Alguersuari proves almost everybody wrong

28 July, 2009

Prior to the race the general view in the paddock was that the Toro Rosso new boy Jaime Alguersuari would be a danger to others and when he proved over the two days of qualifying that was not the case, the next piece of preconceived wisdom was that he wouldn’t be able to finish this physically demanding race, because his neck wouldn’t be strong enough to hold his head up for 70 laps. Wrong again. In short, Alguersuari ticked all the boxes this weekend, learning and improving with every lap of the track.

Naturally, as the newest and youngest kid on the block, Alguersuari was the focus of media attention with his every move scrutinised and disected by the knowing media hordes. Many expected the worst but they were to be disappointed as predictions of doom which were rampant, before the first wheel turned in Budapest, proved groundless. In all the sessions the lad did not put a foot wrong. In the race he even finished 15th ahead of his more experienced rookie team mate Sebastien Buemi.

We now have to wait four weeks to resume battle in Valencia and for two of those, the Formula One World Championship takes its first ever official holiday in its 59-year history. It’s going to be frustrating for the designers and engineers champing at the bit to carry on moving forward with the development of TR4, but at least their kids might recognise them now and their pets might not growl when they walk in the front door at home!

Thus Round 11 of the world championship takes place in Valencia and yet again the media spotlight is likely to fall on Alguersuari, as one of two Spanish drivers on the grid, if they Alonso to race of course. Before getting there, Alguersuari will probably be the only F1 driver to get some cockpit time, as he is competing in another round of the World Series by Renault at the Algarve circuit Portimao next weekend. The young Spaniard will no doubt be walking on air and will have won the admiration of all who assemble at the Algarve ciruit. After all how many Formula Renault drivers can boast racing against a current F1 driver.

Alguersuari’s story is indeed unique and if his debut, where he shut up a great many “experts”, is anything to go by we best start learning to pronounce his name which as he explained in his opening press conference, “My name is Heimi Al-gay-shuari.” It may be a little early for further predictions but we could well be seeing the birth of a future star of Formula 1.

Alguersuari’s day by day build-up to Grand Prix day at Hungaroring

Thursday, 23 July: “Is It Always Like This?”

That was the question our new driver, Jaime Alguersuari asked half way through what will probably be the busiest day of his F1 career until he takes his first race win.

The young Spaniard had already had a day of press conferences in Madrid and his native Barcelona on Tuesday and today, Thursday, he found that being an F1 driver involves a lot more than just driving a race car.

Apart from all the usual meetings with his engineers, team principal, tyre meetings, watching last year’s Hungarian GP and all the usual ‘real’ jobs, he also faced a barrage of media attention. We hid him away with his engineers, before walking him down the back of the garages so no-one could see him, to get him to his first official appointment: the FIA Press Conference.

Here, he made his F1 media debut alongside Mark Webber, Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen. And as you’ll know if you’ve read some of the other reports on the web, his appointment is already making the headlines, as a few other drivers have come out on the record as saying they feel the 19-year-old is not yet ready for the Blue Riband series of motor sport.

To be fair to them, they have not been nasty about it, most of them blaming the rule that bans in-season testing for Jaime’s lack of track time. Having faced some tough questions, the new boy was then led down to the TV square where he faced all the broadcast media. Probably driving the car on Friday will be a welcome return to normality.

Friday, 24 July: “The most dangerous man in the world”

Morning headlines suggested the media were having a field day “The most dangerous man in the world” is how a British daily paper branded our new boy, Alguersuari this morning, after some drivers expressed concern at the youngster’s ability to cope with F1 without the benefit of testing.

Sadly, they were to be disappointed as Danger Man Jaime completed a total of 82 laps of this tricky track without putting a foot wrong, without getting in the way of anyone and without any drama in general. It was a very mature performance from the sport’s youngest ever driver, which came as no surprise to the team.

Alguersuari reflected on his first F1 practice day, “I am quite happy with how today has gone, especially this morning, when I had a good pace and felt quite confident. In the second session, my lap time could have been better, but I didn’t get a clean lap on the option tyre. I am learning all the time. The hardest part was the entry into the high speed corners, which I need to take much faster, but that will come as my confidence grows and I do more kilometres. Every time I went out from the garage, I was learning and felt more comfortable with the situation.”

Saturday, 25 July: “The kid did not put a foot wrong”

As for Jaime, he can take heart from the fact he hasn’t put a foot wrong so far this weekend, despite the pressures of being an untried rookie, exacerbated by crazy headlines in the media claiming he could be a danger to himself and others. Unfortunately, a problem in the hydraulic system, that has been modified to accept the various aero changes introduced on the car, caused a problem in the throttle management, which chose to shut down, stopping the car out on track.

Jaime will therefore start his first ever grand prix from twentieth position on the grid, although this might become nineteenth if Felipe Massa is unable to race. The Brazilian’s frightening accident was a stern reminder that, despite the huge steps forward made on the safety front in recent years, this is still a dangerous sport.

Alguesuari said after qualifying, “Finishing qualifying with a failure is never good – I had a problem with the throttle control system – but we have to be content because I didn’t make any mistakes so far this weekend. On my first two sets of tyres I did a good job. As for the race, I am really looking forward to it and I will be happy if I finish.”

Sunday, 26 July: “Proving just about everybody wrong”

Jaime Alguersuari finished his first grand prix in 15th place this afternoon in Budapest, while Séb was right behind him in 16th. He said afterwards, “I am very happy to have finished, but the last five laps were very difficult from the physical point of view. I found it hard to keep the car on the pace, but I am very satisfied. P15 is not so bad, but the main objective was to complete the 70 laps, with no mistakes, maintaining my pace. I have learned a lot but I have to say there are some aspects of F1 which made me think, ‘shit this is tough.”

Team principal Franz Tost was impressed, “Well done to Jaime on finishing his first race, which means he’s learned a lot this weekend. That was our main target with him. He will need another two races, after which I expect to see him make it through to Q2.”

 

 


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