Spanish driver Jaime Alguersuari has been confirmed for his first full season at the Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula 1 team, it was announced today. Alguersuari joined the team as a full-time driver midway through the 2009 season, replacing Sebastien Bourdais, who had been let go. Bourdais joined the team in 2008, coming off four consecutive title wins in the now defunct ChampCar series, but he failed to impress over the long term, and last season was often outperformed by his rookie team mate Sebastien Buemi.
Alguersuari struggled with a steep learning curve when he first took over for Bourdais, and he made a number of typical rookie mistakes. Both he and his fellow mid-season rookie F1 entry, Romain Grosjean, illustrated one of the chief problems caused by the in-season testing ban, namely, that reserve drivers have no means to prepare themselves should they be tapped to replace one of the primary drivers on short notice. They get no F1 cockpit time, beyond a brief pre-season window in February.
There was speculation that Toro Rosso was shopping for a replacement for Alguersuari, as they had delayed his confirmation for several weeks. Alguersuari’s camp publicly insisted they had a commitment from the team, but the team’s public response was silence.
Today, however, team principal Franz Tost ended speculation by announcing Alguersuari’s return to the team for 2010. As reported in Autosport, Tost said of his young driver, “Considering that he made his debut only halfway through 2009, at the Hungarian Grand Prix, with no prior testing, he did a good job, making steady progress throughout the second half of the year, with a mature approach considering he is still only nineteen years old. This season, he will again face a steep learning curve, as all the circuits in the first part of the season will be new to him. Jaime’s appointment also confirms our team’s commitment to bringing on graduates of the Red Bull Young Driver Programme.”
With the confirmation of Alguersuari, and the return of Pedro de la Rosa to an active racing role (he’d been relegated to the tester’s bench for seven years, at McLaren, but now has a full-time drive at Sauber), there will now be three Spanish drivers taking their place on the grid this season, which is unprecedented. The third, and most illustrious member of the trio, of course, is two-time world champ Fernando Alonso.