Spurned Alguersuari hits out at F1 ‘auction’
17 February 2013
Jaime Alguersuari has seemingly counted himself out of the running for F1's remaining vacancy after slamming the sport's reliance on 'pay drivers'
With seats at the back of the grid appearing to go to those who can bring the most money – think rookies Giedo van der Garde, Max Chilton and Luiz Razia – Alguersuari is facing another season on the fringes of F1, with only a Pirelli test deal to keep him in touch with a sport he did not disgrace in three years with Toro Rosso.
Once the youngest driver to start a grand prix, the Spaniard was unceremoniously dumped by the Red Bull 'junior' team – along with then team-mate Sebastien Buemi – after it was decided that he wasn't world champion material. While Buemi was subsequently rehired by Red Bull to act as test and reserve driver for both its squads in 2012, Alguersuari was left to take up analyst duties with the BBC before being offered the chance to supplement Pirelli's existing development squad.
To make matters worse for the former British F3 champion, Alguersuari revealed that he had turned down the opportunity to sign with Lotus in order to remain loyal to Red Bull after it had brought him through the junior ranks. Lotus, of course, went on to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Kimi Raikkonen in 2012, and also reached the podium with Romain Grosjean....
Alguersuari has made no secret of his desire to reclaim a place on the grid, and repeatedly made positive comments to that effect through the latter half of last season. However, revealing that he has again lost out on another F1 deal he though to be secure, and seen offers from elsewhere – notably the DTM – go begging, he has now seemingly conceded defeat, issuing a statement through his PR team criticising the state of play in the top flight.
"I never imagined that, after Red Bull's incomprehensible decision not to count on me in 2012, having done my best sporting season in F1, I would have to fight so much outside the track to finally assume that in 2013 I will not be in F1," he said, after admitting that he had taken four months to consider his response to the situation.
"I assure everyone that I have been convinced [for] most of the 2012 F1 season that my seat was secured in a team that usually scores. That's what they told me, and I believed it to be true. Due to this conviction, I passed up other opportunities in other championships.
"I've looked in faith and longing that the value of my sporting career, and the verbal commitments received, would result in my return to F1 in 2013. This has not happened. Those who committed themselves to me have given me reasons that I must accept, but that I do not share. F1 has become an auction.
"I'm fully conscious of the work Buemi and I did [at Toro Rosso], and the quality we delivered. My sole dream is to drive for a team that allows me to finish in the top five. I will play all my cards the best I can and keep betting for talent, experience and background. I've no need to say much more.”
Despite the setback, Alguersuari insists that, with age on his side, he will one day return to the top flight, and thanked Pirelli for at least giving him the opportunity – and a better one than he would receive in a similar position with one of the eleven teams - to keep in touch with developments in the sport.
"Is my F1 career over at 22 years old? Despite everything, I strongly don't think so,” he claimed, "By waiting for F1, I lost other interesting options, but instead I must thank Paul Hembery from Pirelli Motorsport for his unalterable confidence placed in me, by announcing that he counts on me for the development test.
"So I will continue to be active in F1, and completing more kilometres than any third driver in this discipline.
"Although Spain's economy is in the worst shape in our modern history, and except for the Bank of Santander, no other company considers F1 as a profitable and sustainable business, I know how old I am, I know my track record, and I'm convinced that I deserve a winning car in F1. And I will keep fighting for it."
Alguersuari had been linked with several teams over the winter, most notably Force India, Sauber, Caterham and Marussia. While Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Gutierrez, Charles Pic, van der Garde, Chilton and Razia filled the seats at the latter three squads, Paul di Resta remains without a team-mate at Force India, although the short-list is thought to have been whittled down to a direct choice between Jules Bianchi and Adrian Sutil, both of whom are expected to test with the team in Barcelona this week.
Marussia has made no secret of its need to take well-funded drivers, parting company with veteran Timo Glock in order to exchange his salary for Razia's sponsorship income. Ironically, that decision probably cost Alguersuari his alternative opportunity, as the German was snapped up by BMW's DTM team, which was understood to have offered Alguersuari a deal for 2013.
Caterham's decision to hire Renault-supported Pic and van der Garde – who brings money from the McGregor clothing brand - instead of retaining either Heikki Kovalainen or Vitaly Petrov also appears to have been money-motivated, with the Finn refusing to become a pay driver in order to save his F1 career, and Petrov failing to come up with the necessary backing from Russia to keep himself in the top flight, even though the sport heads to his homeland next season....