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Two by two



31 MAR - 03 APR 2016

Tim Collings looks at the quarter of F1 newcomers

Four new faces will be driving into the unknown on Sunday when they join 20 more experienced men on the grid for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Two Latin Americans and two Europeans, the new boys make their Formula One racing debuts at Albert Park, as the circuit hosts the first race of the year once again.

For Jerome D'Ambrosio of Belgium, racing for Virgin, Sergio Perez of Mexico, for the Sauber team, Scot Paul di Resta of Force India and Pastor Maldonado of Venezuela, racing for Williams, the chief objective will be simple: to survive - and to finish.

"What I want to do is to have a positive approach, finish, be consistent and contribute to the team's overall performance," said Di Resta, 24, who has done hundreds of laps in testing to prepare for this weekend and the season ahead.

Di Resta  won German Touring Car Championship last year and is the latest in a long line of Scots to reach F1 - the most famous being the great Jim Clark, champion of 1963 and 1965, and Sir Jackie Stewart, title winner in 1969-71-73.

In more recent times, Scotland has cheered on David Coulthard who won twice at Albert Park for McLaren in 1997 and then in 2003. He is now back as a TV commentator.

D'Ambrosio, 25, also comes from a small nation with a strong, if not title-winning, racing pedigree: he is the 19th Belgian driver to run in F1, following big names like Jacky Ickx and 1989 Australian Grand Prix winner Thierry Boutsen.

D'Ambrosio arrives after three seasons in GP2 and a heavy workload in testing - at the final Barcelona test he had to take over and do all four days' work when team-mate German Timo Glock underwent an emergency appendectomy.

"I know that taking to the track for the first time in Melbourne is going to be something really quite special," said D'Ambrosio, echoing all their feelings.

For Perez, it will be an emotional weekend - he is not only, at 21, the youngest of the four new boys, but also the first Mexican in F1 for three decades from a nation that still reveres memories of the great Rodriguez brothers Pedro and Ricardo.

Both had associations with Ferrari, colourful careers and perished in racing cars, Ricardo during practice for his home Mexico City race in 1962 and Pedro in a sports prototype event in Germany in 1971.

Their legends live on, however, and it is a measure of Mexico's fervour for this sport that a crowd of more than 150,000 people turned out to see him run a Sauber car in his home city of Guadalajara in February.

"I have never experienced something like this before with so many people cheering me," said an overwhelmed Perez. "I'm proud to be Mexican and I'm proud to receive all this support."

Perez was runner-up in the GP2 series last year and will have a chance to shine in a Sauber car that many rate as packed with potential this year.

On the grid, he will have support from many fellow Latin Americans including fellow-new boy Maldonado, who pipped him to the GP2 title in 2010, reeling off a category record of six straight feature race wins.

‘Pastorcito'  is the first Venezuelan in F1 since Johnny Cecotto, whose Grand Prix career ended in a crash at the 1984 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch.

Maldonado, 25, joins Williams alongside veteran Rubens Barrichello of Brazil - a Latin-American pairing of youth and experience that will provide great interest this year.

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