Formula 1 Insight

Jaime Alguersuari - The New Recruit

Over the last few days, the saga of Sebastien Bourdais' replacement by Jaime Alguersuari as a Toro Rosso F1 driver has progressed slowly from rumor to confirmed fact. As Le Seb mutters about suing the team over his broken contract, the rest of the world wonders at the wisdom of taking on such a young and inexperienced driver as Jaime midway through the season; his credentials are not exactly stellar, after all. And some have pondered the fate of Brendon Hartley, the young New Zealander who so recently left his position as STR test driver (although to say "driver" is perhaps an exaggeration in this day and age of no testing) and whose place was taken by Alguersuari.

Jaime Alguersuari
Jaime Alguersuari

Brendon assures us that he wanted to concentrate on his racing in the lower formulae, rather than waste his time hanging around the Toro Rosso pit, and this makes a lot of sense. Indeed, he has known for some time that Alguersauari would get the drive and, although disappointed, he recognizes that it would have been too early for him to take a full-fledged F1 drive at this stage of his career.

That shows a lot of sense in a driver of Brendon's age; it is natural that all young drivers aspire to reach F1 as soon as possible and most would jump at the chance of a seat. Yet such apparent good fortune can turn bad very quickly and the sport's history is littered with those who entered too early and were found wanting. It is the occasional success that we remember, the Alonsos, Amons and Vettels, but we forget the ones that never made it and disappeared after a season or two.

Many of those young hopefuls drove for Minardi and it is interesting to go back through the years and note how few of the little team's drivers we remember now. In those days, Minardi was the accepted doorway into F1 where some sponsorship money could buy a drive and the wide-eyed aspirant could try to be noticed in a car that was never capable of winning. The names roll by with the years, only a few standing out as more famous now.

So it may be fitting that STR has rekindled Dietrich Mateschitz's original intention that the team should be a first step into F1 for drivers from Red Bull's talent-nurturing process. There is no secret made of the fact that it was Alguesuari's status as the next in line on the Red Bull production line that gained him the job (although he does bring money too, apparently). Good luck to him, say I, as he steps into the fire of an F1 baptism; he will need it if he is to succeed.

He does have the advantage of taking over the car just as it receives its long-awaited improvements. Many are expecting that a double diffuser and other aerodynamic tweaks will transform the car in Hungary and that is quite possible, given that Red Bull have made the same basic design into a winner. But it remains to be seen.

Indeed, it may be that Hartley was even more circumspect than he realizes. Franz Tost is not renowned for his ability to encourage drivers that are struggling and, although he says that miracles are not expected from Jaime in his first three races, I would not be surprised if the young Spaniard finds that his welcome soon sours if he does not produce the goods in short order. Remembering that Vettel had already made his mark as a golden boy in his one race for BMW, no driver without previous F1 experience has done particularly well at STR.

Sebastian Buemi has shown well against Bourdais and hence the Frenchman's early departure, but he has yet to prove that he is anything special. Beating a guy whose recent experience was in the very different world of Champ Car racing is all very well but it is still hard to assess Buemi's true ability. Perhaps Alguesuari will give us more of a yardstick.

That is the one thing that would give Alguersuari some credibility - beating a team mate who has been in the car longer. It is unlikely to happen, however, even though Buemi seems to be evidence that F1 experience is not essential to give a good account of oneself. In all probability, we are looking at a return to the old Minardi tradition of new drivers trying their hand one after the other and soon fading into history and oblivion.

Having a team that introduces young drivers to the sport is a nice idea but means that it is hard to assess a newcomer when his competition is also untested. It would be better policy for STR to have a resident but proven old timer like Coulthard or Barrichello in one seat while the other goes to Red Bull's latest young hopeful. That would retain the extensive knowledge of the older driver and allow the younger time and the opportunity to learn.

But that is probably far too sensible a strategy for the modern hothouse that is F1...


Hello Clive

Toro Rosso and Alguesuari is that nothing short of a business venture? I mean to say, Espania is now in a state of F1 frenzy as Germany was under Schummel-Schumi ;-)

I think there are quite a lot of cans to be sold in Espania these days much to be thanking Alonso for and Contador - so kicking out Bourdais the poor fellow just as the new updates come in can only hype this venture should Alguesuari prove to be a worthy Bourdais replacement ???

all the best

Date Added: 20/07/2009

I have always thought making big wholesale changes mid-season was a mistake. Driver changes, introducing a new car, etc.

For whatever reason, that seems to be Toro Rosso' style. Personally, I think they would have been better off keeping Mr. Sped and allowing him to gain more experience. Now, they are just a revolving door and they seem to do it at the wrong time of the year.

Granted, Sea Bass did not do very well, but to let him go immediately preceding big changes with the car seems useless. How can they now judge whether it is the driver or the upgrades to the car?
Date Added: 20/07/2009

aracerdude: 2 Million from Repsol will help the team judge his performance and the cars developement.

Date Added: 20/07/2009

Nick Goodspeed
I found this on Paul Tracy'd blog:
Paul Tracy, a bitter rival during Sebastien Bourdais' successful prior career in the United States, has said he is "not surprised" Toro Rosso fired the Frenchman half-way into his second Formula One season
. "The guy was a misery even when he had the best car and was winning everything, so I guess he's been pretty unbearable this last 18 months."
Date Added: 20/07/2009

Welcome back, Clive. You've been missed even for a few days.

Looks like we'll get to see what the kid can get up to this weekend, though the Hungaroring isn't exactly going to give us a good indication of anything. At least it might help to keep the over-expectations down a bit.

Nick, Paul Tracy's blog?! Good grief! Well, he certainly knows what being a misery is all about.
Date Added: 21/07/2009

Nick Goodspeeed
Varasaki: If we could take 2% of Tracy's pugnaciousness for each F1 driver, we would live in a better world :-)
Date Added: 21/07/2009

They say history repeats, as I was reading your blog two names kept springing to mind, Michael Andretti and Eliseo Salazar. Seb seems to of had Andretti F1 career ( Car comparisons ignored )after a succesful time in Champ Car and Jaime has paid He`s way into F1 following F3, although He`s record does stand scrutiny. To give Seb the boot before a midseason upgrade is either crazy or a Lawyer move to boot Seb on a non performance clause (allegedly!). Hungaring being the concentration sapping rhythm and timing monster it is will test the youngster. As long as He doesn`t do a `Andretti at Monza ` He`ll be alright.
Date Added: 21/07/2009

Oops, just realised Andretti`s bad races were He`s first Three. For some reason I Had turn 2 at Monza in my memory, still keeps you on your toe`s a Clive ;-)
Date Added: 21/07/2009

Nick Goodspeed
I see that Danica Patric has said she wants no part of F1. "It's not in my heart to go there."
I could not imagine any openwheel driver saying this before Ecclestone and Mosley began dominating the F1 media with their drivel.

Date Added: 22/07/2009

Steven Roy

I thought Jaime drove sensibly today and stayed within the limits of the car. On the one bit of telemetry we saw he was very confident on the throttle. He was straight on it and not at all hesitant.

I think his first practise session where he was only 0.2s behind Buemi was very impressive and his second session was equally impressive despite the bigger gap as he did not run at the end of the session when the fast times were set. I assume this was to keep him away from heavy traffic on his first day in the car.

Autosport seem convinced that Sebastien Loeb will be in the car as soon as his WRC is clinched and Red Bull want him in F1 next season. Red Bull only became legal in France last year so they will get a far better return from having a high profile Frenchman in the car than having a promising Spaniard in it.
Date Added: 24/07/2009

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