Brought to you by TJ13 contributor Adam Macdonald.
14th December 2011 saw the termination of two F1 careers in such a savage and unforeseen manor it seemed unfair, even to the most critical of onlookers. Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastian Buemi were cut from the Faenza setup when they had previously been assured their seat was safe without so much of a quiver by leatherface Helmut Marko. A chainsaw massacre of the team occurred.
Our story starts back in 2009, where Sebastian Bourdais fled from the team after a hydraulics failure forced him out on the 19th lap of the 2009 German Grand Prix. Rumours were he was seen walking away from the track down an autobahn uttering French words to the tune of, “I can’t go back to that place. Don’t make me go back there.”
A young Spaniard by the name of Jaime Alguersuari was put in his place to become the youngest Grand Prix driver at the tender age of 19 years and 125 days. Little did he know what was to come; even though he had had the warning signs from previous drivers ruthlessly being cut (e.g. Scott Speed). He was given a fairly lenient start introduction to the sport given that he failed to finish 5 of the 8 remaining races of the season.
For the moment though, all seemed well and the happy Toro Rosso family continued. Perhaps the warning signs should have been there when Alguersuari was not confirmed along with Sebastian Buemi in November 2009. Was the kid from Barcelona naïve throughout his tenure at the Red Bull junior team? Was this to be expected with his age?
The team waited until January 2010 before confirming their second driver. But why would they do such a thing? When they had flung a driver into a race seat at such a tender age, with only Formula Renault 3.5 experience previous to F1, it was hardly a vote of confidence to then sign him on a single year contract after such a delay.
Things seemed to be looking up for the pair with a strong performance from Alguersuari in Malaysia, claiming his first F1 points in 9th, and from Buemi at the British and Canadian GPs (finishing in 8th and 9th respectively). After this it really went downhill for the team as errors and a lack of development meant they fell to the back of the midfield.
2011 saw Buemi make a good start and fall away, with Alguersuari making a slow start (potential reason later) but enjoyed a strong showing throughout the European and North American part of the season. Throughout the year, it seemed odds on that Buemi would be shown the door but Alguersuari still had a chance to retain his seat as he showed signs of improvement.
He reportedly rejected an offer from another team of a drive for 2012 as he had been told that he was in the Toro Rosso plans for that year. Leatherface Marko had backed the pair into the team basement and then did as he pleased finishing Jaime’s 2012 Formula One chances – and so far, his career. Buemi being offered the sanctuary of an escape to become the test driver for the Red Bull setup, with the Spaniard being shown the door.
There were many theories banded around as to why the pair were axed from the young driver programme. The obvious one being the results not impressing the senior management (read Marko). Arguably, Buemi had had enough time to prove himself but whether this was the case for Alguersuari is debatable. Personally, I would say the youngster deserved more time; what do you think TJ13 readers?
Those with very impressive memories will be able to remember the dressing down Alguersuari received at the back of the garage from Helmut Marko, following Alguersuari impeding Vettel in Korea.
However, the biggest question for me would be his commitment to the sport. How many other drivers do you see going off to work music festivals during the off season? He headlined the 2010 Barcelona Music Conference under the stage name ‘Squire.’ Was he ill prepared for the 2011 season, which would explain his slow start. We saw his fellow countryman Alonso tweeting his extreme training regime for the 2013 season – and at no point did it include social activities. Furthermore, releasing an album during September 2011 (in season) does not send of the right message of where your priorities lay.
It certainly add weight to Vettel’s “balls in the pool” statement from Singapore this year. Although, is it fair to compare the two when one clearly enjoys the spotlight and the other makes every effort to keep his affairs private?
Either way, a return to the F1 circus seems highly unlikely for the foreseeable future which shows just how cut throat the sport can be. Speaking to Spanish newspaper Marca shortly after his release, Alguersuari stated, “I will not judge the situation because I thought that they were crazy give me a debut in 2009 at 19 years and three months, without ever having completed a mile in F1 before. Today’s news seemed like the greatest misunderstanding during the best moment of my sporting life.”
Given what happened to the Spaniard, would it really have been wise to throw Sergey Sirotkin in at the deep end at Sauber? Perhaps, Daniil Kvyat doesn’t know what is ahead of him – even if the first signs of him in a F1 car were positive (during the Austin GP FP1).
2 years on, it would seem – providing that Ricciardo can conduct himself well at the front of the grid – that they made the correct decision. But with drivers like Robin Frijns turning down the Red Bull guiding hand due to the treatment other drivers had received, is this really the correct way to run an F1 team and to treat future talent?
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