Toro Rosso have announced – quietly – that they will retain Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari for 2011.
For most Formula One teams the announcement of a future driver pairing is made with much fanfare, even when the news is simply that the existing line-up will continue. Toro Rosso, in typical oddball style, decided to make their announcement ultra-low key, dropping it into the middle of a press release about something else entirely.
The decision, for those who haven’t already heard, is to keep Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari for 2011, ending speculation that Daniel Ricciardo, the immensely talented Australian youngster, might get the nod. According to team principal Franz Tost, the current Red Bull test and reserve driver, despite impressing in the World Series by Renault, was not top of his priority list for 2010. "We always intended to keep our two current drivers, based on their current form: it was always part of the plan, as they come from the Red Bull Young Driver programme and doing anything else would not be logical.
'I’ve been in the Red Bull family since I was 15 and it’s always been good for me' – Jaime Alguersuari
“Both of them, Jaime in particular, are still lacking much Formula One experience and therefore, in order to get a true picture of their abilities, it is normal that we should continue with them. Continuity – be it drivers, management or engineers – has always been the key to success in this sport. On top of that, both Sébastien and Jaime continue to move forward in all aspects of their job and we are pleased with the progress they have made to date. I also expect them to improve their performance in the second half of the season."
Doubtless it will be a weight off the minds of the incumbents, as Formula One nears its summer shutdown – a time traditionally where all sorts of clandestine meetings take place down on the Riviera and up in the Swiss Alps, and drivers out of contract or without a big points haul already on the board have a reason to be nervous. The considered opinion of both the Spaniard and the Swiss was that this news can only help them improve.
“I think it’s a good motivational thing; it’s good for the confidence, good to be believe – but the bottom line is that I’m happy that there is a team interested in me for next year,” commented Alguersuari. “I’ve been in the Red Bull family since I was 15 and it’s always been good for me.”
As he has always said, Jaime expects to improve with more time in the car and experience of the tracks on which he is driving – with the anniversary of his debut fast approaching, he is confident of increased pace now the calendar is returning to circuits on which he raced the F1 car last year.
“I’m still not 100 per cent because I’m only racing and testing on the weekends, so with the new tracks I’m still getting up to speed – but I expect a lot from the second half of the season because we’re going to places I know from last year… it’s time to show what I can be.”
For the slightly more experienced Buemi, the announcement was not unexpected. Once Red Bull Racing announced the retention of Mark Webber, the Swiss was always likely to stay with Toro Rosso.
“I have a contract with Red Bull, and Red Bull let me drive at Toro Rosso. If I do well here then hopefully one day I will jump into the ‘big’ team,” Buemi said.
'Everything is going better for me now – but you have to be in the right place at the right time with the right results' – Sébastien Buemi
“Obviously I want to make that jump as soon as possible, this is pretty clear, but they are having a fantastic season and I was having a lot of bad luck at the beginning of the year when they took the decision to retain Mark. He has done an absolutely fantastic job and there’s really nothing to say about that! Everything is going better for me now – but you have to be in the right place at the right time with the right results.
“However, I am very optimistic that Toro Rosso will improve next year. I think we can do better, because this year has been a learning phase for us. We are getting used to building our own car, running our own wind tunnel and building a team. In the future, with greater knowledge, I think things will be a bit easier for us and we can create the next car with a lot of confidence in our abilities.”
While Alguersuari will hope to consolidate, for Buemi the challenge for the next 18 months is to shed the ‘junior driver’ tag and mix it with the big beasts of Formula One.
“That’s absolutely what I have to do. I don’t want to be regarded as a junior because if I am then I won’t have the chance to progress – Red Bull Racing will never put a junior driver in their car,” Buemi added. “What I would say is that I don’t see myself as a rookie who needs to learn the basics, but I don’t deny that I still have a lot to learn. I’m gaining a lot of knowledge and it’s getting better all the time now. When the car is good enough, I can do a good job.
“We’ve scored some points recently even though we’re maybe still trailing Williams and Sauber in terms of performance – we got the results because we performed well as a team. I think that can continue and maybe for next season we can be regulars in the top 10.”