Jaime Alguersuari gave some food for thought to all those who had doubted that he would be up to making his F1 bow for Scuderia Toro Rosso in this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix by lapping less than two seconds off the outright pace on the opening practice day in Budapest – and the Spanish teenager is confident that there is much more still to come.
Having graduated from the World Series by Renault – where he is a front-runner for Carlin Motorsport, the same team with which he lifted the British F3 laurels last year – in place of the sacked Sébastien Bourdais, Alguersuari will be just 19 years and 125 days of age when he takes to the starting grid at the Hungaroring on Sunday.
In other words, he will become the youngest debutant in the top flight's official 60-year history, and many of the drivers who will be sharing the track with him on race day have professed themselves concerned that – with barely two straight-line test sessions under his belt in terms of prior running – the Barcelona native will be a danger both to himself and others [see separate story – click here
Though perhaps predictably propping up the timesheets in both sessions on Friday, Alguersuari was nowhere near as far from the pace as some had suggested, as he wound up just under 1.9 seconds adrift of reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton at the close of proceedings, and less than eighth tenths shy of team-mate Sébastien Buemi, who has been in the cockpit of the STR4 season-long.
“I am quite happy with how the day went,” reported F1's new boy, “especially the morning, when I had good pace and felt quite confident. In the second session, my lap time could have been better, but I didn't get a clean lap on the option tyre.
“I am learning all the time. The hardest part was the entry into the high-speed corners, which I need to take much faster, but that will come as my confidence grows and I do more kilometres. Every time I went out from the garage, I was learning and felt more comfortable with the situation.”
The Red Bull 'junior' outfit has brought its one and only 2009 upgrade to Hungary, and the stated pre-weekend objective was that it should vault the car into the top ten on the grid and into contention for solid points on race day. So far, no improvement has been greatly discernible in terms of lap times, with Buemi similarly winding up right down at the bottom of the timing screens in both sessions, but the young Swiss ace remains convinced that the potential is there.
“We have the new package on the car here, but it's not a magic trick, where you put something on and go a lot faster immediately,” the 20-year-old cautioned. “At the moment, we are trying to understand what it does in terms of car balance. It is definitely better, and now our task is to get the most out of it.
“In-between sessions there is not enough time to go in-depth into the data, but generally it was a positive day and I think we can have a degree of confidence for qualifying. Having a new team-mate does not affect me that much as I drive my car on my own! The team seems happy and he produced a good performance.”
“Jaime did a very good job on his first day of practice in Formula 1,” added STR team principal Franz Tost. “He completed a total of 82 laps without making any mistakes. With every lap, he got more used to the car, to working with his engineers and to the general environment. Overall, it's been a good preparation for qualifying and for the race. A fantastic job so far!”