On this day in #F1 – The Toro Rosso Chainsaw Massacre

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.

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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.

Why?

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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38 responses to “On this day in #F1 – The Toro Rosso Chainsaw Massacre

  1. I don’t like Marko, he is snake in the grass. I can see how youngsters are blinded by the bright lights of F1 and no doubt a sales pitch from Marko, that I expect seems almost too good to be true if anyone but the RedBull tellent scout gave it, are swept up into the into the circus. If all you have ever wanted is to drive Formula One then it’s gonna be hard to turn the opportunity down, especially as its well publicised how hard it is to break into the sport without big backing and you can’t count on opportunity knocking a second time. Robin Frijns was either brave or ill informed, only time will tell but you don’t see him with an F1 seat currently or for next year so right now, so I say ill informed it is.
    I know F1 is very cutthroat, but it is meant to be the best drivers in the world in the best purpose built race cars. If you ain’t quick enough, move over for the next guy to have a crack. I do feel rookies need 2 seasons before they can be really judged, but if you a someone waiting in the wings who you feel is quicker then it’s a no brainer, it’s about winning not providing jobs for mediocre drivers. Marko is in a win win situation, either he decides the drivers he has are shit and they go, giving fresh tallent with no other sponsorship than being in the RB young driver program, or he strikes gold a looks like a hero and you end up with another Vettel and hopefully Ricciardo.
    Marko may have had it easy with a no lose role at RB but if Seb defects to Ferrari in 2015 or 2016 that could leave Marko looking for the next RB driver in a bit of a hurry. I mean, he may only have 12months to place either JEV or Kyvat in the second RB seat if Seb jumps and will Ricciardo be good enough to lead the team. What happens if at the end of 2015 Seb buggers off to the red team and Ricciardo is not pulling his weight then RB are in the shite a little bit and Marko with egg on his face. Let’s face it JEV will be gone at the end of next season (with 3 years experience he may find a drive else where) that means Kyvat will possibly team up with Dan the man, even if it was for 2016 a DR and DK at RB is not going to win any championships (They will kick themselves for not signing Kimi). Also making the YDP (young driver program) look a little silly. The only hope is if the young Russian really is something special, that is a big IF mind you. Exciting times ahead I think.

    Marko bash over………for today anyway!

    • Spot on CV 🙂

      Only point I wonder about, and it’s banded about here, and no doubt on other websites too. is – Vettel leaving RB.

      Why leave a winning team that you are obviously very happy with and achieving unparalleled success ?

      And more importantly – why in the hell would you ever want to go to Ferrari ?

      I know there has been loads of rumours about contracts or letters of intent etc. – but I’ve never seen anything that can be substantiated.

      Alonso only went there because, at the time there was no other team he could go to that had even the remotest possibility of winning a championship. It wasn’t the best choice – it was his only choice !

      And please don’t trot out the usual vacuous replies like –

      He won’t be deemed worthy unless he wins in another car.

      Or that he would relish the challenge. I don’t know if he would or wouldn’t ? But more importantly – neither does anybody else apart from him.

      Or, worst of all – because it’s Ferrari …….

      • Looking at this through pragmatic eyes, there is every reason Seb will go red. Some of which are:
        1. He’s currently on significantly less wedge than Kimi and Fernando (and Lewis)
        2. Ferrari will always be in F1, no guarantee this will be the case with the bulls
        3. There is a perception that a championship win with Ferrari is worth.more than with other teams (which I personally don’t agree with)
        4. A great way to guarantee legendary status would be to win a championship with Ferrari (especially if Fernando and Kimi don’t manage it before the end of their current contracts). Personally, I don’t feel he needs to do this but many others do
        5. No matter how you look at it, he would be joining THE F1 team in terms of history. Winning an F1 championship with Ferrari would be like winning the world cup with Brazil or European cup with Real Madrid – its just a little more romantic and magical
        6. He may, eventually, feel that he just needs a challenge. Surely he’ll get pissed off with Marko at some point?

        This is just a few reasons, there are more. I just don’t want to get carpal tunnel syndrome writing them all out 😉

        Good points CV. I really do wonder how much positive impact Marco has on the bulls and mini bulls. Yep, he found Seb but even a stopped clock is right twice a day….

        • “2. Ferrari will always be in F1, no guarantee this will be the case with the bulls”

          Dieter Rencken has written derisively of Red Bull (and FOM) that they will not stick w/ team sponsorship b/c they’ve already basically maxed out the marketing value, and will instead sign on to title sponsorship of the F1 series for better value and enhanced/evolved opportunities. Don’t have the url handy but it’s searchable.

        • I think that will be the prime motivation for him moving to Ferrari – emulate and then beat his hero’s record at Ferrari. The mix of history and money will probably be too much for Vettel to resist. He likes to gamble, Multi 21 being an example. Gambling that he’d win and the team wouldn’t punish him for ignoring team orders. I think that’s the crack that will ultimately lead to the end of Vettel’s time at Red Bull.

      • I’m only speculating about Ferrari but Seb has said himself that it’s every kids dream to drive a red F1 car. Its the romance of Ferrari I think is what draws drivers to them.
        I personally already think the lad is right up there with F1 greats so I don’t buy the into the idea that moving teams and winning else where is what is needed to seal the deal. Just the fact he is 1 of 3 human beings in the history of the plant to win 4 titles on the bounce says it all for me.
        I don’t see RedBull in F1 forever, if they start loosing it’s not going to do the brand much good with its association with pushing the limits of anything to the Nth degree. Second after all is the 1st of the loosers and that does not fit with the RB philosophy.

        Who knows Seb may get go to Merc as its a German team but it’s all speculation at the moment, Newey I doubt will be around to see the end of Seb’s career as new challenges call. The smart drivers get themselves in the best cars, look at Senna, Prost et al. Good drivers at their peak rarely end up in rubbish cars/teams.

        Its gonna be interesting to see how the whole Seb/Redbull/Marko relationship pans out. I just hope Ricciardo doesn’t end up a sacrificial lamb.

    • Oh yes Herr Doktor Marko is a snake, but the question is, was the snake right?
      I think he was, at least seen through his eye(s), Herr Marko likes his drivers ruthless, and being responsible for bringing Gerhard Berger, Juan Pablo Montoya, Karl Wendlinger and Sebastian Vettel into the sport, we can safely assume he has an eye for spotting (ruthless) talent.

      Now, is the good Doktor really such a good talent spotter, as he was an endurance racer, back in the days, or is there more to this story?
      Well, since he works for those cheating bast*rds called Red Bull Racing, i wouldn’t be surprised if Adrian Newey has designed him a bionic eye, highly illegal of course, that other eye makers will take years to catch up to, enabling him to better spot talent.

      Btw. here’s the good Doktor at work during the ’72 Targa Florio, in an Alfa Romeo, completing a lap in 33 mins.and 41 sec. a record which stands to this day.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pF_oF-ZMhD0

      • I accept the good Dr Marko held his own as an endurance driver and I belive Le Mans winner but that doesn’t automatically give the right to be a total asshole to other young guys in the same profession, that he obviously loved, perhaps he is bitter about loosing an eye and not being able to race any more. I don’t know, but I would be fearful of signing to Toro Rosso if I had the offer (obviously I won’t, I’m 37 and 15st in weight)

        It’s eveident for Seb’s acceptance speach at the Autosport awards, he is at a point now where he doesn’t give a shit what Marko says anymore, but he obviously doesn’t mince his words even to a 4times WDC.

      • “, was the snake right?
        I think he was, at least seen through his eye(s)”

        haha of course he’s right in his own perspective! lol 😉

    • … Which is why I was certain they would bin JEV this year… It was discussed in the RB empire, though Tost was concerned about another double driver change and the possible disruption….

  2. W/r/t Marko and Toro Rosso, this team reminds me of an East German sports club for young athletes (you pick the sport) – they subject them to a relentless, no mercy regime and the cream rises to the top (if it rises) and the rest are discarded. Obviously the analogy isn’t great since Red Bull Junior program can’t start w/ 50 drivers and cut down from there but where the comparison holds weight is in the attitude: perform and/or conform to management expectations, or you’re gone – w/o coddling, love or sentiment.

    I have no idea about Marko but for what I see on TV and of course I think he’s a jerk but that’s how he’s portrayed for us viewers.

    The real question is this: if Alguersuari had turned down the full F1 drive, would he have been given another shot later? It takes huge, huge confidence or deep pockets to say you’re not ready and wait to debut…

    At least he can say he was there and now he has more time for his music.

    Reminds me of the RAF fighter pilot Geoffrey Quill who wrote in his memoir about being so disillusioned after he cracked and was taken off Ops b/c he realized that his life had peaked at such a young age, like 21 or something, and he’d never find purpose or excitement like that again.

    It takes very, very strong character to survive elite sport at any age but especially if you’re so young and not perceived as a superstar but still “good enough” (or even if you are a superstar). Does J.A. have strong character? Idk. But Marko certainly doesn’t seem like he’s got good character!

    • Nice comments Joe…
      Marko… the new Briatore…?
      The bollocking video again needs to be dissected. In my view that conversation should not have occurred in public… Unless… Marko wanted it to be publicised…!
      It is clearly professionally shot – it wasn’t done by some underling with an iPhone. Therefore Marko must have known he was being filmed. Also the lens appears to be quite wide-angle so the cameraman was not too far away from them. This was not a private chat at the back of the garage observed by a surreptitious cameraman on the outside of the garage…
      So Marko is either blind, stupid or performed deliberately for the camera.
      And Jaime should have known at that point that he would be ousted…

    • hey guys i just realized I did not enter the name of the RAF officer correctly!! Of course it’s not Geoffrey Quill but rather, 92 year old Geoffrey Wellum who flew Spits during the BoB and wrote in his memoir about being washed up and wrung out at super-early age as a result…

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Wellum

      If you are up for seeing a great creative non-fiction docu watch “First Light”:

      ||| “This is the story of one of the R.A.F’s youngest Spitfire pilots who fought and survived the Battle of Britain with one of the most famous fighting Squadrons in the world – the legendary 92 Squadron.

      Geoffrey Wellum survived because he became the best at what he did – flying a Spitfire and stopping the enemy – but the price was high… ‘Boy’ Wellum lost his youth in the most violent and immediate way possible, living a lifetime by the age of 19.” |||

      Jeff Quill OBE AFC FRAeS was of course the chief Supermarine test pilot who was intimately involved in devo of the Spitfire!!

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Quill

      Sorry guys! I’ll do better next time, and I hope Marko is someone we hear less of in 2014…

  3. This is a really good article, and it does emphasise the cut-throat nature of the Red Bull/Toro Rosso setup. It has got to the stage where I just feel sorry for whoever gets to drive for the latter team, because they only really get the chance to continue their career if someone disappears from the main Red Bull Racing team.

    That said, the situation for Alguersuari and Buemi was very brutal, and it was particularly bad because we knew that the team were bad for dropping drivers – Scott Speed, Sebastien Bourdais – but with the assurances that they got, those two really took that to a new level. Alguersuari turned down other offers which I genuinely believe existed (even a midfield drive with Sauber or Force India is still another chance to prove yourself in F1), and spoke at the CEPSA factory two days before the phonecall about how he was looking forward to the next season; you can’t blame him for turning down the test driver job he was offered after that!

    I think the video you put in the article summed it up though. Jaime getting a severe telling off for impeding Vettel, and if I remember correctly, wasn’t that just in a free practice session? You can tell why Daniel Ricciardo smiles so much, he knows that he has the honour of actually making it out of there alive…

    • Completely agree with what you have written Alistair. Turning down a test role is/was immature of him. He cut his nose off to spite his face there.

      • Adam, I think that Alistair was saying that he understood Jaime’s motivation in turning down the test driver role and couldn’t blame him, not that it was incomprehensible. At least that’s what I think he’s saying!

      • Joe did get it spot on (above); I can’t say I agree with you, although I can see your point. I think I would agree with you if he never gets another seat in F1, but as TJ does state on many occasions, having the test driver role is like giving up on a race seat, at least in the immediate future. He thought he could find a better opportunity elsewhere, and I’ll admit that that didn’t end up going very well for him, but Red Bull really don’t need their test/reserve driver for anything other than long nights in simulators on race weekends, and the occasional publicity stunt that they can’t rope Webber or Vettel into.

        If he was supposed to have a future at Red Bull, they wouldn’t have kicked him out of the Toro Rosso team. The role they offered instead was more like the consolation prize, simply because they knew that you wouldn’t find a seat anywhere at such short notice. Therefore, staying would have been a mistake (although I wish Buemi all the best!).

  4. In response to a few comments above, Marko is a complete waste of RB time and money. Reasons:
    1. His job isn’t hard. How many truely top level driving championships are their to pick single seater drivers from. Not that many. The standard formula is to listen to a few key people in a few key championships and sign potential up early. Just like scouting in football. Except there are only 11 F1 teams and not hundreds of elite soccer teams
    2. He undermines the management of both Horner and Tost. They look toothless because of him. This can cause unrest in the team, not just for drivers.
    3. He had wasted talent which had potential. Algo had definite potential, he just needed guidance. Managing all drivers is not just about kicks, they need hugs occasionally too.
    4. His driver strategy is wrong. Where are the Asian, African, north American drivers. Is Scott Speed the only American driver worth trying, for example.
    5. What is his hit rate verses investment. Pretty poor if you ask me. Measure this against other teams.
    6. How successful has he been. One truly exceptional driver. One!
    7. How many other teams have an entire second team behind them to try out drivers.
    8. Two drivers have been promoted from the baby bulls to the big bulls. The second one this year. So has his driver search been a success?

    In a nutshell, the amount of power he wields is far in excess of what he should have based on his contribution to both teams.

    The big bulls would be a worse team without Newey, and to a lesser degree Horner. Same with the little bulls without Tost.

    Neither would miss Marko; in fact you could make a very strong argument that it would improve them both.

    • Well tbh Horner, Tost and Marko all dance to the tune of Dietrich Mateschitz. The real success of Red Bull is that Horner gets on with the business end of things (FIA etc) while Newey has been given the freedom to build up the technical side of the team and to get on with designing the cars as he sees fit. Marko has had very little to do with that side of the team (from what I’ve seen), he just tries to find a driver good enough to score points and not upset Vettel (must have really burned him up when Mateschitz offered Webber a new deal). I think Horner gets criticized too easily, given he probably spends a lot of time clearing up after Marko. If it’s true that Marko blocked Alonso joining Red Bull then that says it all.

      • Agree.

        Horner can be a little, well, verbose at times. And he seriously frustrated me with his attitude around Merctestgate (mainly the double standards).

        But a difficult job is made much harder when he is so often undermined by Happy Gilmore….

  5. Could another Frenchman be throwing the towel in today ? Team Principal at Lotus perhaps ? Lots of twitter activity suggesting just that.

      • Apologies for the delay, Boullier it seems, although only 1 journo of note from the UK has commented, and suggested a move to Force India, but there are also rumours of Mr Ruhan throwing his weight about and wanting his money back, so who knows ?.

  6. Stoffel vandoorne refused a seat too at torro rosso. I wonder if he’s regretting his decision seeing that Magnussen is now one step ahead. Cuz say what you want about torro rosso. Experience is experience. And since the testing ain’t what it used to be, you kinda got to do it like this kow and hope for the best. Cuz if you do show a massive potential teams like torro rosso or, in the old days, minardi where and still are a gateway to the real deal.

  7. And now for something completely different. I see that bottas has applied for no. 77. So that his marketing can be Bo77as.

  8. Torro Rosso have a history of treating their drivers like sh*t. Take Scott Speed who was apparently grabbed by the throat by Mr Tost himself.

    They are afterall a factory, churning out drivers for the sister team. Of course there has to be a high turn over because they are looking for the next Vettel. To STR, drivers are like “a dime a dozen”

    Marko with his bionic eye gives him “Terminator” like Heads Up Display as he scans drivers for WDC potential. When they show they do not have the talent, he destroys them and their careers with Terminator like efficiency.

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