The five debutants to F1 this year have had their ups and downs in their attempts to make an immediate impact, writes Gary Meenaghan
Securing a seat in Formula One is a hard task; retaining it is Herculean.
The volumes recording the 61-year history of the F1 World Championship are filled with drivers who managed a year at motorsport's top table before being relieved of their drive and disappearing from the paddock. Names such as Zolt Baumgartner and Jean-Christophe Boullion, Justin Wilson and Siegfried Stohr.
In the past 10 years, 80 drivers have competed in Formula One and in the last two seasons 14 different drivers have taken part in some stage of the championship only to lose their seat soon afterwards.
At the start of the 2011 season, F1's four fresh faces - Pastor Maldonado, Paul di Resta, Jerome D'Ambrosio and Sergio Perez - were only too aware of the burden resting on their eshoulders, with a fifth driver, Daniel Ricciardo, debuting with Hispania earlier this month at Silverstone.
Having arrived from various routes, all four brought with them high hopes but low expectations. They each spoke about "getting to grips" with the car, "learning" and "gaining experience".
Now, following last week's British Grand Prix, the ninth race of a 19-race season, the championship has reached as close to a midway point as is possible.
Perez has the most points of the five, but Di Resta and Maldonado have both had impressive moments as well.
Maldonado, the 25-year-old Venezuelan, has endured a rough start to his career at Williams. Both he and his teammate Rubens Barrichello failed to finish at either of the season's first two races and he has since only managed to better the Brazilian once, in Spain.
Maldonado's driving style means he is better suited to tight and uncompromising street circuits and it was in Monaco where he was on course for his best finish yet.
With only five laps remaining in Monte Carlo, Maldonado was running in sixth place, but Lewis Hamilton, while attempting an aggressive overtaking manoeuvre in his McLaren-Mercedes, took the South American out.
Monaco was also the scene where Perez stole the headlines. After enjoying a fine debut in Australia where he finished seventh before being disqualified for an illegal rear wing, the 21-year-old Mexican suffered a huge shunt in Monte Carlo during qualifying that saw him hospitalised with concussion.
He was unable to shake off the injury in time to race at the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks later, but having returned in Valencia, where he finished 11th, he then achieved his best finish of the season - seventh - last week at Silverstone.
"It's been an up-and-down start to the season, especially with the accident," Perez said.
"I lost a couple of races and lost momentum. It is not easy to come back from such an accident, but now I am back and I am very happy with my season so far."
Di Resta, Force India's Scottish driver, has made a solid start to his F1 career after his transition from the German Touring Cars (DTM).
Before the season-opening race, he was relatively anonymous despite having won the DTM title in 2010. However, having finished in the points at the first two races and consistently matching Adrian Sutil, his more experienced teammate, the interest in the 25-year-old has grown.
The fact Di Resta is British inevitably means he attracts more attention in a sport which employs more than 70 per cent Britons and it was fitting that his strongest performance on a Saturday arrived at Silverstone where he secured the sixth place on the grid.
It could be deemed the rookie excels when the pressure and focus is at its highest, but he refuses to dwell on past performances.
"The season is not over yet, so I will just keep plugging away and keep my focus on doing the best job possible for the remainder of the races," he said.
"So long as we can build on [our qualifying performance at the British GP] at the next race at Nurburgring [the German Grand Prix], we'll be satisfied."
The final of the four newcomers is D'Ambrosio and he without doubt has the least competitive car of the quartet.
Virgin Racing only joined the sport last season and developed their car without the use of a wind tunnel.
The results so far this season forced them to rethink, but D'Ambrosio, who is from Belgium, is nothing if not consistent. He has finished all but one of the nine races and in doing so has seen his car finish as high up the field as 14th.
"So far I am happy," he said. "It's half season now and the team has shown confidence in me, which is good. I have had some good qualifying sessions and some tough qualifying sessions, but that is the life of a rookie."
All four know there is room for improvement. They also know they each have 10 races to cement their position in the sport.
Di Resta and Perez look safe for next season and there has even been talk of a move to more competitive teams; Maldonado and D'Ambrosio, in contrast, run the risk of being cast aside and joining the other forgotten foreign names that fill Formula One's history books.
Name Paul di Resta
Team Force India
Best finish 10th (Australia and Malaysia)
Highlight/low point: “Ups and downs. There’s positives and negatives. I’m enjoying it and I will just keep trying to do what I’ve been doing and hopefully our luck will turn and we’ll get a good result soon. We just need to continue the way we are going as a team. We are trying to drive on as a team and with these mistakes that we have made we’re learning and we’ll certainly build upon them.”
Name Sergio Perez
Best finish 7th (Britain)
Highlight: “The highlight for me was Australia. My debut was a very good one. Since then I have not been able to show the speed I have. Now I think, with the difficult times behind me, I will be able to show what I can do.”
Low point: “Definitely the crash [in Monaco]. The crash happened because I was pushing so hard. I was doing a good job and I lost the weekend, while my teammate, who was starting behind me, finished fifth.”
Name Pastor Maldonado
Best finish 14th (Britain)
Highlight: “Monaco was an amazing race for me and the team. Before I stopped when I crashed with Lewis [Hamilton], we had both cars in the points and my pace was competitive.”
Low point: “We were not competitive at the beginning, which was very disappointing for us. We are working very hard to correct the problems. I think I have done my job good, especially in qualifying. I need to improve race pace.”
Name Jerome D’Ambrosio
Team Marussia Virgin Racing
Best finish 14th (Australia and Canada)
Highlight: “I was very fast in China and Turkey – both were highlights. I also have had good moments on Fridays. It’s really the Saturday where I need to step up.”
Low point: “I don’t see anything as a low point because it is all a learning experience. I am in a place where the team are happy with me and what I am doing. It’s just a matter of improving on the Saturdays.”
Name Daniel Ricciardo
Team Hispania Racing Team
Best finish 19th (Britain)
Ricciardo should not be forgotten. The Australian replaced Narain Karthikeyan at Silverstone last week to make his Formula One debut with Hispania and gained invaluable experience. The 22-year-old is expected to be given a seat at Toro Rosso next season and with a further nine races under his belt – he will probably skip the inaugural Indian Grand Prix in favour of Karthikeyan – the future looks bright for Ricciardo.