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Slow starters, or dream debuts? 13 Mar 2007

Mark Webber (AUS) KL Minardi Asiatech, Paul Stoddart (AUS) KL Minardi Team Owner Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, 3 March 2002. World © Bearne/Sutton Anthony Davidson (GBR) Minardi Asiatech PS02 takes to the gravel during his debut Grand Prix. Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring, Hungary, 18 August 2002. World © Moy/Sutton Fernando Alonso(ESP) European Minardi PS01 Australian Grand Prix Melbourne, Australia 2nd-4th March 2001. World © Batchelor/Sutton Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 12 March 2006 David Coulthard (GBR) Williams FW16 replaced Ayrton Senna at Williams after his fatal accident. Spanish GP, Barcelona, 29 May 1994. World © Sutton

Three men will make their Formula One race debuts at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix and two of them arguably have the machinery to win. Too much to ask? We take a look back at how their immediate rivals fared in their first races.

Fernando Alonso
2001 Australian Grand Prix - Minardi
Qualifying - 19th, Race - 12th

- Out-qualified fellow Minardi driver Tarso Marques by 2.5 seconds, then finished the race a lap up on future team mate Giancarlo Fisichella, then with Benetton.

Felipe Massa
2002 Australian Grand Prix - Sauber
Qualifying - 9th, Race - DNF

- Secured an impressive top-ten slot in qualifying, edging out team mate Nick Heidfeld. However, both were eliminated in the first-corner pile-up triggered by Ralf Schumacher’s Williams vaulting over the top of Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari.

Kimi Raikkonen
2001 Australian Grand Prix - Sauber
Qualifying - 13th, Race - 6th

- One of the few men to secure points on his Grand Prix debut, Raikkonen kept his cool throughout a highly-eventful Melbourne race. He may have been out-qualified by, and finished two places down on team mate Nick Heidfeld, but in a sign of things to come it was the Finn who set the faster race lap.

Giancarlo Fisichella
1996 Australian Grand Prix - Minardi
Qualifying - 16th, Race - DNF

- Impressed in qualifying to score Minardi’s best grid slot of the season. Drove up to 13th in the race but eventually retired with clutch problems.

Jenson Button
2000 Australian Grand Prix - BMW Williams
Qualifying - 21st, Race - DNF

- A troubled start to Button’s debut Grand Prix weekend saw him score a grid slot ten places adrift of team mate Ralf Schumacher. A storming drive through the field, however, saw him run as high as sixth, before an engine failure 12 laps from the end robbed him of the chance of maiden points.

Rubens Barrichello
1993 South African Grand Prix - Jordan
Qualifying - 14th, Race - DNF

- Out-paced team mate Ivan Cappelli by almost half a second in qualifying, but failed to finish the race after the gearbox on his Jordan gave out.

Nick Heidfeld
2000 Australian Grand Prix - Prost
Qualifying - 15th, Race - 9th

- Bettered his far more experienced team mate Jean Alesi in qualifying, before punching above his weight in the Prost to finish his debut Grand Prix in ninth.

Robert Kubica
2006 Hungarian Grand Prix - BMW Sauber
Qualifying - 9th, Race - DSQ

- Kubica made quite a stir when he had stepped into Jacques Villeneuve’s vacant seat last year. After out-qualifying team mate Nick Heidfeld, the Polish driver finished seventh. However, his points were short-lived - he was disqualified for having an underweight car.

Ralf Schumacher
1997 Australian Grand Prix - Jordan
Qualifying - 9th, Race - DNF

- Bettered team mate Giancarlo Fisichella in qualifying by four-tenths of a second, but retired from the race after just two laps with a broken gearbox.

Jarno Trulli
1997 Australian Grand Prix - Minardi
Qualifying - 17th, Race - 9th

- Qualified behind team mate Ukyo Katayama in the second Minardi, but excelled in the race to finish in front of Arrows driver Pedro Diniz in ninth.

David Coulthard
1994 Spanish Grand Prix - Williams
Qualifying - 9th, Race - DNF

- Team mate Damon Hill may have qualified second behind Michael Schumacher’s Benetton, but Coulthard’s ninth on the grid was a valiant effort for a debutant. After a great race start the Scot ran as high as sixth in the race before electrical problems saw him retire.

Mark Webber
2002 Australian Grand Prix - Minardi
Qualifying - 18th, Race - 5th

- Local hero Webber stunned his home crowd in Melbourne with his debut performance. While a dramatic first-lap incident, which ultimately claimed 11 cars, certainly helped him move up the field, a mature drive to the end saw the Australian secure a well-deserved two points - much to the delight of Minardi boss and compatriot Paul Stoddart.

Nico Rosberg
2006 Bahrain Grand Prix - Williams
Qualifying - 12th, Race - 7th

- One of the most convincing maiden drives in recent memory. Despite colliding with team mate Mark Webber at the first corner, Rosberg kept his cool and overtook several more experienced drivers, including Red Bull’s David Coulthard, to finish seventh. He also set the fastest lap of the race.

Alexander Wurz
1997 Canadian Grand Prix - Benetton
Qualifying - 11th, Race - DNF

- Teamed with veteran driver Jean Alesi to replace an ill Gerhard Berger, Wurz’s maiden outing in the Benetton should, in theory, have been a difficult one. But after qualifying well, just three places behind Alesi, the Austrian moved up to sixth in the race, only for a transmission failure to halt his charge.

Vitantonio Liuzzi
2005 San Marino Grand Prix - Red Bull
Qualifying - 15th, Race - 8th

- Crossed the finish line in eighth - two places ahead of experienced team mate David Coulthard. His impressive debut, however, wasn’t enough to secure him the second Red Bull race berth for the rest of the season. Sharing the seat with Christian Klien, it was the Austrian rather than Liuzzi who got to start the lion’s share of the remaining races.

Scott Speed
2006 Bahrain Grand Prix - Toro Rosso
Qualifying - 16th, Race - 13th

- After failing to make it through the first stage of qualifying, Speed finished his maiden race two places and one lap down on Toro Rosso team mate Liuzzi.

Christijan Albers
2005 Australian Grand Prix - Minardi
Qualifying - 17th, Race - DNF

- Struggled to make much of an impression during a wet qualifying session. In the race gearbox trouble ruled him out of the running after just 16 laps.

Takuma Sato
2002 Australian Grand Prix - Jordan
Qualifying - 22nd, Race - DNF

- After crashing heavily in Saturday’s practice, Sato qualified in a spare car set-up for team mate Giancarlo Fisichella. Gearbox problems and heavy rain conspired against the Japanese debutant and his best time was 25 seconds down on his team mate. He retired from the race thanks to an electrical fault.

Anthony Davidson
2002 Hungarian Grand Prix - Minardi
Qualifying - 20th, Race - DNF

- Drafted in to replace Alex Yoong at Minardi for two races in 2002, Davidson made an unlucky debut at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Although just half a second off the pace of team mate Mark Webber in qualifying, he started at the back of the grid. A mistake 20 laps into the race resulted in a costly spin and retirement.