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Reaction to Toro Rosso driver clearout
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Dec 2011   |  8:33 pm GMT  |  201 comments

It’s not often that a piece of news in F1 genuinely causes shock, but the sacking of Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari seems to have done so, especially to the drivers themselves.

After a simple statement yesterday thanking them for their efforts and wishing them well in future, team boss Franz Tost has acknowledged that the decision looks “harsh” and found it necessary to go further today and explain in more detail why the team let the two drivers go,

“Sébastien has been with us for three seasons and Jaime for two and a half. Both of them worked hard for the team, doing their very best and achieving some good results,” he said. “However, Scuderia Toro Rosso’s ethos has always been that of the ‘rookie training school’ and, with over two seasons under your belt, you are no longer a rookie,” he said.

“In an ideal world, drivers would move from Scuderia Toro Rosso to Red Bull Racing, but there are no vacancies with our sister team right now. It might be seen as a harsh decision, but Formula 1 is a tough environment and Toro Rosso has always been very clear about the principles behind its driver choice.”

Alguersuari said that he was surprised because he thought he’d had a conversation with Tost and with Dr Helmut Marko, who wields power over the young drivers in the Red Bull stable and they had said he was in their plans. But a decision was taken on Tuesday to sweep out the driver and to give Dan Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne their heads,

“Today’s news seems to be a major misunderstanding in the best moment of my sporting life,” said 21 year old Alguersuari.

“I will not judge the decision because since 15 years old Red Bull gave me everything. Second, I am not a victim because for seven years I have enjoyed the privilege because of them. And third, there is no drama, because I have many plans for the present and the future.

“The surprise lasted for a couple of hours but I have talked to my family and realised that life is full of opportunities and challenges.”

Alguersuari Sr is a powerful figure in Spanish motorsport and will be working hard behind the scenes to secure his son a seat, possibly at the Spanish owned HRT team. It would seem a very logical move unless HRT has a pay driver in mind or another driver with key strategic reasons behind his hiring.

Buemi meanwhile said he was in the simulator at Red Bull when he took the fateful call telling him he no longer had a race seat,

“I fell from the sky!” he said of his shock at the news. “A few days earlier, I had been discussing things for the next season. I was in the simulator yesterday morning at Red Bull Racing in Milton Keynes, where Franz and Helmut called me…

“Obviously I’m disappointed, but it is their decision and I respect it. I have not forgotten that without them I would never have come this far, they helped me tremendously for a long time, almost since my debut in Formula BMW, then F3, GP2 and F1.”

What can we learn from this episode? Well clearly Marko and Tost are comfortable with making ruthless decisions. F1 is a very tough place to work, whatever job you do and you have to be strong to survive. There is something pretty brutal about playing with young people’s lives, but on the flipside of that the company has created the opportunities in the first place, as the drivers are quick to acknowledge. It is therefore, quite literally, “Sink or Swim.”

There is a reason behind what appears a sudden change of heart, but it takes on a different complexion if the management had led the drivers to believe that they had a chance for 2012, then cut them loose.

To some in F1 the decision was obvious – Alguersuari and Buemi had had their chance and failed to impress.

However to one or two engineers from midfield rival teams I’ve spoken to there is surprise that STR didn’t keep one of the drivers and there is a feeling they’ve made a backwards step. It takes time for rookies to find their feet in F1 especially in midfield teams with limited resources and this could help their rivals.

That said, both Ricciardo and Vergne showed in the Young Guns tests of 2010 and 2011 in the Red Bull car that they are very fast.

Vergne has been pushed very hard by Red Bull recently. There is likely to be a commercial dimension to this as far as France is concerned as the brand is playing catch up having been banned their for 12 years before the Austrian company successfully overturned the ban in the European Court in 2008.

But Alguersuari stands as a cautionary tale, for Vergne in particular, that you can bring a young driver into F1 too quickly and burn him out before he really gets going. Both Vergne and Ricciardo will look at what’s happened to this year’s drivers and be aware it could happen to them.F1 is a tough environment, as Tost says, but young drivers need to be managed to help them make the grade when they get their chance.

Romain Grosjean was on the scrap heap after coming in half-cocked with Renault in 2009, but has regrouped and returned with Lotus Renault.

Now Alguersuari and Buemi need a lifeline too.

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What do you say about recent claims that Marko had something to do with Jaime’s firing due to the video that has appeared with him telling off Jaime at Korea for blocking Vettel??


Firstly, poor decision timing by the heads of STR. Obviously not without precedent in F1, but poor form regardless. Do we know if RB/STR have contractural obligations to either sacked driver (remuneration) or if either have course for recompense? Secondly, this must put STR in a new perpetual spotlight during ’12. Surely R & V’s performance gets a secondary media look after the primary media attention fades from the winner/most dramatic incident of each race (at least for the first few races) to a higher degree than is warranted for a midfield team, and this will surely put pressure on the new drivers. That might be the kick along they need to really try to beat eachother, but can’t help feel this is more about media focus than driver development. No such thing as ‘bad publicity’, perhaps?…


Also makes the whole concept of STR rather questionable. Isn’t GP2 and all the other junior formulae supposed to be F1 feeder series? Do we now need feeder teams within F1? And what about the whole F1 brand that its all about performance?

My guess is that if there was no use to be found for the constant stream of drivers coming our of the RBR acedemy, the academy’s role itself would inevitably be brought into question. And Dr Marko would end up losing some funding (and cudos)…

I did not think it possible, but my view of STR has been diminished further still!


Two full years in a decent F1 car is enough to show if you have the “special talent” or not. Many fine young drivers who have passed successfully through F3, World Series, GP2 never get this opportunity.

Now is the time for others to have their chance.

A tough but fair decision.


@ James

Is Vettel involved in the decision of STR drivers?

I guess they definitely approach Vettel before making any decisions about his No.2 at RedBull.


No, I’m sure he isn’t



Is Vettel involved in decisions about his no.2 at Redbull or do they casually discuss with him?

Thanks for answering my previous que.


No I don’t believe so. It’s not up to him. It’s up to Mateschitz ultimately, but Horner and Marko will have a big say in it. Currently Webber is there and that has a lot to do with his relationship with Mateschitz, the boss of Red Bull. I’m sure that Marko would like to have someone else in there. I don’t think Vettel minds. He would if it was Alonso or Hamilton coming in, probably. But I don’t see RBR going that route


Well in all a pretty entertaining thread this one. I’ve learnt ingredients that make up energy drinks, definitions of doctors, etc etc.

In all F1 needs constant change. Maybe we are starting to see the new F1 philosophy in that no seat is safe no matter who you are and I don’t think this is a bad thing for the sport as we all know at times it can become very stagnant.

Like any job if your lazy or content but you know you can get away with it you do and performance diminishes. I sure F1 is no different.

Great to see the 2 new guys at STR. Dan for Marks job at end of 2012 and in 2013 their might be an American on the grid again at STR.

Who knows but this is what’s great now with F1, the uncertainty of it all, no ones going to deny their is still plenty of interest in F1 over the break and that’s good for the sport.

Still scratching my head about HRT decision to hire Pedro.


Maybe there could be a “Junior F1” Championship in which drivers who do not have much experience of F1 could showcase their skills. The cars used in this Championship could be real F1 car, maybe even new cars, and maybe one car per team to keep the costs in control and prevent one driver in a team politically hindered by the team (yes, I believe this does happen in F1 and in fact it happens quite often). These races could be 20 lap “sprint” races, maybe with one mandatory pit-stop to change tyres so the drivers would learn that side as well. The teams would bring 3 cars into each weekend – 2 for the “big boys” and 1 for “the kid”. This is not an impossible amount of cars as we know the teams used to do this back in the old days having a spare car with them.


Hassan, I think it can be done. Either a Junior F1 Championship, or a Division 2 F1 Championship.


What can you expect from a drinks company? These two red bull teams are a marketing excercise. Their racing history sheet is almost zero, although better than some other who have tried hard in the past (eg. Jordan). The guys at Force India and Sauber must be really pleased they have nothing to fear against two rookies next season, even if the car is barely superior. Well done Mr. Marko, you’ve just openend the door to Force India, Williams and Sauber to slip in.


Hi James it seems an interesting debate for the winter. Can’t help but feel that Jamie should have stayed at least as a baseline and if Ricciardo beats him then bye bye Jamie. Question James who should Ricciardo and Vergne be looking over their shoulders for? Who is next inline in the Redbull stepladder?


I feel that Alguersuari should still be at Toro Rosso next season me personally have never rated Buemi that was the right choice to get rid of him. James a question for you how long will these new drivers get? I mean what would happen if both drivers are struggling mid season next year they have virtually two rookies it’s a strange one for me.

Also Pedro De La Rosa at HRT i know there going to be a spainish national team but your having a laugh !!!!!


Got to get at least two seasons, haven’t they? If one of them is really beating the other they would be the one to step up to the A Team.

Not sure either of them is a Vettel, but then Vettel didn’t look like he does now at the outset of his Toro Rosso spell.


Well you have a point there James the previous incumbents did have at least two seasons to show there worth.

There’s always been rumours that the team could be up for sale what would be the situation then regarding the drivers for the future etc etc?


@Angelina – James probably meant that back then he was the promising, talented youngster. Now he’s honed his skills and is a double world champion.


@ James

Vettel would have been WDC 2009 if not for the Brawn’s double diffuser.

Further, Vettel was voted as Best Driver of the Year by team principals in 2009(his 2nd full season).

Vettel had won a race in STR & was about to b on podium in Suzuka in 2007.

How can you say “Vettel didn’t look like he does now at the outset of his Toro Rosso spell”


Since when has F1 team management ever been focused on being fair?

When I saw the initial toro Rosso line up for next year I thought “boring mostly mind field team again – yawn” but now I will be watching them with keen interest. As will a lot of people.

It’s a bold and interesting decision.


Its a bit of an insult to FOTA, as well.

RB is saying in effect “we’re too good to be in your silly club, but we’ll leave our “B” Team in so they can get some training and mess with your plans.”


I have been a fan of RBR/STR all season, and of Vettel in particular, but following this debacle I can clearly see that the management at Red Bull are unscrupulous, money-grubbing, and disingenuous. Based on that observation, I hope some other team (ANY other team) cleans RBR’s clock in 2012. I am now fully in ABRB (Anybody But Red Bull) mode for 2012.



Its better to be a fan of Vettel & Redbull than to be disappointed to see them winning.


regardless of what Tost says I do not understand the team’s decision. First up, I think that the team should have kept one of the drivers as benchmark for the new one and as a safe bet. Secondly I do think it’s bad manners to let your drivers believe that a contract for the following year is just a formality, a team should let their drivers know that the situation is looking grim so they can prepare and look for alternatives.


Hi James,

Do you think Red Bull have internally compared the two STR drivers against Vettel/Webber in the identical car to really find out what they are made of?

My other question is about language barrier. Do you think non native English speakers appears to have slight disadvantage (in communication with engineers)? Roseberg is as fluent as English. What do you think of Vettel’s English?


Vettel’s feedback is the BEST in the paddock.

He is fluent in English. Infact, Vettel speaks in Brummi accent coz Newey uses it.

Do u find him lacking anything from his interviews?

In fact he speaks faster than LH & Button and definitely any other non-English speaking driver.


Yrs, that’s what the young guns test was about for them


I wonder if it is time for Bernie to have a word in some ears. It is not a waste of a grid slot to have STR acting purely as a team to run rookies? If they need to train their drivers up then run a GP2 team and pay for places in existing F1 teams. How can the engineers develop a good car if they aren’t given one reliable, known driver as a yard stick to work with.

I’m sure the new drivers are good and the team will be trying as they need the finishing position for prize money but they aren’t being run as an F1 team should be, for results alone…


Never been a fan of Torro Rosso. This only confirms they really are a team you would not want to drive for. They have done right by 1 driver, Vettel, in the near decade they’ve been racing. Hard to believe this was the team, Minardi, we all loved to root for.


In all fairness this is not Toro Rosso’s fault it’s the owner’s fault Red Bull, the only hope is that they sell the team in the future that way any good driver they have won’t have be given away to Red Bull and they can have the younger ones for more than 2 seasons.


I noticed comments that people are concerned that Toro Rosso will not improve next year due to only having two new rookie drivers. As was very publically indicated Toro Rosso is a “ rookie training school” with that ethos it also goes to reason that the team itself is also not in F1 to win; that is the domain of RBR. With this setup you can also look beyond just the driver and team relationship but also to the engineering side of the equation. As Mr. Marko oversees both teams I would not be very surprised that technology is also shared between the teams thereby reducing costs and allowing further development of the prime teams car without overstepping the RRA agreements between the teams. With this type of relationship you can see why all the major team are having difficulties with how Red Bull operates and how potentially, very cleverly going around the RRA .

I can understand why teams like Ferrari are arguing for third cars to be allowed in F1. In effect Red Bull has both 3rd and 4th cars that are used as both test beds for the main team and training for up and coming drivers. Unless we see modifications of the rules to discourage what we are seeing at Red Bull expect to see more prime and secondary team relationships forming on the grid. Ferrari → Sauber, Mclaren → Force India, Lotus → HRT, etc…

I am ok with drivers being sacked, but don’t try to distract the fans from what is really going on!


aah yes, such a tough environment for buemi and alguersuari, travelling around the world racing f1 cars for a job – what an incredibly touch environment. i’m sure it was full of pressure……

give me a break. in the real world what these guys do is nothing compared to say… what a brain surgeon does.

It is no surprise that these 2 got fired – if they can’t handle it, bring in some new recruits and see what they’ve got.

What have redbull got to lose? In the worst case, the drivers don’t perform as expected, and they bring in a couple of new recruits.

At the best, they discover another schumacher or vettel.

Its not like the team need the money from championship points and so can afford to take risks. They have said themselves, its a rookie training ground. Clearly neither jaime or sebastian made enough of an impression to get Webbers seat.


F1 teams always they considering strategic questions about their drivers. Is an investment, a product. Hamilton was the big one for Ron Dennis and Vettel is Marko’s best bet for the next future. Various reasons:

– He is German. Big market.

– He obviously speaks same language as her Drrrkr

– He has not a manager. Big point.

– He is very inteligent in & out of the track

– RB has enough technical superiority to avoid hard pressing on his number 1 driver. He doesnt need to be an Iceman. Until now I guess. The 2011’s drivers axe respond to some reasosn:

– Alguersuari & Buemi has short market perspectives. Swiss is a small one, and there is Alonso & DLRS in Spain.

– Both has managers

– Alguersuari is very inteligent on track

– Both are possibly better than Webber right now

– RB has a huge program of drivers for this and next generation

– Seb’s Vettel is the current RB’s choice for A team

– B Team has their own spectacle of gladiators


“- Both are possibly better than Webber right now”

Not a chance.


Mode saving neuronal energy implemented for an answering: “yes”


The thing that confuses me about the whole thing, is why they kept Webber on at the RB senior team.

They made the decision to renew his contract mid season, when admittedly the TR boys weren’t doing very well, but if they’d waited until the end of the season, I wonder if they’d consider either of them eligible for the RBR seat.


Toro Rosso has made their stand and their culture explicit. They are the training grounds for their sister team Red Bull and nothing more. I think they are bringing in a new dimension for talent identification to Formula one for their sister team Red Bull. So, like Buemi and Jamie has been replaced dispassionately it is evident both Ricardo and Vergne will be replaced if they don’t have what it takes to get promoted to Red bull.

I must say, it would be hard to do a Vettel again.


Im going to give my angle on all this and you are all not going to like it.

Either way…..

Red Bull are the future of what F1 Teams need to strive for. Forget history, prestige and self perceived entitlements.

If Ferrari, and McLaren dont start to get rutheless with a view to the future you are looking at a Red Bull dominance for a long time to come.


Skydiving (falling from the sky) seems like a suitably Red Bull response from Buemi.

Is the delayed Force India announcement (originally for yesterday) a chance for Mallya to consider the new exiles?


Looks as if RB management waited on the decision so their drivers had nowhere to go, they could then keep options on them whilst trialling the others in the heat of an f1 season. They would then have all options available for 2013. If JA was available when Grojean was signed, he might be driving next to Kimi…HRT would have taken him before Pedro for sure.

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