Scuderia Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari has said that he is confident he can do better in F1 2010 and justify his place at the pinnacle of the sport.
Alguersuari was thrown in the deep end in 2009, when he was drafted in mid-season to replace Sebastien Bourdais. With in-season testing banned he had to learn on the job and he only finished three of his eight races, his best result a 14th place at the penultimate round in Brazil.
Despite his struggles though, and despite rumours he might be ousted prior to the new season, the Spaniard now gets another chance and the 2008 British F3 champion is determined to make the most of it.
"Last year was what it was, I could not do more. I was an employee of Red Bull and could say either yes or no [to replacing Sebastien Bourdais]," he told Diario Sport
. "For this year I have been able to train properly and develop physically as a driver and psychologically as a person, which is what I needed to do."
"I'm no longer a soldier thrown onto the beaches of Normandy," he added in a separate interview with El Mundo
. "Now I can go onto the track and complete two grand prix distances in a day of testing, as I did at Jerez."
Pressed on what Toro Rosso might achieve in 2010, Alguersuari noted that the Italian outfit could be the "surprise" of the year.
Indeed while he is realistic and knows they are unlikely to be up there with the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull Racing, he added that the STR5 seems to be "very competitive and reliable" - something backed up, partly at least, by his form during testing at Barcelona on Thursday, when he completed 111 laps, the most of anyone runner.
"It was encouraging to have another trouble free day, completing a high mileage," he continued following day one of testing at Barcelona on Thursday. "We learned a lot doing long runs on the soft compound tyre and I'm looking forward to tackling a different programme now on Friday."