The 2006 rookies - Rosberg, Speed & Ide 08 Mar 2006
The start of any Formula One season brings with it a crop of new faces and this year three rookie drivers are set to make their race debuts when they line up on the grid in Bahrain this weekend.
Arguably the most anticipated among them will be Nico Rosberg. The young German is entering the sport with a fully-fledged race drive for Williams as team mate to Mark Webber, having graduated from various lesser formulae and a role as Williams tester last season. He's already proved himself a committed, canny racer, but a fair bit of media attention will doubtless focus on the fact that he's another example of the sports occasional tendency to throw up dynastic successions - he is the son of Keke Rosberg, world champion back in 1982, also with Williams.
Nico determined at an early age that he would attempt to follow in his father's footsteps, trying karting for the first time when he was just six. He later he gave up a promising junior tennis career to concentrate on racing. By the time he moved into Formula BMW in 2002 his raw talent was clear, winning nine races from 20 starts and taking the championship in his first year. His performance won him a Formula One test at the end of the season, making him (then 17) the youngest person to have ever driven a Formula One car.
After Formula BMW, Rosberg graduated into Formula 3 and then GP2, in which he became the inaugural champion last year. His prospects for the coming season will depend both on how quickly he can adapt to the pace and discipline required in Formula One racing - and on how competitive a package the Williams-Cosworth turns out to be.
Scott Speed is the second eagerly-awaited driving talent for 2006, having been signed to race for the new Toro Rosso team alongside Vitantonio Liuzzi. When he lines up on the grid in Bahrain, the 23-year old Californian will become the first American driver to start a Formula One race since Michael Andretti back in 1993. As well as the most appropriate name for a Formula One driver in living memory, Speed also has extensive experience in single seaters, both in the US and Europe. Career highlights to date include victory in the US Formula Russell and German Formula Renault championships, and last year he finished third behind Rosberg and Renault tester Heikki Kovalainen in GP2.
Driving for the V10-powered Toro Rosso squad means that Speed is likely to do most of his racing towards the back of the pack, but driving against talented team mate Liuzzi should give him plenty of opportunity to prove himself - and the presence of the Midland and Super Aguri teams could also make for some keen competition at the tail end of the order.
The final new addition to the 2006 race line-up will be Yuji Ide, with the Japanese driver confirmed as Takuma Sato's team mate in the new Super Aguri team. At 31 years of age, Ide is making a pretty late debut by Formula One standards and will actually be one of the oldest drivers on the grid, although he has extensive - if not particularly distinguished - experience in numerous Japanese championships, with second place in last year's Formula Nippon series being the highlight of his career to date.
With very limited expectations for Super Aguri's performance, Ide is in a relatively strong psychological position - being anything other than the slowest man on the track will be regarded as a good result for him.
Click here for our full 2006 team and driver profiles.