Two Latin American rookies are ready to start their F1 career in Melbourne.
Venezuela has gone 27 years without an F1 driver, and Mexico 30 years.
How will their two drivers fare in 2011?
Pastor Maldonado y Sergio Perez
The last Venezuelan to race in F1 was Johnny Cecotto, who was Ayrton Senna’s team mate in 1984.
His successor, Pastor Maldonado, is a somewhat controversial replacement for Nico Hülkenberg at Williams.
Hülkenberg had a good first season including a surprise pole position in Brazil, but the team needed a driver who could bring money with them.
On paper, Maldonado fits their requirements of bring a driver who is both quick (he’s the reigning GP2 champion) and well-heeled – note the PDVSA logos which now adorn the FW33.
The Venezuelan driver has a reputation for being fast but wild. He was handed a lengthy ban in 2005 after he failed to slow down sufficiently under yellow flag in Monaco and hit a marshal who suffered a broken back.
He was disqualified at the Hungaroring last year for ignoring the black-and-orange flag on consecutive laps while driving around with a broken front wing.
But he can also turn the speed on when he wants to, particularly at Monaco, where he won in World Series by Renault in 2006, and in GP2 in 2007 and 2009. He won the GP2 category at his fourth attempt last year with an impressive string of feature race victories.
At Williams he can learn from a team with a strong engineering heritage and the most experienced F1 driver of all time alongside him.
The team made a big call by dropping Hülkenberg for him. It’s up to Maldonado to prove it was the right decision.
Sergio Perez is the youngest member of the ‘Class of 2011′. He will be the first Mexican driver to start an F1 race since Hector Rebaque in Las Vegas 30 years ago.
That has aroused considerable excitement in his home town of Guadalajara where 150,000 people – 10% of the population – turned out to see him perform a demonstration run last month.
Perez finished runner-up to Maldonado in GP2 last year. He might have run Maldonado closer in the points standings but for a mixture of misfortune and, it must be said, a tendency to get involved in needless accidents.
But while Maldonado now has the ultra-experienced Rubens Barrichello to learn from, Perez’s team mate is Kamui Kobayashi, who has just a single season in F1 to his name.
In the past Sauber has proved an excellent place for young drivers to make their start in F1 – think Kimi Räikkönen, Felipe Massa and, of course, Kobayashi.
Given the performance of their cars in testing there’s a good chance Perez, Maldonado and di Resta will find themselves in close company in 2011.
With information from F1 Fanatic / The Formula 1 Blog
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