Helmut Marko, whose influence on the moves made by the Red Bull company in F1 is significant, has explained why the company decided to drop Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi from the Toro Rosso team.
“Toro Rosso was created to give young drivers a chance,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport yesterday. “Alguersuari and Buemi had that chance for three years and after that period it’s possible to evaluate a drivers’ 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.”
Although a tough decision, you can see what he’s getting at.
Both drivers showed some signs of doing well, Alguersuari in particular seemed to be getting stronger in the second half of the season and put in some very strong drives, using the clever strategies devised by Giorgio Ascanelli, but the company has unlimited tools for measuring performance and progress and they could see that both didn’t have what it takes to become winners in the highly competitive environment of F1.
Much has been made by fans of the incident in Korea between Alguersuari and Marko as a reason for his demise, but it is surely an overall impression that he’s not a winner.
Buemi was always inconsistent, while Alguersuari was thrown into the fray very young, at the age of 19 and arguably didn’t have the experience or the knowledge to capitalise. Jenson Button knows about that having had a similar experience with Williams and Benetton/Renault when he started at just 20 years of age.
Looking back on the December move to drop both in favour of Jean Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo, although it seemed something of a shock at the time, Marko has a job to do and he took the view that his priority was the two promising young drivers ready to make the next move; Vergne and Ricciardo. Both of whom, incidentally, have more experience than Alguersuari had when he made the move to F1.
Whether they have the consistency, the intelligence and, above all, the speed to make it as Grand Prix winners, the next two years will tell us, as that is how long they need to be given to prove themselves.
Perhaps Red Bull and Marko have realised that throwing a driver in too young is a mistake, one for which Alguersuari is now paying the price.
But the point to remember about the Red Bull way of grooming drivers is that what they give them – by funding top drives on the ladder to F1 and then a couple of seasons with Toro Rosso, is an opportunity and it is up to the drivers to grab that opportunity and prove themselves.
None of them gets being paid very much, but arguably it is costing Red Bull around €4 million per driver to get them to F1 and then the Toro Rosso budget will be another €70-80m a year, the purpose being largely to develop them as drivers.
Without the Red Bull investment most of them wouldn’t get that chance. So it’s tough, but you can see the thinking there.