Sebastian Vettel's front-running performance in last weekend's European Grand Prix should serve as a warning to Red Bull's F1 rivals, according Jaime Alguersuari.
The driver-turned-analyst reckoned that the rate at which the current world champion was able to pull away from the pack in Valencia was a sign that RBR had got its act together and closed the performance gap on the likes of McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes, perhaps even moving ahead of the lead group as the season approaches halfway. Although Vettel has taken his turn to top the points table in an unpredictable season, he has not been able to establish the dominant position he enjoyed at the same point in 2011, and his subsequent DNF on Sunday leaves him only fourth in the standings after eight rounds.
Instead, it is Alguersuari's fellow Spaniard, Fernando Alonso, who is enjoying a cushion at the front of the pack, his second win of the year opening out a 20-point gap over nearest rival Mark Webber, but the former Toro Rosso pilot reckons that Vettel would have had an distinct advantage had he not been forced out by alternator failure.
"Alonso's win, together with retirements for Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, has put him in a good position in the championship, but there is a long way to go yet," Alguersuari reasoned in his BBC
column, acknowledging Ferrari's own return to form, "Alonso drove a fantastic race on Sunday. He made some amazing moves to climb up from eleventh on the grid, and showed a very good pace throughout the race, very consistent and very fast, which was not the case in practice and qualifying.
"It was a strange, slightly chaotic, race. A lot of people crashed, there were a lot of retirements and a few things helped Alonso along the way, but he did the job and deserved the win. This year is not just about winning races - as Alonso and Mark Webber have shown by being first and second in the championship at this stage. It is about being there at the correct time, maximising what you can get out of a given weekend and, if you can't win, it's better to come third or fourth and get some points than risk too much.
"[However], Red Bull produced a fantastic development for their car in Valencia, modifying the rear aerodynamics, and it was pretty obvious from Vettel's pace all weekend that they now have the most competitive car. [There's] a good performance difference between them and their competitors, and they can recover the gap. The championship is long and anything can happen, but Red Bull look like they are in the best position at the moment."
Alguersuari, once tipped as a possible successor for Webber in the second Red Bull car before being dropped unexpectedly by the drinks brand's second team, Toro Rosso, at the end of 2011, admitted that it had been hard to watch Alonso soak up the adulation of the crowd.
"For me, although I was happy for Fernando, Sunday was a tough day because I really wanted to be part of the race after being there for the last three years," he conceded, "I'm really missing [racing in] F1 - this would be a great year to be involved. Everything is so close, you can play with the strategy a lot, tyre management is so important."
The Spaniard admitted in the build-up to the Valencia race that he had broken off talks with Lotus in the belief that he would be retained by STR and wanted to remain loyal to the team that gave him his break, but is confident that he will be back on the grid in 2013.
"I just have to bide my time, [but]. I am pretty sure I will be driving in F1 again next year with a good team," he claimed, "Everything is looking very good at the moment. I am only 22, I have scored 31 points in F1 and what I am trying to do with my work with BBC Radio 5 Live
and as Pirelli's F1 test driver this year is to develop and understand myself better and give myself a much better future in F1.
"My aim is to follow in Fernando's footsteps. My dream is to become Spain's number one and be a world champion myself in a few years. This week, I am at Spa in Belgium working with Pirelli to develop the F1 tyres for next season, and I'm really looking forward to it."