There has been a lot of debate as to whether or not Jaime Alguersuari [pronounced: Heimi Al-gay-shuari] is ready for Formula One. Most of the comments I have received or heard revolve around, “He’s Not Ready”, “He’s Only In Formula One Because of Repsol”.
On the other hand, there are a few who think the timing is right and faithfully support the 19-year-old Spaniard.
I think it is safe to say that there are far more negative comments about Alguersuari’s move to F1 than positive comments. Which is unfortunate. Offer any driver the opportunity to race a Formula One car and 100% of them (assuming they have a goal of racing professionally) will jump at the chance to compete in Formula One— whether they are ready or not. It’s the ultimate stop in the motorsports ladder. So, it’s hard to blame Alguersuari for his decision to accept the invitation to drive in Formula One. That said, there are most likely enough career minded people around the youngster to step in and say, “Hey, this just isn’t the right time, be patient… your time will come”.
So you might ask, did Jaime jump the gun? Well, I wish I had the answer for you. The truth remains to be seen. I think we can all agree that it would have been nice to see him complete at least one full year in the World Series by Renault, if not two, before committing to F1,… but that doesn’t mean he can’t develop into a Formula One great by making the move now.
Sebastian Vettel entered Formula One with a similar amount of experience (and at a young age) and today he is currently 2nd in the Formula One World Championship with 2 wins, 3 pole positions, and 5 podiums in 9 races….. that puts him on the podium in 55.6% of his races (to date) in 2009. What about Kimi Raikkonen? Let me start out by saying that I realize the cars are different and that Alguersuari is entering Formula One at a different time than when Kimi entered F1 (2001), but, in case you forgot, Raikkonen went directly from a Formula Renault 2.0 car to a Formula One car. He managed to find his way to the podium four times in 2002 and won the World Championship in 2007. As stated above, the comparison isn’t exactly apples-to-apples, but it’s a worthy mention. What about Christian Klien? Christian might be a good example of a driver who jumped the gun. He came into Formula One directly from the F3 Euro Series (having finished 2nd in the 2003 championship). He entered Formula One with rather high expectations due to a very promising resume. Unfortunately, he never really had the results most had hoped for. Did it ruin his career? No. Could he have had a better Formula One career if he had waited? Probably. The thing to remember is that every driver is different and every team is different. Success rates are always going to vary in Formula One.
Let’s not forget to have realistic expectations for F1’s newest debutant this weekend at Hungary. The 19-year-old is heading into a race weekend having only performed straight line tests and he isn’t driving for ‘the best team in the paddock’, if you know what I mean. For example, Jaime is replacing Sebastien Bourdais, who had an incredible resume but failed to really standout in Formula One (his best finish was 7th in September, 2008). I think we can all agree that Bourdais is a very talented driver, regardless of his success rate in Formula One. So it goes.
I will say that it’s unfortunate to see Bourdais dropped right as the team is making some performance upgrades to the car, which will undoubtedly increase the aerodynamic and mechanical performance of the car. But that’s another story.
In this morning’s practice, Alguersuari performed very well. In the first session he was only 0.23 seconds behind teammate Sebastian Buemi. In the second session, he failed to improve as much as the balance of the field, but he did improve his laptime from the first session.
As for the money situation, it’s important to remember that nobody gets into F1 without proper funding, so, I don’t really understand the argument stating, “He’s only in F1 because of Red Bull and Repsol”. It’s unfortunate that money plays such a huge role in motorsports but that’s something we’re all going to have to accept. Yes, it’s true that he has tremendous backing and it’s also true that he wouldn’t be where he is today without that financial support. That said, he has certainly turned some head’s with his results. He was exceptional last season in British F3, where he won the championship with 5 wins and 12 podiums. This season, in the World Series by Renault, his results haven’t been exceptional, but they haven’t been bad either. He has finished inside the top-ten in 81.2% of his race starts (to date). His best finish was 3rd at Le Mans. His average finish in the first five races was 8.6. His average finish in his last six races is 7.2. So he is showing improvement and if he continues to run in the World Series by Renault and Formula One, I think it’s safe to say, we will continue to see him develop as a driver.
I think Alguersuari hit the nail-on-the-head in the recent Formula One press conference:
“I’m relaxed, I know what I can do, I know what people expect from me and the most important thing is that I know what I have to do. As I said before, it’s another car, another race in my racing career, and in the end it’s just one steering wheel and two pedals like everything. That’s the target: to learn and to drive.”
As for what the future holds, time will tell. Feel free to discuss below in the comment section. I know there are various opinions on this matter.