Jaime Alguersuari insists that he is not feeling any extra pressure to perform because Toro Rosso reserve Daniel Ricciardo is being tipped for a race seat next year, but admits that he is always striving to do better with every grand prix.
The Spaniard, who made his F1 debut in 2009, has struggled to match team-mate Sebastien Buemi for much of the current campaign, but enjoyed a breakthrough performance in Canada last time out, where he came from a pit-lane start to finish eighth and halve the Swiss driver's points advantage. Alguersuari's qualifying record has often left him vulnerable to comments about his future - he has been out-gunned 6-1 by Buemi on Saturdays and was due to have lined up 18th for the Montreal race before the weather prompted STR to make a tactical decision and start from the pits - but he refuses to concede that Ricciardo's presence is adding to his worries.
"I don't know about the situation regarding the future, because I always try to do the best that I can at every single race," he maintained, "I try to enjoy it because this is my job and, if I was not enjoying my job, I wouldn't be here. This is the first thing to do and, yeah, I'm quite relaxed, quite confident, because I know what I can do, what are my possibilities and, at the moment, the situation is what it is. I'm here with Toro Rosso, a fantastic team [and] a good family."
Still the youngest driver in the field at 21, Alguersuari insists that he is still very much learning his trade, and points out that he and Ricciardo are often working on different things when on track together in Friday free practice.
"[There are] lots of things to learn still, lots of things to see, to develop, to work on," he confirmed, "I'm still learning, still developing the car until the end of the year. I've said so many times that I think both of us, and the team, are still developing the car, still working on the car a lot. I still have to learn lots of things, just to develop lots of things on the set-up of the car to feel better.
"I think it is interesting as [Ricciardo] gets to try different things on the car and, at the end, this year, I did not find the best way to improve the car, the performance, and am just still learning about the set-up, about the tyres, about so many things on the car. It is interesting that he also gets to know the car, to try to improve things on the car. I think it is quite interesting and it makes things a bit easier, a bit faster. But still I am not 100 per cent happy with everything going on. I think Canada was very important for us and we are finding our way to the best performance."
The Spaniard admitted that his eighth place in Canada was a welcome boost in a difficult season, and praised the team for making the decision to switch him to a full wet set-up in the build-up to the race.
"It was a good race," he confirmed, "We did a good job by changing the set-up for the race on Sunday. We knew it was going to rain and the possibilities to score some points, to finish the race, were difficult starting from the pit-lane. But, with all the changes we did for the race, it was worth doing it. I felt much better with the car, with the set-up, with everything on the race, but not on Friday - or even in qualifying. It was a good race from the strategy side, from the team, from my side, so I was quite happy, quite pleased."
Alguersuari also pointed to Toro Rosso's performance in Monaco as reason to be encouraged, and is looking forward to the latest developments continuing to help him stake his claim to a seat beyond 2011.
"We've been working a lot on the set-up of the car, the performance of the car," he pointed out, "Until now, I didn't really feel I got the best out of it. You were just still working a lot on the simulator, on the car. I think Canada was a good result for us, [and] I think Monaco was also a good race for us, despite the crash at the end - I think I was going to be a points finisher again. So, in general, we are doing good racing.
"We had some issues with big tyre degradation, which really limited our performance in the past, in Barcelona and Istanbul, so I think it's a new championship for us [from now on]. We have some new things coming on the car. I think I am feeling a bit better with the tyres, with the car, with the set-up, a better understanding of it. Hopefully, all the things that we have new for this weekend work together and we can have a bit of extra pace as well, so we can finish in the points. That will be the main target for sure."