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Talk on Corners
Christopher Wheelahan

Chris first caught the F1 flu back in 2003 but lost track due to the snooze-fest that was the 2004 season. In 2010 Chris rediscovered the sport and has become enthralled since. He makes no claims to be a superb writer or journalist but only an obsessive follower of motorsport, particularly F1. Nowadays Chris spends his spare time experimenting with cocktails and wasting time with Musical Theatre types. He does not enjoy long walks on the beach… sorry.

One most valuable Spaniard // Where the real value lies in Spanish racing driver potential

Published

If I asked you who the most valuable Spanish driver in F1 was today, 100 percent of you would say Fernando Alonso. If I asked you who the best value was, most of you would still say Alonso but I would argue otherwise. Don’t get me wrong – I think he’s the best driver on the grid this season, and he has been for some time. Anyone who can make a dog like the F2012 look as good as he does is not just massively talented, but a true gift to the sport.

Despite his prodigious skill though, he’s a bit of a dog himself. Remember when he boxed Lewis Hamilton out of the McLaren pits a few years back? Nobody needs that kind of pettiness on their team, and I expect that’s why Ferrari decided to keep Felipe on for another season. Fernando likes Massa because he is an experienced but not threatening driver. Another reason I think Fernando is overpriced is because, well, he is. According to Forbes, he makes $32 million per season. To put that in perspective he gets paid about $1.6 million per race, or $5,000 per kilometer. Fernando makes about the same as the entire GDP of the nation of Tuvalu. He could move to Tuvalu and literally double the GDP! Let’s not talk about Kiribati, okay?

So what, exactly, am I getting on about? No, I’m not saying that Pedro de la Rosa is the best deal in F1 at the moment. Jaime Alguersuari, on the other hand, is the best deal not in F1 at the moment.

A wealth of some experience

With all the rising stars that I’m so often writing about and the king-sized mattresses full of money being thrown about the paddock for pay-drivers, it’s easy to get lost looking for the spiritual successor to a young Hamilton, Vettel or Schumacher. It’s sometimes harder to look at the more obvious choices and consider them as a real asset. One can just say ‘well he was underwhelming, won’t see him again’ and move on, but I don’t think it’s always wise to do so.

It seems nowadays that young drivers enter F1 with more money than talent and the teams are so blinded by it that their publicity machines almost convince themselves that Pastor Maldonado is the next World Champion. Might I submit for a moment, that you team bosses of the world take off your green-tinted glasses and think further ahead than next season?

The Jaime Alguersuari experience
The Jaime Alguersuari experienceCredit: Gilham/Getty

Jaime Alguersuari has scored points in one out of every five races he’s entered, and in a sub-standard car. He’s started in two and a half seasons of Formula 1. Last year he likely would have scored points in 6 of 7 races if Bruno Senna hadn’t driven like he had stolen his parents’ Clio at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix. Perhaps most importantly, Alguersuari hasn’t spent the last three years pin-balling off his competitors to win GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5 or any of the other junior formulas. Long story made short, he’s got skillz-with-a-zee (or zed, if you’re all Commonwealth-y) and experience enough to do a good job.

Emphasis on the ‘some experience’

Despite being a fairly well rounded driver with some Grands Prix to his name, he is not so old that he’s out of it. He could still be the next big thing. The guy is 22 years old, not exactly looking to retire anytime soon. I haven’t done the math (or maths, if you’re all Commonwealth-y) but I’d be willing to bet he has the highest Grands Prix started to age ratio today, and that is a good thing.

Now, all the big teams are settled up for 2013, but hypothetically if a team like Ferrari wanted to take him on as a number-two driver, it could work out nicely. Fernandito has another probably eight years or so left in him so Jaime would probably never make it to primary driver status, but he could be a solid, points-scoring, non-threatening number-two driver for the Scuderia then maybe switch over to another big-name team. A certain, well-respected F1 journalist has suggested that it will more likely be Mark Webber driving the second crimson stallion in 2014 and he’s probably right, but Alguersuari may be a logical second choice for a second driver.

…and the ace up his sleeve

Tires (or tyres, yeah… you get it) have been the story this year. They will be again next year too, I would imagine, and for years to come. They’ve not only been the deciding factor in battles here and there, but they’ve been the deciding factor in nearly every race this season. Do you think Nico Rosberg would have won a race if McLaren or Red Bull weren’t struggling with the tires? Credit where credit is due, Nico’s a good driver but he’s in a pretty underwhelming car. So it would make sense that some foresight and advance knowledge of the tire situation next year would be pretty advantageous.

DJ Squire - weddings, parties, anything
DJ Squire - weddings, parties, anythingCredit: Thompson/Getty

Jaime Alguersuari to the rescue! He’s been the Pirelli test driver for this year and has been working with the team on developing next year’s tires. Even if his experience on next year’s actual compounds has been limited, his working with the Pirelli team will still prove invaluable to whichever team deigns to hire him.

So let’s recap: he’s experienced but not too experienced, he possesses valuable knowledge of the tires, he’s relatively cheap to employ, he hasn’t stabbed anyone in the neck with a champagne flute and he can provide some dance-jams at all of your victory parties (DJ Squire in the heezy!). Why wouldn’t teams be jumping at the opportunity to give Jaime a race seat? My gut feeling is that some team or other will realize this soon.

The rumor mill says that Nico Hülkenburg will move over to Sauber next year. I don’t really see the logic in this but many seem to think it’s already a done deal, so there. This will leave a spot open at Force India, likely leaving space for Sutil or Alguersuari. Did I mention the champagne flute incident? Other possibilities for the Spaniard could include Sauber if they decide Hulk’s not the way to go or Caterham. If Marussia or HRT offers the spot, I would hope Jaime bides his time in testing and in sports cars or something. The back-markers are still going nowhere fast, and even Caterham is a stretch with them being behind Marussia at the moment.

So there you have it: the best bet not in Formula 1 today. Besides… have you seen those eyes? Lady-killer.




  • I think he's pretty good but we can't say he's race winning material yet. He might be. All we know is he had to sit trolling around mostly near the back for a few years, and because his teammate had even less experience than him we can't really judge whether that was car or driver. All we can really say is that he's roughly as good as Buemi. It might turn out that Buemi is pretty good too (and his drives with Toyota suggest he might be).

    Like many screwed by Toro Rosso he definitely deserves another shot and we'll reevaluate him in a year.

    I hope it isn't Force India though, nothing against that team at all, arguably they've better potential than Sauber, but they're - potentially - about to get dumped in a lot of mess when Mallya falls, and their current drivers know it which is why the both tried to leave (one had Perez picked over him, the other could be taking that Sauber seat).

  • By the way, I don't think Alonso is underpaid at all. That's what you pay a double world champion who's spent much of the year leading the championship in the 3rd best car!

  • *overpaid

  • Merge HRT and Epsilon Euskadi + hire Jamie to drive = Spanish super team.

    Problem solved.

  • Merge HRT and Epsilon Euskadi + hire Jamie to drive = Spanish super team.

    I like it.

  • By the way, I don't think Alonso is underpaid at all. That's what you pay a double world champion who's spent much of the year leading the championship in the 3rd best car!

    I know this is a ridiculous argument, but I'd I got paid the same per mile as Alonso, I'd be making $4.6mil / week.

    Like I said, he's the best driver in Motorsport today (Sebastian Loeb is really the only contention in my book). I just think the "top-tier" driver market is inflated on the whole.

  • I know this is a ridiculous argument, but I'd I got paid the same per mile as Alonso, I'd be making $4.6mil / week.

    hehe.

    although that assumes fernando is only offering value when the lights go green until the lights go red.

  • i like jaime. it's great that there's more to him than just driving cars.

    If Marussia or HRT offers the spot, I would hope Jaime bides his time in testing and in sports cars or something.

    his ex-team mate buemi is doing just that. no idea how he's getting on mind you. at least on 5live jaime has some kind of f1 visibility, no matter how small.

    that said, davidson tried the commentary route and still ended up in sportscars.

  • although that assumes fernando is only offering value when the lights go green until the lights go red.

    Like I said... Ludicrous argument.

  • Commonwealth-y or correct as we call it :P

    Forget about Jamie its James (Calado) we all need to worry about next season! Best GP2 debut season since Nico Hulkenberg and hes got no money for GP2 next year or the young drivers test! It would be a crime if he has to go off to America or F2 due to a lack of cash! Get that man a ride!

    As for Alguersuari, he was okay but didn't exactly set the world on fire. If anything he was just notable for being young which isn't really a talent. In fact we've all done it! Also surely for all those that write about F1 not having to look up how to spell his name every 2 sentences is a blessing!

  • Like I said... Ludicrous argument.

    :)

  • Anyone who can make a dog like the F2012 look as good as he does is not just massively talented...

    Most of the credit for that has to go to Felipe Massa for making the F2012 look like a dog in the first place.

  • As for Alguersuari, he was okay but didn't exactly set the world on fire.

    Agreed, but it's hard to set anything aside from yourself on fire in a Toro Rosso. My point is that he's got valuable knowledge and he wouldn't be the worst driver to get a second shot.

  • Hmmm....

    Prefer blondes myself but as this is about Spaniards I guess we are a bit stuck there....

    Just don't see Jamie as a great talent.... Maybe deserving of a grid slot, but a bit like one of the less inspiring fashion trends.... not a 'must have'...

  • I don't think the guy deserved to be ditched from STR but I'm not that convinced that he's a great talent either. I do reckon he will get a drive this year as a modicum of talent and daddy's money should ease his way to a seat. Cynical? hell yeah!

  • Cynical? hell yeah!

    it's the best way ;)

  • Merge HRT and Epsilon Euskadi + hire Jamie to drive = Spanish super team.

    Problem solved.

    Except EE no longer exist...

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