We await confirmation that Jaime Alguersuari will replace Sebastien Bourdais at Toro Rosso from next race onwards.
The 19 year old will become the youngest ever F1 driver, joining the ranks of Sebastian Vettel and Mike Thackwell in that list of teenagers who hit the big time.
Apart from having a name which commentators will curse as it hardly trips off the tongue, Alguersuari will be up against it a bit at Budapest, which is quite a technical track on which to make a debut. He has only had one outing in an F1 car so far, at the Portimao track in the Algarve over the winter.
Alguersuari, who is from Barcelona, does not arrive with sky high confidence as he’s had a tough season in World Series by Renault series and is not in contention for the championship. He won the British F3 Championship last season at the age of 18 and at his first attempt. He clinched it at the final round. Like most drivers he started racing karts at the minimum age permitted, which is 8.
Alguesuari is another product of the Red Bull young driver programme on which the company has spent a lot of money in recent years. So far the only outstanding product has been Sebastian Vettel, with Sebastien Buemi also in F1 thanks to the programme. Helmut Marko, the man entrusted with the programme, is very keen for it to be seen to bear fruit. With no in season testing allowed, the only option for Marko is to put Alguersuari in the car now and let him have eight races to learn F1 before attacking a full programme next year.
Alguersuari has worked hard for his opportunity and seems to have gone the extra mile to prepare himself. He spent a year at a boarding school in Ipswich, England so he could perfect his English because he knows it’s so important for getting on in motor sport today.
In an interview in the current Red Bulletin magazine he says that he wants to emulate Vettel,
“He did F3 for two years and he raced in this series, so his progression looks like mine. His route to the top is a target to aim for and makes me think I can do it too.”
The interview was done a few weeks ago, clearly before this opportunity arose as he talks about the ‘problem’ of winning F3 at his first attempt and thus being forced to go the World Series to fill in time and gain experience before moving to F1 “I think this is my consolidation year before F1,” he says. Clearly in recent weeks, Marko, in consultation with Franz Tost the team principal at Toro Rosso and the highly experienced engineer Giorgio Ascanelli, has decided that Bourdais is going nowhere fast and that it’s time to chuck Alguersuari in at the deep end.
As for Bourdais, he was never the most likeable and engaging of F1 drivers, always finding something to complain about even on a good day. Three years ago when he was the Michael Schumacher of ChampCars in America he would never have imagined that he would be described as a ‘struggling Frenchman’ and getting sacked mid-season.