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McLaren shine, Alguersuari off the mark
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Jul 2009   |  4:54 pm GMT  |  8 comments

There was a 2008 retro feel about the leaderboard today after first practice in Budapest as McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton topped the time sheets.

It was extremely close, with a second separating the top 19 cars over an 82 second lap.

Afterwards it was generally agreed that Red Bull and Brawn remain the teams to beat, albeit that they expect trouble at the start from the KERS cars of McLaren and Ferrari, which are likely to qualify right behind them and pass them at the start.

Interestingly it seems that Webber is again the stronger of the two Red Bull drivers. My paddock intelligence is that the gap of almost 2/10ths between them is not down to them doing different programmes, but rather to the fact that Webber is just faster.  It will be interesting to see if its stays that way.

“The session went well with the exception of stopping with a hydraulic problem,” said Webber. “I’m pretty happy with the car, we are in the ballpark.”

ALGU 1

All eyes were on 19 year old debutant Jaime Alguersuari, who did a pretty solid job in the Toro Rosso. He played himself in slowly on the slippery track in his opening laps. But he didn’t make any mistakes, covered more than a race distance, almost 90 laps in total and in the first session was within two tenths of a second of team mate Sebastien Buemi. He slipped a bit in the second session to end up 8/10ths adrift in last place.

I caught up with him after the session and he was sweating profusely, but looked otherwise pretty composed.  He felt he had done a good job,

“I didn’t have any problem with the other drivers, I’m happy with my day and happy to be here,” he said. “The main thing was to do all the laps today. I feel proud, I’m quite happy and I’m looking forward to the race. I’m missing quite a lot of speed on the higher speed corners. I don’t care what other people say. I’m here because Red Bull asked me to be here, as with F3 or World Series or GP2, I don’t care. It’s my job.”

Having asked the readers here on the site for predictions of how many tenths off his team mate the rookie would qualify on Saturday, I asked him the same question, but he said that he had no particular target in mind. He’s more focussed on getting into the race and covering the distance. His learning curve is immense.

Alguersuari also spoke about his friendship with the Henry Surtees, who died last Sunday in an F2 race at Brands Hatch. They met last year when Alguersuari was racing in the UK and even spent at day together at Alton Towers. “He was a good friend and a very talented driver,” said the Spaniard. “I could never expect something like this to anybody so it also affects me.”

Many of the other drivers who criticised Toro Rosso’s hiring of the 19 year old admitted today that he had done a good job. Felipe Massa still feels the FIA should have a rookie test facility available outside the test ban,

“I feel that it’s not fair to bring a guy to the first race and the FIA should have a different solution, it would have been better for him to have a test last week. It’s a bit of a risk. But he did a very good job,” said Massa.

“He did a pretty good job today,” agreed Webber, “We will see, but it’s not my problem if he has a good or bad time.”

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8 Comments
  1. jeremy says:

    James,
    his teammate is Buemi, not vettel. :)

    Stay cool mate! push Ted on the tweeting thing too!

  2. Teg says:

    While Alguersuari did well considering the ban on F1 testing, why couldn’t they have let him get his feet wet with an out-of-season 2008 car on some quiet track somewhere?

    Other F1 drivers are seemingly allowed to drive last year’s cars and surely the step up from the 2008 F1 car to the 2009 model is far smaller than the jump from F3 to F1.

  3. Matthew says:

    Don’t mean to nit-pick, but I think Alguersuari’s team mate is the other Sebastion.

    Were Williams running light or was this genuine pace from them?

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks, fixed that. Williams do run light fuel tests but I think they are in fairly good shape here.

  4. Boston F1 Fan says:

    - I agree with what the drivers are saying. When Webber stated “When you arrive in F1 you should be ready. It’s not a place to learn” I know he was thinking of Japan 2007 when Vettel knocked him off the road.

    - I have never driven an F1 car. However, I believe that there is a difference between driving an F1 car and racing one. Testing only prepares you for driving the F1 car, the mechanics, balance, steering wheel, etc. Only being in a race-situation allows you to learn what it’s like to drive under race pressure. Algersaurus Rex is being forced to do both this weekend during Qualifying and the Race. If he hurts someone else’s race, Webber’s concern about his experience and Vettel’s criticism of the rules banning in-season testing are both corroborated.

    1. LynnD says:

      To be fair, he has a great deal of experience racing… he’s probably been racing every Sunday since he was in primary school.

      I think people sometimes forget the level of preparation that goes in at the junior levels of motorsport – it’s not like the lad just learned to drive this year in his Mum’s old Fieta in the supermarket car park!

  5. Joel Heaton says:

    Good on Jaime for doing what I thought was a great job. With very little experience (and none at all in the F1 cars), coming that close to your team-mate in your first ever F1 practice session is impressive. I can see him getting better as the rest of the season goes on and once again I wish him all the best for the rest of the weekend. Hopefully he’ll at least qualify off the last row – that would probably be a good confidence boost :)

    Interesting that the Toro Rossos, despite massive upgrades, where nowhere impressive today. Is that a side-effect of just having rookie drivers, or is there more to it than that? Are the team really up to the job?

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