It's safe to say that the announcement of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez at Force India is one of the least surprising items of news of the F1 off-season.

And now that the sport's worst kept secret of recent weeks has been confirmed, we can look forward to the two men I believe are the future of F1 battling it out at one the few midfield teams that could realistically disrupt the pecking order at the front of the grid.

Formula 1 is used to star pairings, from the days of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at McLaren to the upcoming duel between Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari. However, it is rare to see two potential future stars in the same team at the same time before they make their likely move to the top.

Now I can hear all of you thinking 'hang on, Perez has just spent a year at McLaren and been kicked out, he had his chance and blew it.' Really? I beg to differ. In my eyes, Perez was the unluckiest driver on the grid in 2013.

After shining throughout 2012 and watching his former employers at Ferrari turn a blind eye, Checo made the high stakes move to McLaren replacing Lewis Hamilton. There he was, a young 23-year-old at the same age as Hamilton when he joined McLaren back in 2007 going up against one of the most respected drivers in Jenson Button.

I had reasonable hopes for him at McLaren, after ending the previous year with the fastest car on the grid, Perez would be able to step up and prove he could take on the big boys on a full-time basis and maybe just maybe have a chance to put the demons of Sepang 2012 behind him and take his first win.

How wrong was I, come to think of it, how wrong as everyone? Instead of carrying on where the MP4-27 left off, the 2013 McLaren was a whole new beast and sadly this beast was out of control and had no way of being tamed.

The MP4-28 was a pig of a car and Perez found himself adjusting to life operationally at a top team, just as that top team fell off its plinth with a major crash.

Checo did make an impression with some aggressive driving particularly in Monaco which earned him the wrath of a few drivers - notably Raikkonen - and he had a few run-ins with Button as the young hot-rod proved he can be more than a match for the 2009 champion.

As the season came to an end and it became clear Perez's seat was under threat, the Mexican then began to prove why he is a star for the future beating Button comprehensively at the final races which included his best finish of the year in India and a brilliant drive from 19th to sixth in Brazil.

As for Hulkenberg, I'm still not 100% convinced that he is truly the wonder everyone thinks and I also think he is slightly naive in relying totally on his talent to make his way in F1. In a business-led sport, money will always talk just as loud as the performances behind the wheel.

Still, his quest to make it to the top has also made him the poster boy among those fans who can't understand that F1 drivers are as much a brand to a team as they are a driver.

There is no doubt he has the skills of a top racing driver, but in reality he only got the most from a car which really was among the gaggle behind Red Bull in the final races. It was the poor performances of his teammate Esteban Gutierrez that made Hulk's four top-six finishes in the final eight races appear that bit better.

I believe if Hulkenberg had a driver of a Jean-Eric Vergne or Daniel Ricciardo as standard in the sister car, they would have got similar results.

Certainly then, this 2014 partnership could provide more fireworks than Alonso and Raikkonen ever could. This will be a battle to cement your place among the next generation of top drivers.

For Hulkenberg, it's a chance to confirm his status as a rising star, while for Perez it's an opportunity to prove McLaren and his doubters wrong.

Looking ahead, there are two seats at Ferrari, another at McLaren and one more, I believe, at Mercedes likely up for grabs in the next three to four years so the winner could have a very handsome reward indeed.

It's amazing to think that the world championships of later in the decade could be decided in the next year or so as these two go head-to-head and with other young drivers also making their presence felt, it will certainly be an entertaining midfield scrap next year.

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