at Jerez in 1997.

Afterwards an embarrassed Schumacher pushed Rubens onto the top step of the podium, incurring the further wrath of the FIA.

Having just signed a new two-year contract Rubens was incredibly relaxed (publicly at least) about the events and went on to score race wins at Monza, Budapest and the Nurburgring.

He also won at Indianapolis after Schumacher’s attempt at a Ferrari dead-heat spectacularly backfired, leaving Rubens the bemused winner.

He finished the year in second place with 77 points.

Rubens’ situation was very much the same in 2003 – but only worse.

With the new rules implemented by the FIA to level the playing field, second places were difficult to come by and wins even more so.

Rubens achieved just two victories that season, as he had to tussle with both McLaren and Williams’ drivers for the slim pickings available.

He finished the year fourth, 66 points behind Schumacher.

In 2004 though the gap between Ferrari and their rivals was again stretched to the limit.

And unfortunately for Rubens, so too was the gap between himself and Schumacher.

While his team-mate achieved 13 wins, he managed just two.

They were, though, the first back-to-back victories of his F1 career and went a long way towards helping him see off the challenge from Jenson Button for the runner-up position in the Drivers’ Championship.

Despite being linked to a move to BAR, Rubens’ achievements and willingness to play by Ferrari’s rules earned him a two-year extension with the Maranello team.

However, at the end of a disappointing 2005 season, which yielded no wins and only four podiums, Rubens called it quits on his Ferrari career, opting instead to move to Honda Racing (formerly known as BAR) in 2006.

Finally out from Schumacher’s shadow, Rubens had the chance to really demonstrate his ability with Honda.

However, instead he just slipped under Jenson Button’s shadow.

While the Brit claimed two podium finishes in 2006, including Honda’s first race win, Barrichello struggled for much of the season and was more often than not also outdone by his team-mate in qualifying.

The Brazilian scored 30 points and finished the season seventh in the Drivers’ Championship, one place behind his team-mate, although 26 points adrift.

However, instead of the situation improving in 2007, it goes worse – a lot worse.

Barrichello did not score any points during the season, mostly due to the Honda RA107’s lack of pace.

It was the first season, since his debut in 1993, that Barrichello did not score any World Championship points.

A ninth place in British Grand Prix was his best result in the whole season and on only one occasion did the Brazilian qualify inside the top ten.

But despite a hugely disappointing season, Honda confirmed that Rubens would race for them in 2008, where once again results were hard to come by.

The Brazilian finished sixth in the opening Australian GP, but was later disqualifed for exiting the pits under a red light.

It was a sign of things to come for Honda and Rubens who only scored three times throughout the Championship, although one of those was a podium finish at the British GP.

He scored 11 points, far outweighing those bagged by team-mate Jenson Button, however, it looked as if it’s Barrichello was set to be dropped by Honda in favour of signing an up-and-coming youngster.

But with the team being sold to Ross Brawn, and rebranded Brawn GP, Rubens was given a lifeline by his long-time friend and remained in F1 for the 2009 season.

And the Brazilian quickly repaid the favour.

Armed with the best car on the grid, at least for the first half of the season, Barrichello claimed eight points-finishers in the first nine races, four of which were podium results.

But despite his form, not bad for a man many felt was past his sell by date, Barrichello was not able to match his team-mate Button, who put in victory after victory to claim the lead in the Drivers’ Championship.

Button’s pace, compared to Barrichello’s, soon led to claims from the Brazilian that he wasn’t being treated fairly and even a very public rant or two at Brawn GP for costing him race victories.

But with that settled and over his tantrums, Barrichello fought back to join Button at the top of the standings, even launching a title bid of his own as he stared winning races while Button’s form faltered.

In the end, though, the lead Button took in the first half of the Championship proved to unbeatable and he won the title while Barrichello could only finish third. Still not bad at all for a man many felt was past his sell by date.

Despite his results, Barrichello was dropped by Brawn GP although he quickly signed a one-year contract with Williams, who are hoping that his experience will stand both the team and their new rookie, Nico Hulkenberg, in good stead for 2010.

Renault

Vitaly Petrov

Born: 08.09.84
Birthplace: Vyborg, Russia
Team: Renault
2010 Car Number: 12
Last season: N/A

Vitaly Petrov is set to make history when he lines up on the Bahrain grid in March this season as he will become Formula One’s first-ever Russian driver.

Hailing from Vyborg, the 25-year-old first caught the racing bug when he drove a Lada Zhiguli with his father, who has provided the financial backing behind Petrov’s career.

However, he was denied the traditional route into Formula One as there were no go-karting tracks in Russia. Instead, he started off in touring cars in his homeland before moving to Europe where he first made a name for himself in Formula Renault before moving on to Formula 3000.

From there it was the GP2 series for the Russian racer, who impressed many in the Formula One paddock when he claimed six race victories on his way to second place in the 2009 Championship behind new Williams signing Nico Hulkenberg.

His talent earned him a one-year contract with Renault, with the deal sweetened for the F1 team by the millions he brings with him. He is reportedly paying an estimated £13million – seven per cent of Renault’s 2010 budget – for his race-seat.

But with the stigma of a paying driver hanging over his head, Petrov faces a tough challenge proving that his talent is equal to his finances.

Robert Kubica

Born: 07.12.84
Birthplace: Krakow, Poland
Team: Renault
2010 Car Number: 11
Last season: 14th

Robert Kubica started his adventure with cars very early, at the age of four and drove a small off-road vehicle around at his parents’ home.

He graduated to karts and won six Polish Championship titles.

In 1998 Robert Kubica won the Italian Karting Championship as the first foreigner in the history of the series and also scored second place in European Championship.

At the end of 1999 he tested a Formula Renault 2000 car for the first time.

During his first season in cars he scored his first pole position and became member of RDD.

In 2002 he won four races and scored second place in Italian Formula Renault 2000.

His move to Formula 3 Euro Series was delayed by road accident when he was a passenger in Poland, which left him with severely broken right arm.

In his late debut at Norisring, driving with plastic brace and 18 titanium bolts in his right arm, Robert won his first Formula 3 race in front of 126 000 spectators.

He ended his first, shortened season in 12th place but ended his second season in Formula 3 Euro Series in a factory Mercedes team in an improved 7th position.

In November 2004 he scored pole position in Macau F3 Grand Prix, then broke the lap record before finishing second.

Good performance during his test with Epsilon Euskadi in World Series by Renault resulted in signing young Pole for 2005.

In his first race in new category, at Zolder, Robert scored third place, showing no respect for older and more experienced rivals.

He won a total of four races and in Estoril, three races before the end of the season, was crowned a champion.

That earned him a test with the Renault F1 Team in Barcelona and his lap times made such a big impression that three weeks later Kubica was signed by BMW Sauber as their official Friday test driver.

The Polish driver, though, soon found himself in race-seat, replacing the ousted Jacques Villeneuve and he surprised and impressed many when he finished third in the Italian Grand Prix, only his second F1 race.

And although he wasn’t able to score points in the remaining three races of the season, largely through pushing too hard and going off the track, BMW opted to keep him on a race driver for the 2007 F1 season.

The young Pole made a steady start to his first full season in F1, scoring points in three of the opening five races.

However, disaster almost struck at the Canadian GP when he suffered a horrific high-speed accident, coming away with nothing more than a sprained ankel.

His lack of injury was testiment to the technology used in F1 as his BMW literally broke-up around him as he hit a wall only to somersalt across the track before hitting the wall on the other side.

His ankel and slight concussion, though, kept him out of the USGP but he made his return in France, demonstrating his own mental strength.

Eight points finishes in the remaining 11 races saw Kubica finish the Championship in sixth place behind his team-mate and earned him another season at BMW.

And that season proved to be a rather successful one for Kubica and the team who achieved their first victory at the Canadian GP.

The win also saw Robert leading the Drivers’ standings and in remained in the hunt right up until the penultimate race of the Championship.

However, a slight slump in form in the latter few races meant he was fourth by the time the season ended in Brazil.

And although BMW talked about launching a title challenge in 2009, it did not happen for the team or Kubica.

The team’s disappointing 2009 challenger left Kubica struggling for reliability and when he did have it, the car just didn’t have the pace to fight at the front of the field.

In fact, even points were hard to come by.

The end result was a dismal 17 points, eight of which came from his podium finish at the penultimate race of the season in Brazil, and BMW’s announcement that they were walking away from Formula One.

Kubica, though, wasn’t without a 2010 drive for long as Renault were quick to sign the Polish driver, bringing him in as their lead man for this year’s Championship.

But with a new owner having sold 75 per cent stake in the team to Luxembourg based investment company and with a new team boss in Eric Boullier, only time will tell whether Renault can live up to Kubica’s expectations and talent.

Force India

Adrian Sutil

Born: 11.01.83
Birthplace: Graefelfing, Germany
Team: Force India
2010 Car Number: 14
Last season: 17th

Adrian Sutil is staying with Force India after impressing his team bosses during again in the 2009 Championship.

Sutil started karting at 14 before moving up to Swiss Formula Ford 1800 in 2002.

He won all ten rounds of the season from pole and added five wins in the Formula Masters Austria Championship.

A move to the Formula BMW ADAC championship in 2003, though, saw the German cut down to size as he failed to win a single race and only managed sixth in the Championship.

The following season he stepped up to the Formula 3 Euroseries with Colin Kolles’ team.

Although he scored only twice the connection he made with Kolles would prove useful in the future, and he moved to the ASM team at the final round of the year.

He stayed with ASM for 2005 and was joined by British driver Lewis Hamilton, who beat him to the Championship title.

Sutil moved to Japan the following year and won the domestic Formula Three championship.

He also got his big break-through into F1 in 2006 when Kolles, who had joined the Midland F1 team as their team boss, signed the German to contest three grand prix Fridays for the struggling outfit.

Sutil’s performances saw him rewarded with a promotion to a race-seat for 2007 where he partnered Christijan Albers as the team, which changed it’s name to Spyker.

However, a change of name and ownership did little to improve Spyker’s performances and Sutil found himself stuck at the back of the field in both qualifying and the grands prix.

The German, though, did the one thing needed to hold on to his race-seat and that was to outperform his team-mates, who changed as the season progressed, first when the team replaced Albers with Markus Winkelhock and Winkelhock then with Sakon Yamamoto.

Team-mates weren’t the only changes, though, as the team also introduced a heavily revised B-spec car at the Italian GP.

And although didn’t see an immediate improvement in the team’s results, Sutil found himself challenging for points at the Japanese GP.

However, he finished down in ninth place after being overtaken by Tonio Liuzzi.

Following the race, though, the Toro Rosso driver was handed a 25-sec penalty for overtaking Sutil under yellow flags.

The penalty meant that Sutil was bumped up to eighth place, earning his and Spyker’s first point of the season.

It was their only point though as the team announced that it would once again undergo a change of ownership with Vijay Mallya and Michael Mol purchasing the team and renaming it Force India.

Sutil, who has a long-term contract with the outfit, stayed on in 2008 but failed to score a single World Championship point.

However, it must be noted that he was on course for a fourth-placed finish in the wet in Monaco before being booted out of the race by a sliding Kimi Raikkonen.

So with no points in 2008 Sutil and Force India, who have signed a technical deal with McLaren, will be hoping that 2009’s regulations will somehow level the playing field.

But whether McLaren’s support or a more level playing field could put Force India in the points remains to be seen.

Vitantonio Liuzzi

Born: 06.08.81
Birthplace: Locorotondo, Italy
Team: Force India
2010 Car Number: 15
Last season: 0pts

Tonio Liuzzi will make his Formula One comeback at the 2009 Italian GP after Force India called him up to replace Giancarlo Fisichella.

Liuzzi was a resounding winner of the prestigious 2001 FIA/CIK Karting World Championship series before progressing to single-seater cars.

He finished second in his debut season in the 2001 German Formula Renault Championship before moving to the German Formula Three series the following year.

From there he switched to the FIA International Formula 3000 Championship, finishing fourth in his first season.

Liuzzi’s second season – 2004 – saw his progress culminate in championship glory with the Arden International team.

During that time he also earned a test drive with the Williams team and in 2005 was snapped up by Red Bull Racing as their official test driver.

Intent on letting all their drivers gain a bit of F1 experience, Liuzzi replaced Christian Klien at four of the European races and earned his first F1 world championship point when he finished eighth in San Marino.

But overall it has to be said that the underwhelming Liuzzi was something of a disappointment.

At the end of the year he was handed a permanent race seat by RBR thanks to the team’s decision to purchase rival outfit, Minardi, with the aim of running it as junior team named Scuderia Toro Rosso.

And the Italian made the most of his break, scoring Toro Rosso’s only points-finish of the season with his eighth placed finish at the United States Grand Prix.

Regular runs in the top ten also suggested that given the right machine, Liuzzi could be one of Formula One stars.

However, his 2007 didn’t follow up on the promise.

After finishing the opening two grands prix well out of the points, Liuzzi then hit a string of nine consecutive retirements, which were either related to the unreliability of Toro Rosso’s STR2 or to error he himself made.

His dismal results soon led to rumours that he could be on his way out at the end of the season, and that was finally confirmed on August 10 when the team revealed that Sebastien Bourdais would be replacing him.

Ironically, though, Liuzzi’s results improved after that and the Italian even claimed the team’s first point of the season at the Japanese GP.

However, he was later handed a 25-sec penalty for overtaking Adrian Sutil under yellow flags, which dropped him down to ninth place and out of the points.

Liuzzi fought back to finish sixth in the very next race, the Chinese GP, earning himself and Toro Rosso three World Championship points.

But as his then team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who replaced Scott Speed earlier in the season, finished fourth, it overshadowed Liuzzi’s achievement.

The Italian moved on to Force India next, signing up as their test driver in the hope of returning to racing.

He was finally given that chance ahead of the 2009 Italian Grand Prix when the team confirmed he would replace the Ferrari-bound Giancarlo Fisichella.

Toro Rosso

Sebastien Buemi

Born: 31.10.88
Birthplace: Aigle, Switzerland
Team: Toro Rosso
2010 Car Number: 16
Last season: 16th

Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi continues in Formula One this season after being confirmed by the somewhat-improved Toro Rosso outfit.

After graduating from karting, Buemi spent 2004 and 2005 in German Formula BMW, finishing third and second in the Championship respectively.

The following season he made the move to A1GP where he shared duties for A1 Team Switzerland with Neel Jani and Marcel Fässler. The team finished eighth in the Championship.

However, it was in 2007 when the Red Bull-backed driver really began to make a name for himself, signing with ART Grand Prix to replace the injured Michael Ammermüller at the Monaco GP.

Buemi qualified fourth and finished seventh, earning himself a race-seat with Arden International.

He scored his first win in GP2 in the French sprint race, starting 21st on the grid on slick tyres on a drying track and benefitted when most of his rivals had to pit for slicks.

He clinched one other win to finish sixth in the Championship.

His partnership with Red Bull, which saw him test for their F1 team in 2008, landed him a trial with Red Bull-backed Toro Rosso outfit, during which Buemi proved he has the speed to compete in F1.

In January 2009 Toro Rosso confirmed Buemi and almost immediately he paid the team back for their faith in him, claiming three points in the opening three races.

However, a slump in form from Toro Rosso, who struggled to repeat the previous year’s success, meant a long wait for the next points, which finally came at the penultimate race of the season in Brazil when the Swiss driver finished seventh.

Buemi followed that up with another point in Abu Dhabi, bringing his tally for the season to six.

And although still at the very start of his learning curve in F1, Buemi will need to up his game in 2010 if he hopes to avoid Toro Rosso’s history of replacing drivers mid-way through a season.

Jaime Alguersuari

Born: 23.03.90
Birthplace: Barcelona, Spain
Team: Toro Rosso
2010 Car Number: 17
Last season: 0pts

Nineteen-year-old Jaime Alguersuari became the youngest-ever driver to compete in Formula One when he replaced replacing Sebasiten Bourdais mid-2009 at Toro Rosso.

The Spaniard’s motor racing career began in the usual karting arena before he moved on to single-seaters, finishing third in the Formula Junior 1600 Italy.

The following season he won the Italian Formula Renault 2.0 Winter series, taking the step up to Formula Renault in 2007, achieving second place overall in the standings.

But it was in 2008 when Jaime really hit the headlines in the motorsport fraternity, claiming the British Formula Three crown when he snatched the title from the grasps of Carlin team-mates Oliver Turvey and Brendan Hartley in the final round of the championship at Donington Park.

His impressive performances saw him move into the World Series by Renault, continuing with his British Formula Three Championship-winning team, Carlin Motorsport.

He also took on the role of reserve driver for Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso from fellow Red Bull Junior driver Hartley in the second half of the 2009 Formula One season, which put him in the driver’s seat when Toro Rosso axed Bourdais.

Jaime was immediately called up to replace the Frenchman and made his F1 debut in Hungary, where he immediately entered the record books as the youngest-ever F1 driver at the age of 19 years and 125 days.

His debut, though, was anything but awe inspiring as his lack of experience was evident.

Out of the eight races he competed in in 2009, Jaime saw the chequered flag in just three with his best result being a P14 in Brazil.

But despite now shinning, Toro Rosso opted to retain him for another season, giving the youngster a chance to learn the ropes and prove he has what it takes.

However, Toro Rosso’s history of replacing drivers mid-way through the season will be weighing heavily on Jaime’s shoulders.

Lotus

Heikki Kovalainen

Born: 19.10.81
Birthplace: Suomussalmi, Finland
Team: Lotus
2010 Car Number: 19
Last season: 12th

Heikki Kovalainen has a lot to prove at Formula One new boys Lotus F1 after a couple of less-than-successful seasons as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate at McLaren.

The Finn surely requires a vast improvement in the coming campaign if he is to keep his seat at F1’s top table.

Like many on the F1 grid, Heikki began his motorsport career in the karting competitions back in 1991, where he remained until making his race-car debut in 2001 in the British Formula Renault championship series.

He finished the season in fourth place, earning the Rookie of the Year title after claiming two victories, two pole positions and three fastest race laps.

In 2002, the Finn moved to the British F3 Championship and finished in third place with five victories, three poles and three fastest laps to his names.

Once again, he also clinched the Rookie of the Year award.

A year later and he was off to the World Series by Nissan where he finished in an impressive second place.

The following season, 2004, he claimed the title and was rewarded with his first F1 test.

In 2005, Heikki moved on to the GP2 series, the feeder series for F1.

A good start to the year saw him take easy victories in the opening rounds with ease, but he eventually lost the championship to Nico Rosberg.

The Finn had nonetheless demonstrated sufficient skill to secure a test driver role with the Renault F1 team for the 2006 season and, after an impressive season acting as the team’s official third and reserve driver, he was promoted to race driver for the 2007 campaign.

Very much thrown straight into the deep end, Heikki faced a tough baptism of fire, partnering the experienced Giancarlo Fisichella and racing for a team that had won the world titles for two years running.

However, Renault were unable to produce a car capable of winning races never mind titles in 2007 and Heikki’s debut suffered as a result.

While fellow rookie Lewis Hamilton was claiming all the praise, Kovalainen’s first race saw him lambasted his team boss.

He recovered at his second grand prix, the Malaysian GP, to score his first World Championship point.

And although that was followed by a disappointing race in Bahrain, he was back in form in Spain, outperforming Fisichella.

Points were again available in the North American races where he crashed in qualifying for the Canadian GP only to fight his way through to field to finish fourth.

The United States GP earned him another four points before a disappointing start that included a collision with Jarno Trulli on Renault’s home soil at the French GP saw another point-less result.

A string of seven consecutive points-finishes, including a rubber-up finish at the Japanese GP.

While most of his rivals got into trouble in one way or another in the wet, Heikki did not and held off Kimi Räikkönen to take second place and his first podium in F1.

The Finn finished the season seventh in the Drivers’ standings, nine points ahead of Fisichella and with clear indications that 2007 was just the start of Kovalainen’s rise in F1.

During the winter break the Finn was announced as McLaren’s second driver for the 2008 season, which handed him the opportunity to prove that he can follow in the footsteps of McLaren’s previous great Finnish drivers.

However, with Lewis Hamilton has a team-mate Kovalainen struggled to take the role of McLaren’s number one driver.

And a huge accident at the Spanish GP didn’t help his cause as his confidence and his results took a nose dive.

The Finn, though, came fought back to put in some solid results including claiming his first grand prix win in Hungary when he benefitted from Felipe Massa’s retirement two laps from the end of the race.

All-in-all it was solid showing from Kovalainen, earning him a second season at McLaren.

But unfortunately he again failed to match the pace and results of Hamilton in 2009.

With McLaren struggling for pace at the start of the year, Kovalainen failed to score any points in the first two races of the season.

That was as good as it got for him in the first eight of the season during which he had five retirements.

Kovalainen and McLaren’s form improved in Germany, but the Finn could only pick up one point.

He put in his best showing of the season in Valencia a few weeks later by starting starting on the front row of the grid with Rubens Barrichello and finishing in fourth place.

That was followed by a couple of sixth places and a seventh place. However by then rumours were circulating that McLaren were in talks with his compatriot Kimi Raikkonen about a move back to Woking.

Before the season was up, it was pretty evident that Kovalainen’s 22 points would not be enough to keep him at McLaren for the 2010 season.

His fate was sealed when they confirmed the signing of Jenson Button in Novemember.

The Finn, though, didn’t have to wait too long to sort out his F1 future and a few weeks later his move to new comers Lotus Racing was confirmed.

Although the team are expected to be off the pace of the front runners, Kovalainen has a lot to prove now that he is out of Lewis Hamilton’s shadow.

Jarno Trulli

Born: 13.07.74
Birthplace: Pescara, Italy
Team: Lotus
2010 Car Number: 18
Last season: Eighth

Jarno’s background, like many of his F1 peers, is in karting, where he was regarded as one of the finest talents to grace the sport.

Many believe that, given the right car and the right environment, Trulli could become Italy’s first champion since Ascari.

As a promising young Italian driver, Trulli started his F1 career with Minardi in 1997 before switching to the more competitive Prost team midway through the season following Olivier Panis’ dreadful accident at Montreal.

On the Frenchman’s return, Trulli handed back the drive, although a fourth place at Hockenheim and a scorching Austrian GP – where only a blown engine denied him an astonishing win – was enough to give him a permanent seat alongside Panis the following year.

A woefully inadequate car in 1998 meant a frustrating season, the only vague bright spot being a sixth place at Spa.

1999 was much of the same, with Trulli becoming increasingly unhappy with the poor performance of the car.

For 2000, Trulli joined Jordan, lining up alongside Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Another frustrating season brought none of the rewards he had been hoping for.

However, Jarno put his faith in the Honda engine making them more competitive in 2001.

But once again Trulli flattered to deceive, the Italian often putting in good qualifying performances, but failing to deliver when it came to the race.

Such a scenario has tended to blight his F1 career.

His best results in 2001 were fourth-place finishes in Indianapolis and Barcelona. He ended the year ninth overall with 12 points.

In 2002 he swapped teams with Giancarlo Fisichella and seemed to get much the better deal.

He outgunned Jenson Button in qualifying, though by mid-season Jarno was getting the more powerful evolution of Renault engines if one were to blow up in practice.

Yet his reputation as ‘a bit of a choker’ was not enhanced through the year and Button easily outraced and ultimately outscored him.

Nonetheless, it has to be said that Trulli was badly handicapped by Renault’s unreliability – had his car held up slightly longer, the two drivers would probably have ended all square.

The following season was a frustrating one for Jarno. Bedeviled by misfortune and a lack of reliability, his reputation took a battering as another Flavio Briatore protégé, Fernando Alonso, took the plaudits for a series of stunning drives.

The Italian, though, more than matched F1’s latest bright young thing in the first half of the 2004 season.

His run of form culminated in a faultless drive at Monaco in which Trulli held off a hard-charging Button to earn his maiden F1 win.

Yet even in the immediate aftermath of victory Flavio Briatore indicated that he wouldn’t be renewing Trulli’s contract at Renault.

From this point onwards Trulli’s performances declined at the same rate as his relationship with the team.

After a series of lacklustre performances, and amid accusations by Jarno that Renault were providing him with an inferior product, the team dropped him with three races remaining.

It had been confirmed in the previous month that he had signed a long-term contract with Toyota and Jarno thus made an immediate switch to his new employers, making his debut at the Japanese GP.

Supplied with the disappointing TF104, his performances were steady if unspectacular.

He entered the 2005 season determined to fulfil Toyota’s promise of podium finishes and with the help of yet another new qualifying system, it didn’t take the Italian long.

By the end of the fifth race Trulli already had three podium finishes (including two P2s bagged in Malaysia and Bahrain) to his name.

However his performances petered out as the season progressed and, at the Chinese GP, he was eventually overhauled by team-mate Ralf Schumacher in the Drivers’ standings.

Remaining with Toyota for a second season, Jarno struggled to score points in the first half of the season as reliability issues dogged him. In fact his first points of the season only came at the Canadian GP, round nine of the Championship.

It was a disappointing campaign for the Italian, who finished the year on 15 points and down in 12th place.

Jarno scored his first points of the 2007 season in Malaysia, finishing seventh after qualifying eighth.

A couple more points followed in Bahrain, but he stalled on the grid at the start of the Spanish GP and dropped out during the early laps due to mechanical failure.

Monaco brought no better fortune for Trulli, as he finished down in 15th place, just ahead of team-mate Schumacher, after qualifying his season-worst 14th.

His second retirement of the season followed in Canada, before he was back in the points at the United States GP, finishing sixth.

After a series of non-scoring runs, Trulli said that the result was ‘incredible’.

2008 was meant to yield better things for Toyota and although there were signs of promise it did appear to be more of the same from Trulli.

Some highs, some lows, but mostly just mediocre results. A podium finish came at the French GP, but there was little sight of that first win that Toyota have been dreaming of.

Taking advantage of the new 2009 regulations and a loophole that allowed for the double-decker diffuser, Trulli and Toyota looked on course for that first win in the opening stint of the season.

A pole position in Bahrain set the Italian up perfectly, however, once again Trulli proved to be a qualifier and not a racer as he finished the grand prix in third place.

Having lost that perfect opportunity, Trulli and Toyota’s form slumped a bit with only points and not podiums following suit.

And although there was a bit of an improvement in the latter few races, one has to say that Toyota had their chance and blew it.

The end of the season was followed by Toyota’s announcement that they were quitting F1 with immediate effect, leaving Trulli without a race-seat for the 2010 Championship.

The experienced Italian, though, did not have to wait around for very long before being snapped by newcomers Lotus F1 Racing.

Campos Meta

Bruno Senna

Born: 15.10.83
Birthplace: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Team: Campos Meta
2010 Car Number: 21
Last season: Did not compete

When introducing Bruno Senna it is impossible not to draw the connection to his late uncle Ayrton.

The name Senna is synonymous with brilliance in F1, and well nephew Bruno may not yet have the World titles to show for his talent, he’s certainly regarded by many as a skillful driver in his own right.

It was Ayrton himself who famously quipped, “If you think I’m fast, just wait until you see my nephew Bruno” and, if early indications are anything to go by, Bruno may not disappoint.

Bruno’s career looked over before it had even begun when he took a hiatus from racing following the death of his uncle at Imola in 1994, and it was only a decade later that the Brazilian began to drive seriously again.

In 2004 Bruno competed in six races of the Formula BMW UK series, collecting six points.

He moved to Formula Three in 2005, racing with the Raikkonen Robertson Racing team.

He endured a disappointing first season, finishing tenth in the overall standings. 2006 brought more success from the Brazilian, claiming five race victories on his way to third in the Drivers’ standings.

Having graduated to GP2, Bruno finished eight in his debut season with Arden International. Switching to iSport International for the following season, he claimed an impressive second in the title stake.

Seemingly destined for Formula One, the Brazilian first tested for Honda in late 2008 but the sale of the F1 team saw his debut put on the backburner.

Senna, though, wasn’t out of the picture for very long as a year later Campos Meta announced that they would hand the Brazilian his F1 debut, signing him for the 2010 season.

The Senna name is sure to have aided Bruno in his quest to make it to F1, but with the name comes great expectations; only time will tell if he can live up to them.

USF1

Jose Maria Lopez

Born: 26.04.83
Birthplace: Río Tercero, Argentina
Team: USF1
2010 Car Number: 22
Last season: N/A

With newcomers USF1 struggling for funds, they were always going to opt for at least one pay driver for their debut season and Jose Maria Lopez fits (and pays) the bill quite nicely.

A sponsorship package rumoured to be worth eight million dollars was enough to secure the South American a drive.

It helps to have friends in high places though as the Argentine government reportedly contributed half of the money.

Once the finances were secured, the deal was announced by Argentina President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Buenos Aires.

Pechito, as Lopez is fondly known as, will start life as an F1 driver on the back of some impressive performances in other motor racing series.

In 2002 he drove in the Italian Formula Renault – along with Robert Kubica – and won the title after picking up four wins. Some of the former winners of the Championship include Felipe Massa and Kamui Kobayashi.

After that he moved on to the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup and walked away with the crown after winning five race wins.

That was followed by a move to International Formula 3000 with the CMS team where he finished sixth.

Next up was the GP2 Series, which resulted in a ninth-place finish with the DAMS team in 2005 and a 10th spot with the Super Nova Racing team in 2006.

He also tested for Renault during the season.

Virgin Racing

Timo Glock

Born: 18.03.82
Birthplace: Lindenfels, Germany
Team: Virgin Racing
2010 Car Number: 24
Last season: 10th

Timo Glock is moving over to Virgin Racing in 2010 after Toyota opted to leave Formula One.

Glock first entered Formula One in 2004 when he tested for the Jordan outfit. As the team’s official third and reserve driver, he was handed the opportunity to race at the Canadian GP as Giorgio Pantano’s replacement.

The German clinched 11th place in the grand prix but was later promoted to P7 when both the Toyotas and Williams were disqualified.

That resulted earned Glock and Jordan two World Championship points.

He was again called up to compete in the final three races of the season, although failed to score another World Championship point, finishing all three events P15.

In 2005, Glock shifted his racing career to the United States, racing in the Champ Car World Series with Rocketsports team.

His best finish of the year was a second place finish at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

He went on to finish 8th in the final season points standings and win Champ Car World Series Rookie of the Year honors.

The following year Timo moved to the GP2 series. He started the series with the midfield BCN Competicion team, gaining average results.

However, a mid-season move to the front-running iSport team proved conducive and after a series of impressive results he finished 4th in the final classification.

Staying with iSport in 2007, Glock clinched the title after winning one feature and four sprint races.

The German’s performances earned him a three-year contract with Toyota, which started in 2008 when he partnered Jarno Trulli.

And although his team-mate got the better of him at the start of the campaign, so much so that there were questions hanging over Glock’s future, the German soon came to the fore, even bagging a second-placed finish at his home race.

His good run continued through to the end of the season with him collecting four points finishes in the final seven races, which resulted in Toyota confirming him for the 2009 campaign.

The season started on a high note for Toyota and Glock, with signs that a race win could be on the cards for the team that opted to start the Championship with the controversial double-decker diffuser.

However, they weren’t able to put the advantage to good use and with other teams adopted the diffuser design, Toyota once again found themselves a mid-field team.

But even that didn’t last for long as Toyota’s form continued to slump. Points were hard to come by in the middle part of the season before a huge accident in qualifying for the Japanese GP put Glock out for the rest of the season.

Sitting on the sidelines the German learnt of Toyota’s decision not to continue in F1, leaving him without a race-seat for the 2010 Championship.

And with top seats going quickly, Glock eventually signed with newcomers Virgin Racing.

Backed by Richard Branson’s millions, a great deal is expected of Virgin Racing, who will be relying heavily on Glock’s experience to help both the team and their rookie, Lucas di Grassi, find their footing in F1.

Lucas di Grassi

Born: 11.08.84
Birthplace: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Team: Virgin Racing
2010 Car Number: 25
Last season: N/A

Having spent four years each in Formula Three and GP2, Lucas di Grassi’s elevation to Formula One marks the final step in a natural progression to the pinnacle of motorsport.

Without a Championship title to his name, di Grassi may lack some of the glitz and glamour possessed by many of his counterparts, but he has shown himself to be a solid and consistent driver.

Di Grassi claimed five race wins during his time in Formula Three, finishing runner-up in the Formula 3 SudAmericana Championship in 2003 and third in the 2005 Formula 3 Euroseries title race, behind Lewis Hamilton and Adrian Sutil.

2005 also marked the beginning of di Grassi’s association with Manor Motorsport, a relationship that would bare fruit for the 25-year-old down the line.

Di Grassi’s move to GP2 in 2006 was not immediately profitable, claiming only 8 points in the entire season.

Following a from Durango to ART Grand Prix in 2007, the driver proved his worth, finishing behind title winner Timo Glock in the Championship.

The São Paulo native enjoyed further success in 2008 and 2009, finishing third in the Championship in both seasons.

Having been given his first taste of F1 in 2008 when he took part in an end of year test with Honda, di Grassi performed the role of Renault test driver for the 2009 season before he crossing the paddock to join Virgin racing in 2010.

Sauber

Pedro de la Rosa

Born: 24.02.71
Birthplace: Barcelona, Spain
Team: Sauber
2010 Car Number: TBC
Last season: N/A

The reliable and experienced Pedro de la Rosa has rejoined the GP fold, signing a deal to race for the Sauber team in 2010.

The affable Spaniard was racing in the lower grades around Europe in the 1980s and paid a long apprenticeship before a series of displays in Japan brought him to the attention of Eddie Jordan.

De la Rosa did a season of testing with the Silverstone-based outfit in 1998 before getting his big break in F1 with the ill-fated Orange Arrows team a year later.

He collected a point for sixth place in his very first race in Australia but it was his only success in the under-performing car.

A second disappointing season for Arrows still led to an offer to join Jaguar, who had taken over Jackie Stewart’s old team.

He scored points with sixth places at Hockenheim and Nurburgring but more feted team-mate Eddie Irvine only managed four as Jaguar failed to punch its weight.

The 2001 season was worse with de la Rosa failing to register a single point and when Jaguar ditched him for 2003, he switched to testing with McLaren.

He earned a brief spell in the limelight in 2005, replacing the injured Juan Pablo Montoya at the Bahrain GP and he responded with a fifth place and his first-ever fastest lap.

His position at McLaren once again saw him return to racing for a time in 2006 when he was called up to replace the ousted Montoya, scoring 19 points in eight races.

And although eager to return to racing, the Spaniard was back on the sidelines in 2007 where he remained despite numerous rumours linking him to a return to racing.

It wasn’t until January 2010 when one of those rumours finally came true as Sauber confirmed that de la Rosa would return to racing.

Kamui Kobayashi

Born: 15.03.78
Birthplace: Amagasaki, Japan
Team: Sauber
2010 Car Number: TBC
Last season: 18th

It took only two grands prix for Kamui Kobayashi to secure a full-time race-seat with Sauber, a team known for getting the best out of young drivers, such is the exciting talent of the Japanese driver.

Kobayashi began his racing career in karting before moving on to the Formula Renault series in 2004 where he claimed two race wins in his first season before securing the overall championship title a year later.

Following his success the previous year, the Amagasaki-born driver joined the Formula Three Euroseries in 2006, becoming a member of the ASM Formule 3 team alongside Sebastian Vettel.

At the beginning of 2007 Kobayashi and compatriot Kohei Hirate were named as Toyota’s new Formula One testers.

Kobayashi remained in Formula Three for the 2007 season and was promoted to the position of third driver at the Toyota F1 team, with the youngster replacing Franck Montagny.

The Japanese continued his role with the team while participating in the GP2 series, finishing 16th in the overall series and first in the Asia series in 2009.

Kobayashi was able to gather valuable time behind the wheel of Toyota’s 2009 model having deputised for Glock after the German fell ill before Friday practice at the Japanese Grand Prix.

With Glock cracking a vertebrae in qualifying for the race the next day, Kobayashi was the “natural choice” to replace the German, according to team boss John Howett.

He made an immediate impression on the F1 paddock, delighting fans around the world when he refused to be humbled by the talent around him, keeping world champion Jenson Button at bay for many a lap in Brazil. Unfortunately, though, what looked to be his first points in his first race eventually saw only a P9 finish for the Japanese driver.

With Glock failing to recover in time for the Abu Dhabi GP, he was given another shot to impress and he did so, beating his much-experienced team-mate Jarno Trulli in the season-ending race.

A P6 finish to Trulli’s P7 led to rumours of that Toyota would sign him on a permanent basis, however, the team’s withdrawal from F1 left Kobayashi pondering life at his father’s restaurant.

Sauber, though, came to his rescue as the team, finally confirmed for 2010, were quick to snap him up, giving F1 fans the opportunity to see whether this exciting young talent can mature into a race-winning champion

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