London: Jerome D'Ambrosio knew he had joined the cream of motor racing when he first arrived at Virgin Racing because the Formula One team nicknamed him 'Custard'.
Now looking forward to becoming the first Belgian to race in Formula One for 17 years, the blue-eyed rookie said he was pleased with the moniker even if the British humour -- his surname resembles that of a well-known brand of cream products -- took some explaining.
The joke name, written on his car's headrest when he walked into the garage at the Singapore Grand Prix last year for his first stint as a Virgin reserve driver in Friday practice, made him feel at home.
"It just shows I fit in the team pretty well straight way so I'm happy," the 24-year-old, who took part in four Friday sessions last year, told reporters at the launch of the team's new MVR02 car.
British-based Virgin may be a long way from the cream of the crop, having failed to score a point in their debut season last year, but as one of just 24 F1 drivers D'Ambrosio has definitely joined the elite.
Belgium has one of the world's great racetracks in Spa-Francorchamps, with its daunting Eau Rouge corner, but the facility has suffered falling attendances and financial problems in recent years despite its status and history.
There has been talk of the grand prix, one of the classics, alternating with Germany's nearby Nuerburgring.
D'Ambrosio hoped his presence on the starting grid would also be reflected in the grandstands this year.
"I didn't realise that it was 17 years (without a Belgian driver) but the next day after the announcement (of the race drive) was incredible," he said, still wide-eyed at the memory.
"I emptied three phone batteries. At night I remember my ear was warm and the third battery of the phone was just dying and I thought that's okay. That was from nine in the morning to 10 at night non-stop.”
"Now I know that it (Formula One) is really followed a lot in Belgium."
The last driver to race with a Belgian licence in Formula One was Phillipe Adams with Lotus in 1994.
First Published: Tuesday, February 08, 2011, 10:08