Double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso has backed the graduation of his compatriot Jaime Alguersuari to the top flight in this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, arguing that if he is good enough, he is old enough – as Scuderia Toro Rosso's new recruit insists that he is under 'no pressure' to perform.
The reigning British F3 Champion is due to make his bow for the Red Bull 'junior' outfit in Budapest, replacing record-breaking former multiple Champ Car king Sébastien Bourdais after the Frenchman was unceremoniously dumped midway through his sophomore campaign with the team. At only 19 years and 125 days of age when the starting lights go out at the Hungaroring on Sunday, the Spaniard will become the youngest driver in the sport's official 60-year history, with just two straight-line aerodynamic tests behind the wheel of an F1 car to his name to-date.
Renault star Alonso, however – who similarly made his grand prix debut aged 19 with Minardi back in 2001 – rubbished claims that Alguersuari will struggle in being thrown in at the deep end as it were, and contended that his countryman is merely one of the new guard pushing through.
“All the signs are that he is very good,” the 21-time grand prix-winner told Spanish news agency EFE
. “If you are a Formula 1 driver it is because you are good, so no-one should worry. I am in favour of beginning as young as possible. I congratulate him and wish him a splendid future.”
In 2009, Alguersuari has been competing in the World Series by Renault for Carlin Motorsport – taking a brace of top four finishes in his most recent outing at Le Mans last weekend – and team boss Trevor Carlin has underlined that he will continue to race for the squad where possible, though 'obviously his F1 commitments will take priority'. There are no clashes between the two calendars.
STR team principal Franz Tost has affirmed that there will be no undue pressure on the new signing in Hungary [see separate story – click here
], though Alguersuari himself acknowledges that he will likely be in for a baptism of fire with next-to-no seat time in the car under his belt due to the in-season testing ban. Justin Wilson, Anthony Davidson and Tommy Byrne can all vouch for the difficulty of making the leap or switching teams mid-flow – and the grand prix paddock is a notoriously unforgiving environment, where first impressions can frequently either make or break a driver's career.
“There is no pressure,” the Barcelona native told Spanish newspaper El Mundo
. “I am here to learn. The first race will be the most difficult of all, and the most difficult thing will be fitness – the race will be much longer than I am used to.
“In a lot of ways Formula 1 is the very top, but it is still a racing car – there are two pedals and a steering wheel, like all the others. I know that it is going to be very difficult for me to arrive immediately with the same speed as the others, but I am calm and the team is not putting pressure on me. We will speak about next year later. I assume that I am a bet for the future.”
“Jaime has a similar amount of experience [for F1] as did Sebastian Vettel in 2006, when he drove for the first time [in practice] for BMW in Turkey, and Kimi Raikkonen had substantially less experience when Peter Sauber gave him his chance in 2001,” Tost told German publication Sport Bild
, suggesting that in the absence of any meaningful testing, Alguersuari's debut may set the trend for those of fellow newcomers to come. Both Vettel and BMW's Robert Kubica also made the step-up to F1 from the World Series.