2012 season review and musings (part 1): Toro Rosso sack both drivers, Who is Dr Helmut Marko, Alguesauri had 2012 offers, Young driver programmes mean nothing

Follow thejudge13: Why not follow thejudge13 by email. Click on the button at the top right of the page to receive an email when (and only when) a new article hits the interweb. Just to give you some perspective, the incredibly popular site of James Allen which has been running a number of years, this year has had 1.5m reads.

thejudge13 is in its 15th week and in November had 34,000 reads, an annual run rate of over 400,000, which is over 25% of the total for an established F1 commentator – who by the way I think is one of the best.

Thank you all and I intend to keep it coming strong in 2013. Posting links on the BBC, PlanetF1 and other sites (we had a lot of German site traffic one month) really helps. A thejudge13 reader did this yesterday and we had 300 extra reads and another 25 email registered followers.

(This page will be updated through the day – if F1 news breaks –  new stories will be posted just above the ‘on this day in F1’ which is at the bottom).

Editor’s note: I haven’t like other sites done a review of 2012, and in fact I’m still filtering and absorbing what has been an incredible season – 7 winners in the first 7 races set the tone for what was indeed a cliff hanger.

I remember Vettel spinning in Turn 4 Brazil and I stood up from my seat involuntarily feeling a shiver of incredulity course through me – I said to Mrs. Judge – “You couldn’t script this – no one would believe it credible”.

Anyway news is thin, so I have started to collect my thoughts on 2012 and those musings are about to flow. We’ll start with what I consider one of the most ridiculous decisions made for the 2012 season, by someone who should know better.

Dr. Helmut Marko: For those of you new to thejudge13, I was particularly intrigued and amazed by the appointment of Lauda by the Daimler Benz board as chairman of the F1 team. As you may know he is an outspoken and abrasive character who has ‘previous’ controversial involvement in F1 post his racing career.

I immediately launched a ‘Lauda Watch’ section, which already has delivered much entertainment. Most recently we have discovered Niki’s  tactics to turn around the floundering AMG F1 team include ‘unannounced’ arrivals to check up on Bracknell and the scrutinising of the Vacation list of the team personnel over the festive period.

A TJ13 reader suggested we launch a similar periodical called ‘Marko Watch’ as the good doctor can equally be as dramatic and controversial in his pronouncements on all things F1. Here’s a short synopsis on the doctor’s history which may be new to some of you.

Helmut Marko was born in Graz, Austria on April 27, 1943. As a former F1 driver he has morphed into a strange role not found in other teams as ‘advisor’ to the Red Bull Racing F1 team. He went to school with Jochen Rindt and was a friend of the great F1 driver who became F1 world champion in 1970.

Marko himself competed in several race series, including in 10 Formula One Grands Prix in 1971 and 1972, but scored no World Championship points.

He had more success in endurance racing, winning the 1971 24 hours of Le Mans driving a Martini Porsche 917K with co-driver Gijs van Lennep. During that year, they set a distance record which remained unbeaten until the 2010 24 Hour race of 5,335.313 km, at an average of 222.304 km/h.

On July 2nd during the 1972 French GP at Clermont-Ferrand, a stone thrown up by Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus pierced Marko’s helmet visor, permanently blinding his left eye and ending his racing career.

A number of you have asked why Helmut carries the title of Dr. Well, he became a doctor of law in 1967. Other minutia about Marko include he owns two hotels in Graz -the Schlossberghotel and Augartenhotel. He was also manager for Austrian racing drivers Gerhard Berger and Karl Wendlinger for a number of years.

He then set up and ran a race team named RSM Marko which competed in F3 and F3000 under the name Red Bull Junior Team. From 1999 he has overseen the red Bull driver development programme, which has nurtured talented drivers such as Vettel and previously brought Juan Pablo Montoya to F1.

Since 2005 he has as previously mentioned operated in the etherial role of ‘advisor’ to the Red Bull Racing F1 programme.

One of 2012 season’s most startling decisions: There have been a few, but this was the first and the decision was made we know on December 13th 2011 when Jaime Alguesauri was told his services would no longer be required for the next year.

The first explanation from Marko of the decision to drop both 2011 drivers for 2012 was on January 7th when explained the rational to Gazzetta dello Sport. “Alguesauri and Buemi had that chance for 3 years and after that period it’s possible to evaluate a driver’s development. We didn’t see in them any possibility of growth. Both are Grand Prix drivers, but for us that’s not enough. we want Grand Prix winners”.

This may have been fair comment about Buemi who was inconsistent, but Jaime had been thrust into an F1 seat aged 19 and had shown improvement in the latter part of 2011. Alguesuari was 10th in Hungary, 7th in Monza and Korea followed by an 8th place finish in India and concluded the season with a creditable 11th in Brazil.

It must be said that for a team to start a season with 2 new drivers is not particularly rare, but ask any team principal or chief designer or chief engineer whether this is the preferred option, and I can tell you the answer is a resounding NO.

The very reason teams prefer to retain one driver from one year to the next if only as a benchmark to the previous year’s car. The new car can be clearly measured against the previous year’s iteration when there is a constant – a driver who has driven both.

Alguesauri shafted: There were further ramifications over the Marko decision and its late timing. Alguesauri posted the following comments on his own website.

“On December 13th, when Red Bull Racing told me that I was no longer part of the family, I said that i was not going to judge them, that this was no drama, and i did not feel like a victim. But let me say just one thing, they hurt me, and moreover it was unnecessary.”

“I was verbally confirmed during the Brazilian GP. Hence being confirmed by Red Bull and STR I rejected a very good offer. Neither I nor anyone else will ever understand why having been largely fulfilled all the teams expectations, having improved my position from 2010 and beaten my team mat, I was dropped on 14th December with no time to have a good option to run in 2012.”

Toro Rosso of course appointed Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne for 2012 and finished the season with 26 points as a team. Alguesauri in a season which started badly scored 26 points of the team’s total of 44 in 2011. There are those within the team that believe the 2012 car was relatively better than its predecessor, but of course with 2 drivers learning new tracks each week we will never know – no benchmark.

Red Bull, a law unto themselves: This is a team that is writing records year on year. Red Bull bought the old Stewart racing team that had morphed into Jaguar and been pretty unsuccessful, even so a new team has never in F1 history achieved the success that Red Bull have delivered.

At the same time Dietrich Mateschitz bought the old Minardi team, and began a journey in search of domination of the sport of F1. They recruited Adrian Newey for an unprecidented salary for an F1 chief designer and both teams were operating from the same chassis and other common design features until regulation changes banned this collaboration.

Unlimited funds, the ability to buy the best technical personnel have seen Red Bull Racing come from nowhere and blitz the establishment of F1 competitors. So what now is the purpose of Toro Rosso?

Officially the project is to bring new drivers into F1 and whilst the team will never outshine its big brother, this still costs its Austrian masters around $100m a year. James Allen sees value in this as, “by funding young drivers on this first rung up the F1 ladder they are giving them the chance to develop their driving skills and prove themselves at the highest level.”

He concludes, “Without the Red Bull investment most of them wouldn’t get this chance.” I’m not buying this I’m afraid. Sorry to be the cynic but for Dietricht $100m of advertising is small fry to develop the Red Bull brand. This is particularly convenient for his business as F1 is expanding into the emerging markets that Red Bull itself wishes to gain a foothold and dominate.

Lessons to be learned: Young drivers clearly need to be receiving good advice. If what Alguesauri tells us is true, he has missed the 2012 season in F1 by not ensuring he had a contract with STR before refusing alternative options. There are only drives at Caterham and Force India left for 2013, and I’m not sure even with his Pirelli testing experience this year, Jaime is in with a shout for either.

Hey, but rookies come and go you may think – Alguesuarie I know is considered by a number of those who should know, a very good driver. Yet his naivety and trust in Red Bull may have cost him his F1 career.

I am coming to the conclusion that the main reason Nico Hulkenberg took the Sauber drive for 2013 is nothing to do with Ferrari promises, but simply because Force India are known for announcing their driver lineups late – and as Jaime discovered – if you are out, you’ve no chance of negotiating another drive.

RB: Dog of an employer: Back on the 6th November thejudge13 reported the following.

For those of you unaware of the lower formula racing, Robin Frijns is a very confident, fast, young dutch driver from Maastricht.  As the highest-place Formula Renault driver not attached to any established Formula One team, Frijns won the competition to test for Red Bull Racing this week in Abu Dhabi.

Remarkably Frijns tells de Telegraph he has been approached by Red Bull to join their young driver programme not once, but twice. “I have twice said no to Red Bull,” says the talented young racer. He explains why, “I know they play games. You cannot decide for yourself and if you do not do everything they want, you’re out. They treat you like a dog”.

As TJ13 reader Auq has pointed out Frijns has denied using the word ‘dog’ and an apparent twitter apology was issued by the news source. Yet at the heart of the story was indeed a sentiment expressed by Frijns that the RB F1 young driver programme may not be as gilt edged as everyone thinks – We all remember Vettel’s journey…

This is an exceptional young talent, confident in himself saying “I have in my career always my own choices and I want to continue doing. I need people around me who I can trust and I seem to feel. Therefore, Red Bull is not for me, even though I have won more than Vettel before he made ​​his name in Formula 1.“

Nice too see someone who has everything to gain by brown-nosing and sucking up to the RB cash – speaking his mind and probably learning from Alguesauri’s poor experience.

Adious: Its 03:30 and whilst I want to carry on – I’d better go to bed. Many more 2012 musings to come in between Father Christmas, kids, in-laws, wrapping, New Year and a birthday just to name a few things to occupy me.

Merry Christmas to you all


On this day in F1, Dec 22nd

Of course 2014 will hopefully see the inaugural Russian GP assuming deals are actually nailed on by Ecclestone. The unprecidented late uncertainty over the 2013 calendar calls any new deals at present into question. yet there were advanced plans for an F1 race in Russia back in 2000.

Deputy mayor of Moscow Joseph Ordzhonikidze was critically injured when gunmen sprayed his car with more than 30 bullets. Although Ordzhonikidze survived, his chauffer was killed. Police immediately focused on a deal done by Tom Walkinshaw to build an F1 circuit in the country – the deal was believed to have angered Moscow’s criminal bosses who wanted to build a casino on the site.

Michele Alboreto was born in Milan, Italy. He raced in 194 grand prix between 1981 and 1994, most notably for Ferrari. Although he won five races, the best result he could manage in the championship was 2nd in 1985. After retiring from F1 he became a highly successful sports car driver winning the Sebring 12 hour race and the Le Mans 24 hour. He was killed when an Audi R8 he was testing suffered a blow out launching the car into a wall.

Fellow Italian Giancarlo Fisichella dedicated his podium finish at the 2005 Italian Grand Prix to him, “I know Alboreto was the last Italian on the podium at Monza before me. I was lucky enough to race together with him in touring cars, and he was a great person, really special. I want to dedicate the result to his memory.”

Here’s a tribute by Ayrton Senna to the runner up in the 1985 WDC.

<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/l-VnO8l3IMQ?rel=0&#8243; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Here’s a great battle between Senna and Alboreto in 1987 at the circuit which eventually claimed Senna’s life

<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/ZoDWYRhRRKE?rel=0&#8243; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>



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17 responses to “2012 season review and musings (part 1): Toro Rosso sack both drivers, Who is Dr Helmut Marko, Alguesauri had 2012 offers, Young driver programmes mean nothing

  1. As much as I disagree with getting rid of Alguesuari, I can see how it had to be done to distinguish what the Toro Rosso team is. For Red Bull, it’s not about points or developing a car to challenge the main team, it’s about testing out drivers that they have supported the the junior formula. The problem for them now is that the very best will very likely not want to move to a team that may treat them badly and potentially ruin their career. Which leaves you to wonder how long this ‘training team’ can remain viable. I am asking Santa to get a VW/Audi works F1 team going and replace a compromised support team.

  2. Check Frijns’ Twitter – he was misquoted in the “Redbull treats you like a dog” incident, which by the way occurred a few days before (and almost cost him) the RB test in Abu Dhabi. It really took a last-minute effort by his manager and himself talking to Horner to retain the promised day of testing. After that struggle, it was no surprise that he Felix Da Costa’s lap times were out of reach. I don’t recall which tyres exactly Frijns was sent out on, but the incident did strongly affect his performance.

    • Just to add the twitter quotes from Nov 5th: “Fijn dat nu.nl zo een dinge over jouw schrijven wat je niet hebt gezegt. Top jongens! #bedankt”, which reads something like “Nice that nu.nl write such things about you that you didn’t say. Cool guys! #thanks”. Very cynical indeed. Next tweet: “Mijn excuses naar Nu.nl. Komt van ANP vandaan. Top jongens!” meaning “My apologies to nu.nl. The source is ANP. Cool guys!”.

      ANP basically went for a sensational story by rewriting (and miswording) an interview with Frijns that had been done 1-2 months prior to their release. Most of the statements from the ANP message were therefore already known to the public (albeit in very different wording), and the “dog” remark was added.

      • I appreciate what you’re saying and ‘dog’ may have indeed been added by the news source – yet there was at the heart of the matter a sentiment expressed by Frinjs that a RB offer to a young F1 driver may not be as gilt edged as it looks.

      • I couldn’t agree more! But I also think it’s honest to tell the full story. A young driver’s reputation can easily be damaged by these things. Or, as Horner put it: he has a lot to learn outside the car as well 🙂

        By the way, these were my first comments on your blog – I’ve been reading it since what must have been the beginning of October, and I should thank you for the excellent insight you’ve been giving us. Happy holidays 🙂

        • Fair comment – was really late like 4am and I wanted to say more including the response from Frijns also the no smoke without fire argument along with thoughts about whether TR can be bought.

          Great to hear from you Auq – good contribution correcting my omission and don’t be a stranger for so long.

          Have a great festive season.

  3. Hello Judge and Christmas greetings to all.
    Another good article today… Thanks. The mention of Michele Alboreto today had me ‘google’ing for more about him, which in turn led me to the Senna Files. Michele was a staunch defender of the theory that Senna was the victim of a mechanical failure. Argueing that the steering column of an F1 car shouldn’t flex by 2 to 3 cm… as Senna’s was shown to via cockpit video. The read becomes more interestingly darker as the contradictory position taken by the Williams seniors and David Coulthard emerges.

    A tiny but eye opening extract of that read is below… ending with the comment by Michele, who obviously, being at the end of a successul career had nothing to lose by speaking his mind… DC at that time of course was in exactly the opposite position.

    I have to say that I am becoming increasingly disenchanted with the behind the scenes cloak and dagger world of F1. What with ‘crash-gate’ in Singapore, Bribe-gate and Bernie, tech-gate with Mclaren and Ferrari, even the poor treatment of JA by Torro Rosso, potentially costing him an F1 career. Would be interesting to get the views of your reader community. Is F1 as a spectacle big enough to justify the way it is run. Seems to me that Big bucks and honour are becoming evidently mutually exclusive in this sport. By the way… I totally disagree with the return of Pat Symonds and Flav B… is Lance Armstrong ever going to be riding in professional cycling again… No… exclusion from F1 should be permanent for PS and FB [ and others ] also. I would be interested to hear/read the views of others.

    The source of the following extract is:

    Coulthard: Steering movement normal

    Acting for Frank Williams and Patrick Head, lawyer Oreste Dominioni has asked for a testimony from David Coulthard who at the time of Senna’s death was a test driver for the Williams team.

    Coulthard gave a written statement saying that the amount of movement seen on the steering wheel of Senna’s car was normal.

    Coulthard’s statement is in direct contradiction to that given by Alboreto.

    Alboreto told reporters: “Coulthard has the prospect of a long career in Formula One.”

  4. I think hulkenberg had contract for 13 as well.Mallya and Bob repeated numerous time that team want to keep him for nxt season.
    Given the Sauber a mid budget team,i doubt they bought hulk contract 4m force india, they may have received money 4m ferrari for that.
    So,in my opinion hulk move to sauber a part of a deal that he agreed with ferari.

  5. RE Marko – I didn’t think he saw races as clearly as others, based on his remarks, and being blind in one eye explains this!

  6. I am coming to the conclusion that the main reason Nico Hulkenberg took the Sauber drive for 2013 is nothing to do with Ferrari promises, but simply because Force India are known for announcing their driver lineups late – and as Jaime discovered – if you are out, you’ve no chance of negotiating another drive.

    Hulk was well liked around the team and respected as a driver. The only reason for not resigning him was money. Either he was upset the team took so long to pay the wages for the year or as the other poster said his contract was part of another deal.
    Although I personally cannot see any merit in keeping PDR there as he brings nothing of any real benefit to the team, especially when there are equal or better drivers with big sponsors behind them ready to have a seat fitting at a moments notice….. It would be a no brainer for me but then again I don’t know more than 1% of what information is needed to make the decision

    • I always thought Paul being at Force India had a lot to do with them running Mercedes engines. Whether that still applies now he seems to have been bypassed in the succession to the works team by Lewis I don’t know…

  7. Hello everyone, i extend my warm wishes for christmas to all of you
    Have a nice christmas 🙂



  8. Being a festive season, and perhaps I’ve started just a tad too early (but I’m in SEAsia and it’s now 2-00 PM), but I couldn’t help laughing that:

    ‘Helmut carries the title of Dr. Well’…

    Ho, Ho, Ho…
    I much prefer the humour in intelligent blogs to the vitriol in ignorant blogs…

    And finally… “. . . so I called it in… End of story…!” – and there are no prizes for identifying the quote…

    Happy New Year to All.

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