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F1 record-breaker Alguersuari reflects on difficulty of Red Bull junior life

by Ida Wood

Photo: F3 Euro Series

Jaime Alguersuari, once Formula 1’s youngest racer, recently spoke to Sky Sports F1’s podcast about his time in the Red Bull Junior Team.

Alguersuari spent two years in Formula Renault 2.0 as a Red Bull junior, coming fifth in the Eurocup, then beat team-mates Oliver Turvey and Brendon Hartley, a fellow Red Bull junior, to the 2008 British Formula 3 title.

He stepped up to FR3.5 for 2009, and after 12 races – having just taken his first podium – was moved into a Toro Rosso F1 seat. Less than two-and-a-half years later, he was dropped.

“I had a good relation with Dr [Helmut] Marko, even though many people don’t think about it. He’s the policeman of the junior team, but it’s his job,” said Alguersuari.

“The [RBJT] is a very strict and very damanding programme. But it has to be. They pay for your career. They sponsored many, many drivers.”

“It’s a huge amount of money they have invested in drivers, and of course if you have more drivers to sponsor, to test and to try, you get very good drivers out them. Like champions.”

Those who impress at Toro Rosso, now AlphaTauri, get promoted to Red Bull Racing. Alguersuari was not among them.

“The way they act, sometimes it’s not fair. But it’s the way it is,” he conceded.

“What they did with me, with [team-mate Sebastien] Buemi, is not like really a generous or sporting manner to get rid of two drivers. Because it was not decided on results,” Alguersuari reckoned.

But he admitted “you have to accept” that “F1 sometimes works” like that, and “I had a good time with them and I enjoyed every single moment” at Toro Rosso. But his time in the RBJT before was not as fun.

“I didn’t enjoy [being a junior]. Definitely. I didn’t have the gift to enjoy,” he explained. “If I was not winning in my first year in British F3, I was getting dropped off.”

He added: “The favourite at that time was Hartley. He was the favourite driver in Red Bull. I was very sure about that. When I won British F3, things changed”. Alguersuari calls his mid-season F1 promotion “lucky”, but also “completely crazy”.

“[Helmut] called me one week-and-a-half before the Hungarian Grand Prix. He said ‘you will drive next week’.”

“I was 19 years old, I had never tested a F1 car before, and I was like ‘okay, how am I going to deal and how am I going to cope with a two-hour race in a car that I’ve never driven’. So this is going to be like going to the cemetery. I have very little tools to defend myself. It’s going to be really hard.”

Alguersuari broke a long-standing record to become F1’s youngest starter, a “very difficult” way to arrive in the paddock.

He says he “suffered a lot” that season but “could cope” with the move, and felt he was “delivering a little better” by year end. Results improved over 2010 and 2011, but then he lost his seat.