F1 » Jaime Alguersuari
Jaime Alguersuari became the latest Red Bull prospect to graduate to the rank of grand prix driver when he debuted in the 2009 Hungarian GP – and also snatched away the mantle of the youngest ever driver to start an F1 race.
Born in Barcelona to a family that already had motor racing links via Spain’s Nissan World Series, Alguersuari took his first steps into the sport, naturally enough in karting, at the age of eight. Immediately on the pace, he was already winning Spanish titles at the age of 13, and taking the IICA International Cup in both 2003 and 2004, as well Italy’s renowned Industrial Trophy.
That sort of success attracted the attention of Red Bull for 2005, when he stepped up to single-seaters in Italy’s Formula Junior 1600 with Tomcat Racing. Unfazed by the change of discipline, and still only 15, he duly finished third in the championship, taking a brace of wins along the way.
Alguersuari was not done with karting, however, and, as a member of the official Intrepid factory team, claimed the Spanish ICA class crown, finished as runner-up in the FIA Asia Pacific Championship and took third overall in the Italian Open Masters.
It was to be a swansong year in karting, however, for, from 2006, he devoted himself to open-wheel racing, moving up to Formula Renault with Cram Competition in both Italy and Europe. Now established as a member of the Red Bull Junior Team, he claimed the Italian winter series title with four wins, before taking tenth overall in the ensuing summer campaign. His maiden foray into Europe-wide competition yielded twelfth overall.
Things improved with experience and, aged 17, he finished fifth in the 2007 FRenault Eurocup and runner-up, with three race wins, in the Italian national series.
Although not exactly boasting a packed resume – or trophy cabinet – he stepped up again in 2008, joining the crack Carlin Motorsport team for his first taste of F3. Running a parallel Spanish national series campaign with GTA Motor gave Jaime plenty of valuable track time, and it clearly paid off.
Three wins and two poles in his homeland only added to the five victories, six poles and twelve podium finishes that eventually culminated in an historic British title success, as Alguersuari came from far behind team-mate Oliver Turvey in the Donington Park finale to claim the crown and become the youngest ever series champion.
While the title marked him out as one to watch in terms of F1 in the future, however, it could not guarantee the Spaniard a GP2 seat for 2009, and he began the year by remaining with Carlin but stepping up to the World Series by Renault – the championship overseen by his father than had morphed out of the old Nissan World Series.
Again, it took little time for Alguersuari Jr to make his mark and, while no wins came his way in the early part of the season, he made podium appearances as a rookie. His performance also out-shone that of fellow Red Bull Junior Team member and former Carlin F3 team-mate Brendon Hartley, who had begin the year as nominated reserve for both Red Bull F1 squads. With the Kiwi reportedly stepping down from the role in a bid to turn around his WSbR and F3 Euroseries results, Alguersuari was promoted at Silverstone – and in the perfect spot to be parachuted into Scuderia Toro Rosso’s line-up when the team grew tired of Sebastien Bourdais.
Much was made of Alguersuari’s rapid elevation to the top flight, with new rivals suggesting that it was too soon for him to be making his F1 debut, and others – perhaps those fancying a shot of their own with STR – claiming that Spanish backers had bankrolled the move. Whatever the case, Toro Rosso insisted that there would be no pressure on the youngster, who was denied the chance to even test an F1 car prior to his debut in Hungary, and allowed him to continue racing in the WSbR for experience.
Despite his immaturity as an F1 driver, Alguersuari gradually got to grips with the STR4, although there were a few incidents along the way - as could be expected from the least seasoned line-up in F1. Although he failed to match team-mate Sebastien Buemi's point-scoring results, with a best of 14th in Brazil, the young Spaniard did enough to, eventually, be named alongside the Swiss driver for 2010, where he would race Toro Rosso's first car of its own design since its days as Minardi.
This time there was pre-season testing, and no distraction from a WSbR campaign, but the pressure to perform rose accordingly. Toro Rosso's car was conservative, albeit based on its relatively successful predecessor, but never proved more than a midfielder and went backwards relative to its opposition as the year went on. Alguersuari again proved competent - and, on occasions such as Singapore, entertaining - but his five-point haul was disappointing, with ninth places in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi the highlights.
For 2011, the Spaniard was again a part of the Toro Rosso line-up, although it took a while before he was confirmed alongside Buemi. The start of the season was tough, with nothing on the scoreboard until Canada leading to suggestions that Alguersuari may be dropped prematurely. Once Toro Rosso began to improve, however, the youngster reeled off seven scoring finishes over the remaining rounds, lifting himself to 14th overall and keeping STR in the hunt for sixth place in the constructors' standings until the Interlagos finale.
Sadly, the renaissance wasn't enough to secure Alguersuari's place on the grid, for Red Bull dumped both him and Buemi prior to Christmas 2011, claiming that they would never improve enough to be world champion material. While Buemi was then handed the Red Bull reserve role, Alguersuari had to wait until the end of March before he inked a test deal with Pirelli, which he combined with an analysts role with the BBC
Towards the end of 2012, Alguersuari began making noises about being in talks with several teams for the following year but, despite apparent interest, it appears that the DTM may be a more likely destination for the still-young Spaniard.