In a remark that is likely to further ramp up the pressure on current pairing Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost has named Paul di Resta, Nico Hülkenberg and Romain Grosjean as 'suitable' drivers for the small Faenza-based outfit.
Having already asserted that 'if you are not sure after three years whether [a young driver] is going to make it, I would bluntly say forget him, period' – widely-perceived as a warning to Buemi to substantially raise his game before season's end or else face the boot [see separate story – click here
] – Tost has now appeared to suggest that neither
Toro Rosso driver is altogether safe, with not only highly-rated Red Bull protégé
Daniel Ricciardo waiting menacingly in the wings to usurp one of them, but also seemingly several other potential threats.
“My pecking order goes like this – [Sebastian] Vettel, [Lewis] Hamilton, [Fernando] Alonso, [Nico] Rosberg,” the Austrian told the official F1 website, when asked to rate the current cream of the F1 crop. “Vettel doesn't need much comment – he's got everything inside and outside the car that a driver must have to be champion.
“Hamilton I really do like. His is the way guys should race in F1 – he's aggressive and, of course, that results in shunts sometimes, but he's got what it takes to put on a good show. Alonso is fiendishly clever, in the car and in team politics, and Rosberg I believe could win the championship when he's got a good car.
“It is very unlikely that they would make eyes at Toro Rosso, though, so when thinking of suitable guys I would pick three, if I may – Paul di Resta, Nico Hülkenberg and Romain Grosjean. Renault burned Grosjean when they teamed him up with Alonso, but I still believe he's got huge potential.”
So that now makes – when you add present incumbents Buemi and Alguersuari as well as Ricciardo into the mix – as many as six possible occupants of the two STR cockpits in F1 2012, but whilst ostensibly offering scant hope to Buemi, Tost does appear to extend Alguersuari a ray of hope.
“At the beginning of this season, Jaime was not coming to terms with the tyres,” he reflected, with many having prematurely forecast the young Spaniard's departure some time ago. “He was not able to make an easy switch from the Bridgestones of last year to the Pirellis.
“There is a significant difference between qualifying and the race, with different demands on the driver, and Jaime was a bit slow on the uptake. Then sometimes he thought he could force it, and that never works. Now he's overcome that deficit of understanding the tyres and he is firmer in getting his set-up done – and that has translated directly into the good results we've seen lately.”