Originally attracted to skiing as he was born into the heart of Austria's alpine region, Christian Klien eventually decided to live out his love of speed on four wheels.Read more
The surrounding mountains provided the perfect playground for the young Klien, and it appeared that he may look to have a future in ski racing - until his father took him to a local kart race! Immediately bitten by the motorsport bug, Christian persuaded dad to buy him a kart of his own and the next three years touring Austria and Switzerland as he gained experience and, gradually, began to win trophies, including the Swiss junior title in 1996.
As soon as he was old enough, however, Klien moved into cars, starting with the 1999 Formula BMW Junior Cup in neighbouring Germany. He began with a bang, winning his first ever car race at the Sachsenring, before adding a further four victories en route to fourth in the overall standings.
The following year, he moved into the full ADAC FBMW series with Team Rosberg, overseen by 1982 F1 world champion Keke Rosberg. Regular top ten finishes were not enough to challenge for the title, but Klien was learning all the time and, in 2001, became a regular on the top step of the podium as he raced to third overall in the championship.
Formula Renault provided the next step, and Klien managed to squeeze in an Italian winter campaign with JD Motorsport before staying with the team for the full 2002 German championship. Again proving to be a quick learner, the Austrian won four races that season, eventually running out as overall champion. He also contested selected Eurocup races but, despite being the best-placed newcomer, could not gain enough points to rise above fifth overall.
With Formula Renault conquered, Klien moved up again the following season, joining the respected Mücke Motorsport team for the F3 Euroseries. Despite his inexperience with the more technical cars, the Austrian quickly proved to be one of the season's frontrunners and, while Australian Ryan Briscoe effectively dominated the points' race, Klien managed to sneak four race wins and five other podiums to end the season as runner-up. His biggest moment, however, came in the non-championship Marlboro Masters at Zandvoort where, against an elite international field, he controlled the race from the front and took the title.
Despite being expected to either shoot for the Euroseries title or graduate to the FIA F3000 series, Klien received an unexpected chance to jump straight into Formula One. His inclusion on the renowned Red Bull Junior Team programme had already marked him out as a prospective grand prix driver of the future, but brand owner Dietrich Mateschitz pushed for the Austrian to be included in the Jaguar Racing line-up for 2004 and, as a sponsorship deal between the two parties was looming, Klien was hired to partner Mark Webber.
The gulf between F3 and F1 initially appeared to have too wide for Klien to bridge, and he struggled to match his team-mate in the early races. A spate of mid-season retirements led to calls for him to be stood down in favour of more experienced alternatives - with McLaren's Alex Wurz among those mentioned - but Klien kept his head and raised his game as the year went on, eventually claiming his first F1 points for sixth place in Belgium.
With Red Bull buying out the ailing Jaguar team for 2005, Klien's place in F1 was never in doubt. Ironically, however, his place in the first choice line-up was questioned, with many within the team looking to run newly-crowned FIA F3000 champion - and fellow Red Bull Junior - Vitantonio Liuzzi alongside David Coulthard.
In the end, Mateschitz suggested that the two young guns 'seat share', with Klien running the first three races of the year, and Liuzzi drafted in for the following four. Klien was then re-called and although he spent much of the rest of the year, wondering whether or not Liuzzi would get a second spell, the Italian never did and Klien kept the seat from the Canadian GP onwards, ending the season having scored 9 points in total - following top eight finishes in Australia, Malaysia, Canada, Turkey and China.
His reward was 15th place overall in the drivers' championship and confirmation that he would keep the drive in 2006, with Liuzzi transferred to Red Bull's new junior team - Scuderia Toro Rosso, formerly Minardi.
2006 despite promising much was actually a very difficult year for Klien - and in total he scored just two points, following an eighth place finish at the season opening Bahrain GP and another eighth place in Germany.
Indeed he retired on seven occasions and while he finished on his other six outings with the team, his next best results after his two eighths, were a trio of eleventh place finishes in Canada, Turkey and Italy.
Following Red Bull's decision to opt for DC and Mark Webber in 2007, Klien was left high and dry and while Red Bull offered to continue to back him, this was conditional on him moving to either Champ Car or the DTM. Christian therefore turned his back on Red Bull and as a result was dropped by the team for the final three grand's prix.
Klien moved to Honda in '07, where he took over the third driver role, vacated by Anthony Davidson. The Austrian would remain on the test/reserve bench in 2008, but transferred to the BMW Sauber F1 team, before turning his attention to racing in sportscar in an effort to keep his hand in as testing restrictions took their toll in F1.
Having joined the works Peugeot squad for the Le Mans 24 Hours, an unscheduled visit to the gravel trap meant he and co-drivers Franck Montagny and Ricardo Zonta had to settle for third place, while his only other appearance helped Peugeot regulars Nicolas Minassian and Stephane Sarrazin to second place in the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
In 2009, Klien retained his test role at BMW-Sauber and continued as part of the Peugeot squad, scoring a win at Spa as the team build towards their goal of taking a victory at Le Mans, but again missed out on the 'big one' after finishing sixth overall.
Just as his F1 career appeared over, however, Klien was recalled to the fold when newcomer HRT looked for another opinion on its undeveloped car. The Austrian's appearances were limited to three late-season races in Singapore, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, and there were never going to be any points, but it whetted Klien's appetite for more.
Whether he gets the chance to return in 2011 remains to be seen, with only the struggling HRT appearing to have an opening for him.