Toro Rosso refugee Jaime Alguersuari has been hired as test driver by Pirelli, giving him a platform from which to try to return to an F1 cockpit in 2013.
The 22 year old was dropped by Toro Rosso in mid December 2011, giving him no time to find a seat for the 2012 season. He has been working this season for BBC Radio 5 Live as my co-commentator and driver/summariser.
Pirelli has also retained the services of Lucas di Grassi to provide a reference point from the tests conducted so far.
According to Pirelli, “Both drivers will drive Pirelli’s latest test car – a 2010 Renault R30 – in four development tests this year at Jerez, Spa, Monza and Barcelona, following an initial GP2 test in Jerez that concluded yesterday. The tests will be aimed at defining the 2013 range of Pirelli tyres, which will have new compounds and structures, as well as trying out compound developments that could be seen later on this season.”
Pirelli previously used an old Toyota F1 car, but needed to upgrade to the 2010 Renault because they needed a car similar in downforce levels and with a full size fuel tank to simulate 2012 and 2013 conditions.
Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery believes that the opportunity to stay current and get some F1 mileage will give the drivers, particularly Alguersuari, a chance to show that they deserve to be in F1.
“With opportunities for young drivers to drive a Formula One car so limited, this is a great chance for Lucas and Jaime to not only hone their testing and development skills, but also to potentially follow our former test drivers like Romain Grosjean, Pedro de la Rosa and Nick Heidfeld in returning to F1 or another top flight motorsport programme in future.”
He added, “We’re going to be using the drivers for all of our single-seater testing activities, including GP2 and simulator development as well. Their input and expertise are sure to help us make even greater progress during the season, resulting in competition tyres that enhance the action further and new technologies that will eventually filter down to our Ultra High Performance road car products.”
I’ve very much enjoyed working with and getting to know Alguersuari this year. He’s a bright young man who is able to see very quickly the nuances behind what is happening on track and is very decisive in his calls. As the only driver/summariser in the media who has raced with DRS and Pirelli tyres his currency is a great strength and his new role as test driver for Pirelli will further greatly enhance Radio 5 Live’s F1 coverage this year.
He was unlucky with the way the Toro Rosso situation was handled last winter and the general consensus is that he deserves to be on the F1 grid. Pay drivers have taken quite a few seats up this year, but he will be hoping that strong showings in the Pirelli test car, intimate knowledge of the 2013 tyres and some positive references from the engineers, might get him back on a team’s radar for 2013.