Red Bull's motorsport advisor, Dr Helmut Marko, has admitted that Sebastien Buemi's experience played a major part in the Swiss driver being retained as a reserve for both the drinks brand's F1 teams, despite him being ousted from his race seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Buemi and erstwhile team-mate Jaime Alguersuari
had been widely tipped to retain their seats at Faenza - and even expressed their own optimism about their chances of racing in 2012 - but were ultimately dropped in favour of Daniel Ricciardo and rookie Jean-Eric Vergne, both of whom also came up through Red Bull's driver development scheme and served time as reserve at Toro Rosso.
Marko was last week quoted as saying that the pair were dropped because they had not shown sufficient development in three years to suggest that they were world champion material, but has subsequently had to back-track slightly after Red Bull
resigned Buemi to act as back-up to the race line-ups at RBR and STR.
"They didn't reach a winning driver calibre, yes, [but Buemi was kept] in the case something happens," he told 422race.com/i>, "He's experienced and he can do a good job in the simulator. A third driver is not a race driver. He's part of the Red Bull family, he knows everything and we know him. There are not so many drivers
That vital simulator experience, Marko insisted, was why Buemi was preferred over Alguersuari, despite the younger Spaniard having been more highly rated by observers. There was nothing, he also maintained, to suggestions that a pit-lane dispute - made public by the presence of television cameras and YouTube - had effectively ended Alguersuari's relationship with Red Bull.
"No, not at all," Marko claimed, "We had an evaluation of the possibilities and we took what we thought was the best available for us. The simulator work is an important tool for us. There are no bad feelings with Alguersuari. I was the one that brought him in - and, after three years, you can see what sort of potential is there."
Three seasons in the top flight are clearly enough for a driver to show what he might be capable of in his career, Marko insisted, defending his decision to cast both Buemi and Alguersuari adrift just days before the Christmas period. Comparisons with the past - such as Nigel Mansell's struggle to reach the top step of the podium - simply don't bear relation according to the controversial Austrian.
"[Mansell was] thirty years ago - you can't compare," he stressed, "Toro Rosso is a rookie team, so its function is to look for young drivers and look after their development. I think three years is enough. If you think five years, it's your opinion, but that's not the case - and we are talking a lot of money."