Jaime Alguersuari has said that he is confident of retaining his seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso after producing what he considers to be the best performance of his short F1 career in Sunday's Korean Grand Prix.
The Spaniard may not have made the final phase of qualifying at Yeongam, but raced his way into the top ten early on and remained a fixture for points throughout, eventually taking the chequered flag in seventh place after a last lap pass on Mercedes' Nico Rosberg. The result was a career-best for the former British F3 champion, and lifted him seven points clear of STR team-mate Sebastien Buemi, who also added another mark to the team's constructors' championship tally.
That will be crucial next weekend, when the team again auditions Red Bull's latest protégé, Jean-Eric Vergne, in opening practice for the Indian Grand Prix. Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has already announced that the better-placed of the two STR drivers will keep his seat for both Friday sessions at Buddh International, meaning that Alguersuari, who stepped down for the Frenchman in Korea, will get better preparation at the all-new venue.
More importantly, however, the seventh place - behind only the drivers from F1's three best teams - could be enough to guarantee Alguersuari another season at STR, with Vergne pushing for inclusion in the line-up for 2012. If he does indeed stay on, it would crown a remarkable turnaround for Alguersuari, who looked like a possible mid-season casualty after a poor start to the 2011 campaign. Having not scored in the first six rounds, however, he opened his account with back-to-back eighth places in Montreal and Valencia and has added four scoring finishes since, moving up to 13th in the standings, and STR to within three points of Sauber and 12 of Force India in the constructors' table.
The Spaniard, who is also enjoying success in another field under the musical pseudonym Squire, admits that Korea could be an important point in his bid to remain on the grid next season, and was quick to pay tribute to his team.
“It is the first time in the whole season that I'm really happy, proud and satisfied with my work, but above all with the whole Toro Rosso team and with my car,” Alguersuari revealed, "I'm young, I'm 21 years old, but I'm not stupid. In F1, the cars make the difference between the drivers. We all dream to have the best car, we all want to have [Sebastian] Vettel's car, but finally we have to drive the car we got. Today I can say with pride that I had the best Toro Rosso of my life. Today, I want to say that Toro Rosso has made me great."
While he admitted that he was no match for the 'big three', Alguersuari was delighted to have been able to pick off Rosberg in the closing stages, having battled with the German and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in the laps prior to his eventual move on the Mercedes.
"In some moments of the race, I felt like I was driving a Ferrari, a McLaren or a Red Bull," he enthused, "I couldn't hold off Fernando in the last stint, he was faster for a few tenths in each lap when we got out [after] the last tyre change. However, my Toro Rosso has been at the same level as Nico Rosberg's Mercedes, a driver for whom I have a great respect and admiration.
"My last ten laps have been absolutely insane trying to search for the opportunity to take advantage of the KERS and win one position to Mercedes, but Nico defended himself impeccably. The last lap, as in a good novel, I did a perfect lap, he made a small mistake at the entrance of the straight, and I obtained my goal of overcoming him and finishing seventh.