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DW profiles Germany's six Formula One stars

The reigning champion, the most successful driver of them all, the stylish son of a champ, the sport's definitive nearly-man, and a pair of journeymen for whom it's now or never; Germany has six hopefuls on the F1 grid.

Sebastian Vettel kisses the trophy after winning the last race of 2010, securing the world championship in the process

World champion Vettel and friends are ready to go again

For the second year running, a staggering six German drivers - that's one quarter of the entire field - are lining up on the Formula One grid for the season-opener in Melbourne on Sunday. They are:

Sebastian Vettel (car No. 1, Red Bull)

Vettel celebrates

The No. 1 car now backs up his customary index finger salute


Age: 23
Races: 62
Wins: 10
Podiums: 19
Best championship finish: 1st - 2010

The youngest F1 world champion ever is the bookmakers' favorite to repeat the feat in 2011 - and with good reason.

With a freshly-signed contract extension at Red Bull until 2014, the rest of the paddock must be terrified by the prospect of four seasons with this affable but aggressive young star in the cockpit of cars designed by legendary aerodynamicist Adrian Newey.

Vettel's road to the 2010 title was rocky. He only ever led the championship standings once, at the very end of the season. Vettel won the most races (tied on five with Fernando Alonso), led the most laps, and secured - by far - the most pole positions, but a combination of misfortunes and mistakes prevented him from dominating in terms of points.

Motorsport-total.com senior editor Christian Nimmervoll says:
I believe that winning the championship despite such an imperfect season will make Vettel even stronger and more self-confident this year. He's bloody young, and an incredibly fast qualifier.

Michael Schumacher (car No. 7, Mercedes)
Age: 42
Races: 269
Wins: 91
Podiums: 154
Best championship finish: 1st - 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004

Those stats tell their own tale, don't they? Schumacher's is a unique story in F1 history and numerically, it's unlikely ever to be eclipsed. This will be the second year of what some are calling a sequel and what others dismiss as a mere footnote. Either way, the first season of "Schumi's" comeback was a letdown.

Michael Schumacher, aged 22, smiles at his first ever F1 race in Belgium in 1991

Schumi made his debut in 1991, just after Vettel's fourth birthday

No wins, no podiums, no poles, and to rub salt in these wounds, he was soundly beaten by his young teammate.

But any F1 fan knows that you write off Michael Schumacher at your peril. This is the man who redefined what it is to be a modern champion. Unwavering professionalism, ruthless determination, faultless fitness, tireless work developing his cars and unprecedented measures to include and bond with mechanics and engineers behind the scenes defined this simply remarkable career.

Oh, let's not forget that he was rather quick. And Schumi may yet prove that he still is.

Christian Nimmervoll says:
Bottom line is: whatever you think of him, he's the most successful race driver of all time. You might argue that there have been quicker drivers, but none of them used their talent as well as he did.

Nico Rosberg (car No. 8, Mercedes)

Nico Rosberg

As a joke, fellow drivers once swapped "Britney's" passport photo for a shot of Ms. Spears


Age: 25
Races: 89
Wins: 0
Podiums: 5
Best championship finish: 7th - 2009, 2010

For older, international followers of F1, Nico Rosberg is only an honorary German. He's the son of 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg, "the flying Finn," the first of a trio of champions from that car-mad country in Scandinavia. Nico's mother is German, he was born in Wiesbaden, and he's always raced under a German license.

The blond, fresh-faced Rosberg, nicknamed "Britney" by other drivers, immediately showed his F1 pedigree, setting the fastest lap on his debut in a car that was by no means the quickest. But his undeniable promise has yet to translate into a race win, and the clock's ticking.

In terms of points, and to a lesser extent pace, Rosberg took Michael Schumacher to the cleaners in 2010, outscoring the old master 142 to 72. Was that a sign that he could follow in his father's footsteps, or was he shooting fish in a barrel against an out-of-practice has-been?

Christian Nimmervoll says:
[F1 commercial supremo] Bernie Ecclestone asked last season why people were saying Schumacher was struggling, rather than raving about Nico's performances. Wise words, if you ask me.

Nick Heidfeld (car No. 9, Lotus Renault)
Age: 33
Races: 174
Wins: 0
Podiums: 12
Best championship finish: 5th - 2007

It doesn't matter which way you slice it, Nick Heidfeld is the most successful driver of all time never to win an F1 race. It's not the record he would choose, but it's an impressive one nonetheless. Metronomically reliable (he holds the records for most consecutive race finishes and points-finishes), great in the rain and a bold passer, "Quick Nick" never shone quite brightly enough to attract a top drive.

Nick Heidfeld

Heidfeld came closest to a win with the former BMW team

Heidfeld's only on the 2011 grid because of the tragic, still career-threatening injury to a former teammate of his, Robert Kubica.

No doubt he'd rather be there under happier circumstances, but Heidfeld has more than enough experience to grab any chance that comes his way, in a car some tip to run at the top this year.

The Renault team (its added 'Lotus' label is the upshot of a fresh off-season sponsorship deal, but little else) has taken some different engineering paths to its rivals, including a novel exhaust system designed to improve aerodynamic efficiency.

Christian Nimmervoll says:
I'm no engineer but people keep telling me that IF this exhaust system works, it's going to be perfect - but that there's a strong chance it won't work. This could be a second chance for Nick to get that win.

Adrian Sutil (car No. 14, Force India)

Adrian Sutil

Aged 14, Sutil traded piano keys for steering wheels


Age: 28
Races: 71
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best championship finish: 11th - 2010

Four years at the lowly Force India team is not a fate you'd wish on any driver, but the perennial back-marker showed signs of life in 2010. Sutil did as well, stringing together six consecutive points-finishes.

F1's most gifted musician also has Latino heritage, and you might argue his driving style betrays this. Possessing genuine flair, many of his best races have been ruined either by misfortune or driver error.

For instance, despite showing remarkable pace at last year's waterlogged Korean race, Sutil had no fewer than six off-track excursions - often taking innocent bystanders with him - and he ultimately crashed out.

Christian Nimmervoll says:
He's quick, no doubt. But let's not forget that in Formula 3 he was in the same team with [2008 World Champion] Lewis Hamilton, and he didn't even get close to him.

Timo Glock (car No. 24, Virgin)
Age: 29
Races: 56
Wins: 0
Podiums: 3
Best championship finish: 10th - 2008, 2009

If you let the numbers do the talking, Timo Glock was F1's worst driver in 2010, but there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

Timo Glock

Virgin Racing: a sweet style, but a sh... erm... shoddy car

Driving the least reliable and second-slowest car of them all, Glock was the little driver that could have, if he'd had even half-way-decent hardware. In qualifying, he annihilated his rookie teammate, but on race-day it always seemed to be Glock's Virgin that gave up the ghost.

On the bright side, if anyone's tough enough to cope with heartache, it's Timo. His former employers (Jordan, then Toyota) both quit F1, twice flooring an otherwise promising career. Only the bravest of pundits would rule out a horrific hat trick for this unfortunate but gutsy driver.

Christian Nimmervoll says:
In testing, the one team that was ALWAYS behind EVERYONE was Virgin. In every aspect, it's going to be a tough year for Timo. Even if he does a tremendous job - again - I'm afraid this might be the end of his F1 career.

Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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