Toro Rosso, the Red Bull junior team which exists to develop young drivers for the energy drinks brand, has unveiled its driver line up for 2012 and it’s all change with Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne replacing Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari.
The programme is overseen by Dr Helmut Marko and he has made a tough decision here, clearing out Buemi and Alguersuari and bringing in new blood.
The decision is something of a shock, given that Alguersuari, who is still only 21, had appeared to be getting a lot stronger in the second half of the season and outpointed Buemi. The Toro Rosso announcement did not make it clear what the next step might be for the two outcasts, whether one of them might be given an opportunity as 3rd driver at Red Bull for example, but the subtext of the announcement is that the Red Bull group doesn’t believe that either of them are the right men to progress up the ladder to race long term alongside Sebastian Vettel.
It’s a fantastic opportunity meanwhile for the two youngsters, both of whom look fast. Vergne becomes the third French driver on the grid next year. He has had very little time in an F1 car, while Ricciardo was farmed out to HRT and got on top of Tonio Liuzzi. Having a rookie and a virtual rookie in the car will make life tricky for the engineers, but veteran Giorgio Ascanelli has shown that he can make it work with whatever he is given.
Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost said, “Over the past year, both Daniel and Jean-Eric have proved their worth and I expect them to make a significant contribution to the team’s performance next year. Daniel has the benefit of having actually raced in Grands Prix for much of this year, while Jean-Eric proved he could adapt quickly to the demands of driving a Formula 1 car. As they have both worked with the team and its engineers very recently, this should allow us to get up to speed right from the start of winter testing in a couple of months time.
“I must also thank Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari for all their hard work over the past three seasons. They have delivered some excellent performances which have helped the team move forward and develop. We wish them well for the future.
“However, one has to remember that when Scuderia Toro Rosso was established in 2005, it was done so with the intention of providing a first step into Formula 1 for the youngsters in the Red Bull Junior Driver programme. It is therefore part of the team’s culture to change its driver line-up from time to time in order to achieve this goal.”
Alguersuari was as shocked as most observers to learn of his sacking but refused to stick the boot in to his former employers,
“I am very surprised by the decision,” he told Spain’s Marca. “Just a week ago I talked with Helmut Marko and Franz Tost and they told me they had plans for me in 2012.
“They did it with enthusiasm and showed a lot of confidence in me, they also asked me to be in Madrid on Monday for a day with CEPSA, where I talked about our F1 project in 2012.
“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.”