The advent of every Formula One season inevitably brings a smattering of fresh-faced newcomers, and the 2015 Australian Grand Prix will be no different with Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Felipe Nasr (possibly) taking to the grid for the first time.

Whilst each of these rookies will head into their maiden Grands Prix full of hope and expectation, they'll certainly have their work cut out to make as strong a first impression as these six debutants.

GIANCARLO BAGHETTI - 1961 French Grand Prix

Giancarlo Baghetti is one of Formula One's most renowned statistical quirks, a man remembered solely for the distinction of winning his first Grand Prix on his World Championship debut at the 1961 French GP.

It's an honour shared with Nino Farina, who won the first ever World Championship Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1950, and Johnnie Parsons, who won the 1950 Indianapolis 500 in the first running of the event as a World Championship race - but Baghetti is the sole man to win irst time out against a field that did not consist entirely of other debutant drivers.

The outstanding start to Baghetti's Grand Prix career was actually even more pronounced, with the 26 year-old Italian being picked by Ferrari to run in as one of their promising junior drivers in non-championship races. Remarkably, Baghetti won on his first two outings in the V6 Ferrari, taking victories in the Syracuse and Napoli Grands Prix.

Given his stunning performances, Baghetti was entered as a fourth 'sharknose' works Ferrari 156 for the French Grand Prix. Qualifying only 12th, with his team-mates Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Trips and Richie Ginther lining up first, second and third respectively, the prospects of Baghetti continuing his winning streak on his World Championship debut looked slim.

However, in a highly attritional race at Reims, Baghetti was able to climb through the field and into contention - abetted in no small measure by his three teammates retiring with mechanical gremlins. The 52-lap race boiled down to a last corner showdown between the Ferrari and Dan Gurney's Porsche, with Baghetti coming out on top to claim a sensational victory by just 0.1 seconds.

His phenomenal debut would prove to be by far and away the pinnacle of Baghetti's career, with the Italian scoring only five further points over an ultimately underwhelming six-year stint in Formula One. Given the prevailing wind of recruitment to the top seats in modern F1 though, it remains a unique feat set to stand the test of time.

Jacques Villenueve set the tone for what would follow on his F1 debut with Williams in 1996
JACQUES VILLENEUVE - 1996 Australian Grand Prix

In addition to Baghetti, there have been 22 further drivers who secured podium finishes in their very first Grands Prix (including the top three at the very first Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1950 and the six drivers who secured rookie podiums at the Indianapolis 500 during the years it counted towards the world championship).

The man who came closest to emulating Baghetti was Jacques Villeneuve, who enjoyed a sensational debut at the 1996 Australian Grand Prix. After winning both the Indy 500 and the CART championship in 1995, Villeneuve was manoeuvred into the all-conquering Williams team for his Formula One bow in 1996.

As the son of one of the most iconic drivers in F1 history, Villeneuve had both his own impressive reputation and a legendary name to live up to. Adding to the pressure was the fact that Williams were expected to stroll to the title as two-time defending champion Michael Schumacher had moved to the ailing Ferrari team - pitching Villeneuve into a de facto championship battle from the outset.

Come the first race of the season in Melbourne, Villeneuve announced himself in astounding style - claiming pole position from teammate Damon Hill by a tenth of a second. In doing so, Villeneuve became only the sixth driver to take a debut pole position - joining a luminary roster alongside Nino Farina (1950 British GP) Walt Faulkner (1950 Indianapolis 500 - although both Parsons and Faulkner headed a field of debutants), Duke Nalon (1951 Indianapolis 500), Mario Andretti (1968 US GP) and Carlos Reutemann (1972 Argentine GP).

On race day, Villeneuve streaked away from pole position at both starts (the race having to be restarted after Martin Brundle's car-disintegrating somersault at turn three), and comfortably extended his lead over Hill through the first half of the Grand Prix.

Villeneuve though was increasingly hampered by an oil leak as the race wore on, and after both Williams drivers had made their pit stops Hill emerged fractionally ahead on lap 34. Undeterred, Villeneuve pounced as Hill grappled with cold tyres, sweeping around the outside and back into the lead at turn four.

As the laps ticked by, Villenueve's oil leak became more and more pronounced - caking Hill's car in grease and staining the pristine white of the Williams livery a dirty shade of murky rust. On lap 54, just five laps from the end, Villeneuve waved Hill through, and the Canadian fell away to trail Hill home by over half a minute at the flag.

It had been a spectacular debut race, and it would be an equally impressive season, with Villeneuve's first win arriving in just his fourth race and the battle between the Williams teammates going to the final round before ultimately being settled in Hill's favour.

MARK WEBBER - 2002 Australian Grand Prix

Whilst scoring debut points isn't in itself that unusual, rarely has a first Formula One race produced such a remarkable fairytale finish as Mark Webber's debut for Minardi at the 2002 Australian Grand Prix.

The odd-man out as Benetton picked Fernando Alonso as their test understudy to Jenson Button and Giancarlo Fisichella for 2002, Webber nevertheless retained the favour of Flavio Briatore - and the Italian was able to secure Webber a race seat at the ailing Minardi team for the 2002 season.

Webber's debut made him the first Australian to compete in a Grand Prix since David Brabham in 1994, and the fact that Minardi was owned by Australian aviation magnate Paul Stoddart created a strong degree of local interest in Webber's maiden outing.

Very few drivers get to make their debuts on home soil (indeed, only Zsolt Baumgartner and Marcus Winkelhock have done so since Webber), but Webber's prospects of celebrating with a points finish were bleak. Minardi had only troubled the scorers once in the last six seasons, with Marc Gen?'s sixth place at the 1999 European GP, and the team were well established as perennial backmarkers.

Qualifying did little to offer encouragement, although Webber's 18th place, ahead of both Jaguars and 1.4 seconds faster than teammate Alex Yoong, did at least indicate improved competiveness. Fortunately for Webber, two separate pile-ups at the first corner of the race decimated the field, and the debutant picked his way through unscathed to hold a remarkable eighth place at the end of lap one.

As the high attrition rate continued, Webber was running a scarcely believable fifth by mid distance, with Mika Salo's Toyota (who had lost three minutes in a pit stop after the first lap carnage), Minardi teammate Yoong (hampered by a brake issue) and Pedro de la Rosa's Jaguar (five laps down) the only cars left running behind Webber.

Webber would suffer his own misfortune though, a bungled pit-stop costing the Australian 25 seconds and placing him back into Salo's sights as the race neared its ends. The charging Finn caught Webber with two laps to go, but in his attempts to pass Salo got onto the dusty part of the circuit and spun his hopes away.

Webber held on to fifth place and took the chequered flag to rapturous adulation from the partisan Australian fans. After the official podium celebrations had concluded, Webber and Paul Stoddart took to the rostrum for a private ceremony - tucking in to race winner Michael Schumacher's champagne and raising the Australian flag aloft to salute a stunning underdog story.

Kamui Kobayashi made his mark with a startling performance for Toyota in Brazil that held no prisoners...
KAMUI KOBAYASHI - 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix

As Formula One has become more technologically homogenised, individual driving styles have become more difficult to distinguish. As a consequence, it's become more of a challenge for drivers to make a discernible difference, and the sort of spectacular first impressions that the fledgling careers of drivers such as Jean Alesi, Ayrton Senna, and Michael Schumacher made have become a relic of the past

Arguably the last driver to leave an indelible instant impression was Kamui Kobayashi, drafted in to Toyota for the final two races of 2009 after Timo Glock suffered fractured vertebrae in a qualifying accident at Suzuka.

Kobayashi had been Toyota's test and reserve driver since the start of the 2008 season, but after an underwhelming couple of years in GP2 he was something of an unknown quantity ahead of his F1 debut at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

After qualifying a respectable 11th in a rain-delayed session, Kobayashi would play an unwitting role in the title battle. Running an impressive sixth, Kobayashi delayed championship chasing Jenson Button's progress through the field through hyper-aggressive defending into the first corner. Kobayashi's refusal to be cowed earned him plaudits, although the praise was tempered by a block on countryman Kazuki Nakajima which indirectly caused the Williams driver's retirement.

In his second outing in Abu Dhabi, Kobayashi's stock rose further, as he established his trademark proclivity for last of the late braking overtakes. Qualifying twelfth, Kobayashi drove steadily and maturely, and spectacularly went wheel to wheel with World Champion Button in passing the Brawn driver on lap 17.

More importantly, Kobayashi brought the car home in sixth place for his first points, finishing ahead of veteran teammate Jarno Trulli, and sufficiently impressing Toyota's bosses to be under consideration for a full race seat in 2010.

Despite the Japanese marque's subsequent withdrawal from Formula One, Kobayashi found a home at Sauber for the next three seasons. Although spotted with sporadic impressive performances, including a podium at his home race in 2012, his career never truly lived up to the excitable hype that followed his flamboyant first impression.

JEAN ALESI - 1989 French Grand Prix

Jean Alesi is widely considered to have announced his talents to the wider world through his second place at Phoenix in 1990 - but his actual race debut, at the 1989 French Grand Prix, was an equally sensational performance from the hard-charging French-Sicilian.

Alesi began the 1989 season as a promising F3000 driver with Jordan, but found himself suddenly parachuted into Formula One midway through the year. The Tyrrell team had landed a sponsorship deal with the Camel cigarette company, the final straw for already tense relations with the Marlboro-backed Michele Alboreto. Despite Alboreto having scored Tyrrell's first podium finish for six years in Mexico, the standoff saw the Italian leave the team, and Ken Tyrrell turned to Alesi.

Alesi had never sat in a Formula One car before taking to the track at the fearsome Paul Ricard circuit, but illustrated his raw speed by sensationally clocking the seventh fastest time in first practice on Friday. In the circumstances, qualifying 16th, six tenths down on teammate Jonathan Palmer, was something of a disappointment - but Alesi more than rediscovered his form in the race itself.

In a race of limited attrition, Alesi and the underpowered Tyrrell-Cosworth proved a revelation. Hurling the car around the circuit with what would become trademark aggression, Alesi fought his way through the order with dogged verve. Before his tyre stop, Alesi found himself incredibly backing up a French 1-2 behind home hero Alain Prost in the all-conquering McLaren.

It couldn't last, but Alesi hung on gamely to the coat tails of the leaders, harrying Riccardo Patrese's third-placed Williams to the flag and claiming a hugely creditable fourth place. Alesi was the last unlapped runner, and finished a full two laps ahead of teammate Palmer.

It was a stirring first impression, and Alesi would corroborate his impact with subsequent points finishes at the Italian and Spanish Grands Prix - before truly declaring himself as a potential great with that performance at Phoenix. One can never help but wonder what might have been had Alesi's raw talent spent its peak years at the wheel of a title-contending Williams rather than a succession of ever-diminishing Ferraris...

Kevin Magnussen did what his father Jan was never able to do by scoring a podium in F1 and doing so in his first race
KEVIN MAGNUSSEN - 2014 Australian Grand Prix

The ranks of drivers who have secured second place on their debuts is almost as much of an exclusive club as the first-time winners' circle. Villeneuve was the first man to finish as runner-up in his first race since Mike Parkes at the 1966 French GP, and before Parkes only Karl Kling (1954 French GP), Mike Nazaruk (1951 Indianapolis 500), Dorino Serafini (shared drive, 1950 Italian GP), Bill Holland (1950 Indianapolis 500) and Luigi Fagioli (1950 British GP) had taken second place on their debuts.

All of which serves to illustrate quite what a remarkable and highly unusual feat Kevin Magnussen achieved on his maiden outing at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix, becoming the first man to take a debut podium since Lewis Hamilton and the highest-finishing debutant since Villeneuve.

Surprisingly promoted to replace Sergio Perez at McLaren ahead of the 2014 season, Magnussen was a graduate of the McLaren Young Driver Programme who arrived in F1 with a strong F3 pedigree - as well as a family legacy due to his father Jan's brief F1 career in the late 1990s.

McLaren's expectations were low after a dismal podium-free 2013 season and patchy pre-season form, but Magnussen gave the team a fillip by qualifying fourth - well ahead of team leader Jenson Button in 11th. After a steady start, fourth became third when Lewis Hamilton retired with a power unit failure. Although Nico Rosberg coasted to a dominant victory for Mercedes, Magnussen was able to harry Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull all the way to the flag - and was never under threat from teammate Button, Fernando Alonso or Valtteri Bottas behind him.

After taking the plaudits and spraying the champagne from the podium as third-placed finisher on the road, Magnussen was promoted to second following Ricciardo's disqualification for fuel-flow irregularities. Button in turn was promoted to third, and McLaren fleetingly led the constructors' standings at the dawn of F1's brave new world. What a difference a year makes...



Loading Comments...