As expected, Scuderia Toro Rosso has confirmed that Jaime Alguersuari will step up to partner Sebastien Buemi from this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, replacing the lacklustre Sebastien Bourdais in what becomes an all-rookie line-up.
The 19-year old Spaniard will become the youngest driver ever to take part in a grand prix weekend, usurping Toro Rosso predecessor Sebastian Vettel in achieving that honour, when he rolls out on track at the Hungaroring on Friday. Although part of the Red Bull set-up since his junior formula days, the son of World Series by Renault overseer Jaime Sr has had limited track time in an F1 car, and was only recently promoted to the role of official test and reserve driver for the drinks brand's two F1 teams.
Replacing former Carlin stable-mate Brendon Hartley, however, provided the first real indication that Alguersuari was being groomed to replace Bourdais, as the four-time Champ Car titleist struggled to get the most out of Toro Rosso's STR4 in his second season in the top flight. The Frenchman, who had given up on achieving his F1 dream before a management deal with Nicolas Todt led to his STR deal, has been out-qualified 7-2 by rookie Buemi in 2009, and trails the Swiss youngster 3-2 in terms of points scored.
Alguersuari steps up from the World Series by Renault to assume F1 duties, having proven to be an immediate frontrunner in the feeder series. Last season, the Spaniard became the youngest winner of the British F3 title, having battled erstwhile WSbR rivals Hartley and Oliver Turvey in a three-way battle among Carlin drivers.
“I would like to thank Red Bull for giving me this great opportunity to race in F1," the newcomer commented, "Ever since I started racing, this has been my dream and, thanks to the Red Bull Junior Programme, I will now realise my ambition of lining up on a grand prix grid.
"I am aware that I'm facing a very tough challenge, because coming into F1 is never easy, but coming into F1 in the middle of a season is even harder - and doing so without any testing is really difficult. But already I feel that I am getting great support from the team, who have quite a reputation for looking after rookie drivers.”
Alguersuari's confirmation, while expected, comes amid rumours that five-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb had offered himself as replacement for Bourdais, and may yet be used by Toro Rosso in the season finale in Abu Dhabi in November.
“Red Bull's stated aim for Scuderia Toro Rosso is that, when possible, it should be used to provide a seat for products of its Young Driver Programme," team principal Franz Tost pointed out, "We therefore chose Alguersuari as the most mature driver currently in the programme.
"I am well aware that, over the next few months, the team and Jaime will face a major challenge, especially because of the testing ban. But Red Bull is always ready for a new challenge. I do not expect anything from him for at least his first three races, during which he has to get used to the car, the team and to the F1 environment.”
Loeb's Citroen WRC team is currently backed by Red Bull, which has not shied away from hiring drivers not previously a part of its development scheme. F1's most recent race winner, Mark Webber, was hired to partner another driver, David Coulthard, without previous Red Bull involvement at the drinks brand's eponymous grand prix team in 2007, while Bourdais arrived at Toro Rosso in similar circumstances in 2008.