Jaime Alguersuari has confessed that he 'never expected' to break his F1 points duck so early into the 2010 campaign and in only his eleventh grand prix as he did at Sepang today – and he credited his duel with record-breaking multiple world champion Michael Schumacher in Australia a week earlier with having taught him 'the art of fighting' at the highest level.
Having initially divided paddock opinion as to whether or not he was ready and sufficiently prepared to make his grand prix debut in Hungary last summer at the tender age of just 19 – thereby becoming the youngest debutant in the top flight's official history – Alguersuari went on to defy his critics by not only keeping Schumacher's faster Mercedes behind him for some 22 laps Down Under in Melbourne, but moreover audaciously running the German right to the edge of the circuit when he finally did succeed in finding a way by.
The Spaniard carried that form over into this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, joining Scuderia Toro Rosso team-mate Sébastien Buemi in artfully fending off the dual Ferrari threat early on and then going on to tussle it out with Williams rival Nico Hülkenberg over what would become ninth place. After aggressively and impressively battling his way past, two well-deserved points were the Barcelona native's reward.
“I am very happy to have scored points today, and I have to say I never expected to do it so early in the season,” Alguersuari reflected. “A big thanks to everyone in the team who have worked so hard to achieve this result. Step-by-step I have improved my performance, but this weekend was very tough because I didn't know the track.
“I enjoyed this race, especially the fights I had with some of the others – I think I learned a bit about the art of fighting with Michael last weekend in Melbourne. Towards the end I was a bit worried about how the tyres would last, as I was on the soft ones, but I had no degradation. It is very satisfying and I feel a lot more confident now going into the upcoming races.”
“This race didn't go so well for me,” countered Buemi, who wound up just over eight seconds adrift of the sister STR5 at the chequered flag, and similarly just outside of the points. “After quite a good start, my front wing was damaged on the first lap when I made contact with [Kamui] Kobayashi; it meant that from then on, I lacked grip and had a lot of understeer – and I ended driving for much of the race with a damaged wing.
“Once it was changed I was able to put in some very fast lap times, but by then it was too late to do much. A one-stop strategy in any case was not on for me, as I did two stints on the Option tyre. In general, these two races in one week have not gone well for me, but we can be optimistic about Shanghai, as the whole package – the car and the team – seems to have made a step forward this weekend. And congratulations to Jaime for his first F1 points!”
Those sentiments, certainly, were echoed by the small Faenza-based concern's team principal Franz Tost, often a fierce critic and famously not always the most ardent supporter of his own drivers. The Austrian could be seen during the race enthusiastically pumping his fist when Alguersuari made a successful move – and afterwards he was full of warm praise for his young protégé.
“A very good weekend for Red Bull, with three out of four cars in the points,” Tost summed up. “Well done to Red Bull Racing for this well-deserved one-two finish. We are very pleased to have scored our first points of the season, and well done to Alguersuari for the first two points of his F1 career. Jaime continues to improve each weekend. He got a good start and then drove a fantastic race, not only defending his position but also carrying off some daring overtaking moves. Then, for the last third of the race he controlled the situation, looking after his tyres and the engine to complete an excellent race performance.
“Buemi made a reasonable start, but unfortunately he made contact with Kobayashi at Turn Two on the opening lap, which damaged the nose and front wing endplate. After this, he soon complained of heavy understeer, so we brought forward his first pit-stop. Having calculated that a nose change at this time would have lost him too much track position, we did not change it, again bringing him in early at the second stop when we did fit the new nose. After that, his lap times improved and he brought the car home eleventh.
“We are looking forward to China with optimism, because not only do the drivers continue to improve, but the team also worked very well, so I hope we can pick up some more points in Shanghai.”