On the one hand it’s hard not to feel sorry for sacked Scuderia Toro Rosso drivers, Jaime Alguersuari and Sébastien Buemi – because towards the latter half of this season in particular, they both did a pretty decent job of getting the most out of a car that was far from the fastest on the Formula 1 grid.
The trouble is, neither of them quite gelled with the Red Bull way of life. Unfairly or otherwise, Alguersuari was regarded by his team as being keener to be DJ-ing back in Ibiza than trying to understand the finer details of his car technically, while poor old Buemi, you suspect, was always perceived as being a nearly man internally – and therefore not quite the next big thing. That much was confirmed this week when the pair was replaced at Torro Rosso by Daniel Ricciardo and Frenchman Jean –Eric Vergne for next year.
But it’s what happens next at Red Bull/Toro Rosso that will be most intriguing to observe – because if the masterplan unfolds in the way you suspect it might, put it this way, you wouldn’t want to be in Mark Webber’s shoes when the music stops this time next year.
I’ll never forget what Ricciardo’s former F3 team manager, Gary Bonnor from Carlin Motorsport, said to me when I drove the car Ricciardo won the championship driving in 2009. ‘That boy is something else – every time he drove the car he was blinding. And he was on it from the moment he turned up at the circuit, much more so than some of the other drivers we’ve run’ said Bonnor – the very clear intimation being that Ricciardo was in a different league from one J Alguersuari, who’d driven for the team the year before.
And guess who drove and won for the exact same team the year after Ricciardo? You guessed it, Jean-Eric Vergne, who was ‘seriously quick and incredibly professional to go with it’ according to Bonnor.
What happens now if you are Sébastien Buemi or Jaime Alguesuari? Don’t know, don’t care – is the way the Red Bull management seems to feel about its former protoges. They got their chances and they didn’t so much blow them as ‘fail to smash it’ as the team might say.
In reality it’s probably a case of scratching around on the edges of F1, trying to secure a third driver deal, or decamping to DTM and/or Le Mans. Either way, there’s no longer a place for Buemi and Alguersuari at the table with the big red bull above the door.
What happens now if you are Daniel Ricciardo or Jean-Eric Vergne is another proposition altogether, of course. They both have their chances to shine, and shine they no doubt will. Mark Webber is not going to be around forever in the main team, after all, and both of them will fancy themselves to replace him this time next year.
But they better deliver in the meantime. In fact, according to the manuscript they will need to over-deliver next year, with the donation of at least one testicle towards the good of the team being a very possible requirement, too – otherwise it’ll be ‘thank you for calling, who’s next?’