The 2010 F1 season will be remarkable for a number of reasons: Alonso at Ferrari, the two most recent World Champions driving for Mclaren, the return of Michael Schumacher and the absence of Kimi Raikkonen.
But another reason will be because of the number of rookies that will be breaking through into F1 this season thanks to USF1, Lotus and Campos/Stefan GP joining the grid and the departure of Kimi Raikkonen. It?ll be the most since 2007 when Lewis Hamilton, Heikki Kovalainen and Adrian Sutil made their F1 debuts for Mclaren, Renault and Spyker respectively, Robert Kubica ran his first full season after replacing Jacques Villeneuve at BMW-Sauber for the last 5 races of 2006, and the mid season debut of Sebastien Vettel who replaced Scott Speed at Scuderia Toro Rosso.
But this year even more rookies will be starting the year and there?s always the possibility of mid-season replacements. But here?s the rookie crop of drivers heading into 2010:
(although this is prone to change if USF1 and/or Campos fail to make the grid, especially Campos. Stefan GP is waiting in the wings and Kazuki Nakajima is already named as one of Stefan GP?s drivers even without having a spot on the grid)
Nico Hulkenberg, 22 (Born in Emmerich am Rhein, West Germany)
Team: AT&T Williams F1
The 2009 GP2 champion comes in as the rookie most likely to succeed. Managed by Willi Weber, long-time manager of Michael Schumacher and who has made many comparisons between him and Michael, he?s won the championship in every series he?s ever competed in: Formula BMW in 2005, A1GP in 2006-2007 for Team Germany, Formula 3 Euroseries in 2008 and then joining Lewis Hamilton as the only rookies to ever win the GP2 championship. With a CV that rivals that of Lewis Hamilton and coming into a stable team with a veteran teammate in Rubens Barrichello, he?s bound to find the most success of any rookie this season and will be a big name in F1 for years to come.
Vitaly Petrov, 25 (Born in Vyborg, Russia) aka ??????? ????????????? ?????? in Russian
Team: Renault F1
Petrov will become the first Russian born driver to compete in Formula 1 when the 2010 season starts. Only beginning his competitive racing career in 2001 in Russian-based series, he raced in Formula Renault in 200, returned to Russia for 2004 and won the Russian Lada Revolution Championship and Russian Formula 1600 Series in 2005. He finished 3rd in the Euroseries 3000 in 2006 and made his GP2 debut that season. He ran GP2 from 2007 to 2009, collecting 6 wins over that span, finishing 3rd in the Asia Series in 2008 and 2nd to Nico Hulkenberg in the main GP2 series in 2009. Petrov brings a rare combination to F1, money AND talent. While it?ll be tough for him to beat Kubica at Renault I think he stands a better shot at succeeding than Nelson Piquet Jr. and Romain Grosjean did before him as Renault rookies (Grosjean replaced Piquet midseason in 2009 so being in an unfamiliar car resulted in predictable mediocre finishes). Whether Renault will be good enough for either Kubica and Petrov to find any success in 2010 is another matter entirely.
Kamui Kobayashi, 23 (born in Amagasaki, Hyogo, Japan)
Japanese drivers have had a... colourful history in F1 to stay the least. But Kamui Kobayashi stands a chance of being the best F1 driver that Japan has ever produced. After winning a number of Japanese karting titles from 1996 to 2003, Kamui joined Toyota?s Driver Academy in 2004 would compete in Formula Renault in the Asian, German, Italian and Dutch championships and would win championship in the Italian and European series in 2005. He ran the Formula 3 Euroseries in 2006 and 2007, finishing 8th in 2006 as top rookie and 5th in 2007 to go along with his first win. He became a test driver for the Toyota F1 team in 2007 and moved up to GP2 in 2008 where he won twice and finished 6th in Asia, and despite a win in the main series he struggled and finished 16th. He won the GP2 Asia championship in 2009 but struggled again in the main series and finished 16th. But his Formula 1 debut last year for Toyota to replace an injured Timo Glock more than made up for some lacklustre GP2 result. He finished 9th in his debut and then scoring points in 6th in just his second race, beating teammate Jarno Trulli outright. Kobayashi was expected to drive for Toyota in 2010 until the team left F1 but was picked up by BMW Sauber. He?ll be teamed with long-time F1 test driver Pedro de la Rosa and while Pedro is a good driver in his own right Kobayashi has probably driven more miles in F1 over the past year and should be able to beat Pedro. BMW Sauber?s pace is as questionable as Renault but he should score points, and finishing the races will be key in distancing himself from the mediocre Japanese drivers of the past.
Lucas di Grassi, 25 (born in São Paulo, Brazil)
Team: Virgin Racing
The former Renault and Honda F1 test driver and GP2 standout will finally get his break into F1. After finishing 2nd in the Brazilian Formula Renault series in 2002 Lucas drove in Formula 3 from 2003 to 2006, finishing runner-up in the South American championship in 2003 and 8th in the British F3 championship in 2004 with wins in both series. In Formula 3 Euroseries in 2005 he finished 3rd win a win behind Lewis Hamilton and Adrian Sutil and won the Macau Grand Prix. He moved to GP2 in 2006 where after finishing 17th in his rookie season he competed for the 2007 and 2008 championships before finishing 2nd with 1 win and 3rd with 3 wins respectively (He was 10 points short to Pantano in 2008 despite missing 6 races!). He also finished 3rd in 2009 with one win. He?ll be joining his 2007 GP2 championship rival Timo Glock at Virgin. Being a new team it?ll be hard for Virgin Racing to get very far up the grid so any points would be a feat, especially for di Grassi but he stands the best chance of any of the rookies driving for the new teams.
Bruno Senna, 26 (born in São Paulo, Brazil)
Team: Campos Meta (???)
The reason for the question marks beside the team is that it?s still very questionable as to whether Campos will make the 2010 grid thanks to financial problems and concerns over Tony Teixeira?s potential involvement in the team given the amount of debt he has over A1GP. If Campos does manage to make the grid or if Bruno Senna ends up on the grid at all, then it?ll be the first time since the fateful San Marino Grand Prix in 1994 that a Senna has competed in F1. Ayrton had much praise about his nephew Bruno?s potential before his death but Bruno?s racing career screeched to a halt after Ayrton?s death. But in 2004 he competed in the Formula BMW UK Series and then the British F3 International Series where he finished 10th in 2005 and 3rd with 5 wins in 2006 (driving for Raikkonen Robertson Racing, owned by 2007 F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen and his business managers). He competed in GP2 in 2007 and 2008, finishing 8th with 1 win and 2nd with 2 wins respectively. In 2009 he didn?t compete in single seaters but ran the 24 Hours of Le Mans and some other Le Mans Series races after a 2009 F1 ride didn?t develop. But now Senna MIGHT have his chance at F1 with Campos if it ever makes the grid. If it doesn?t then the 2nd seat at USF1 or Stefan GP would be his last slim hopes. As it stands with Campos they will be a back-marker team for sure and Senna will be hard pressed to score any points.
José María López, 26 (born in Río Tercero, Argentina)
After driving the last few seasons in his native Argentina in sports cars, the former Renault test driver will be driving in F1 as a pay driver. He won the 2003 Formula Renault V6 Eurocup and finished 6th in the International Formula 3000 championship. He races in GP2 in the inaugural 2005 (GP2 replaced Formula 3000) and 2006, finishing 9th and 10th respectively with a win in 2005. He returned to Argentina where he won the 2008 and 2009 TC 2000 championship, Argentina?s national touring car championship. He also won the Top Race V6 championship and almost won the Turismo Carretera (NASCAR-style cars) in 2009. Jose managed to get the ride with USF1 with help from fellow Argentine, former F1 driver and friend of USF1 team principal Peter Windsor Carlos Reutemann. Although USF1 will likely be a backmarker team it?s going to be interesting how JML does; he?s had some decent results in single seaters but hasn?t been in one since 2006. Dominating Argentina?s touring car scene is impressive and he has a successful former F1 driver, albeit a fellow countryman who also wants another Argentine in F1, in his corner so at best he?s a wild card.
British-born driver James Rossiter has been rumored to be the top candidate for the 2nd USF1 seat which would give USF1 a pair of pay drivers. Sort of deflating for U.S. F1 fans who were hopeful for the U.S. driver(s) that Windsor had promised (but JML is technically American!). He?s most recently been competing in the American Le Mans Series for Andretti Green Racing. He finished 3rd in the 2003 British Formula Renault Championship and 3rd in the British F3 Championship in 2004. He was a Honda F1 test driver for 2007 and 2008. There?s also been some rumors that Campos? situation is so dire that they?d take a chance on 31 year old Maria de Villota, daughter of former F1 driver (2 starts in 14 attempts) Emilio de Villota, either as a reserve driver or even as a race driver. With middling results at best in the feeder series it?s a clear sign of desperation for Campos and hopefully it won?t happen.
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