Jaime Alguersuari has confessed that being forced to debut in F1 earlier this year with next-to-no prior testing under his belt 'was like going to the slaughterhouse' – as it emerges that the Spaniard's seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2010 may not be as secure as it had appeared.
Alguersuari was parachuted into the second cockpit at the Red Bull 'junior' concern for the Hungarian Grand Prix in late July, in place of record-breaking multiple Champ Car king Sébastien Bourdais, with whom the team had parted company in acrimonious fashion shortly beforehand.
The teenager may have had a glittering reputation as the 2008 British F3 Champion, but his arrival in F1 coincided with the cost-cutting induced in-season testing ban, meaning he came in with just a handful of straight-line shakedown runs behind him – leaving many of the sport's more experienced campaigners to muse that Alguersuari would be a danger to both himself and others at the Hungaroring.
The 19-year-old, though – the youngest-driver ever to race at the highest level – far from embarrassed himself and indeed gave an extremely positive first impression in Budapest, lapping barely one-and-a-half seconds shy of the ultimate pace during qualifying and going on to take the chequered flag 15th in the grand prix itself, ahead of STR team-mate Sébastien Buemi. It was not, though, he urged, easy.
“I hadn't done almost a single kilometre of testing when I debuted,” the Barcelona native is quoted as having said by the Daily Mirror
, “so it was like going to the slaughterhouse – but I am satisfied with what I did, especially towards the end. I hope that next year I have less technical problems.”
Whether he will still be on-board at the small Faenza-based outfit in 2010, however, remains unclear, with team principal Franz Tost hinting that such a scenario is the most likely one – with Buemi having already been signed up again [see separate story – click here
] – but Brendon Hartley, Daniel Ricciardo and Mirko Bortolotti are reportedly all similarly under consideration.
F3 Euroseries and World Series by Renault front-runner Hartley and FIA Formula Two Championship ace Bortolotti will try out for the team during the special young driver test at Jerez in December, alongside reigning British F3 Champion Ricciardo at Red Bull Racing.
Last winter, Red Bull-contracted Bortolotti stunned seasoned observers by breaking the lap record around Ferrari's Fiorano test track during a test that he had won by dint of triumphing in the 2008 Italian F3 Championship. Earlier this year, the 19-year-old was also tentatively linked with replacing the injured Felipe Massa at the Scuderia
following the Brazilian's freak Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying accident.
“I'm quite confident that from the middle of next year onwards we will have a good driver line-up,” Tost told The Sun
, “because then Alguersuari will know all the tracks and Buemi is increasing his performance already.”