WATN #1 - Jaime Alguersuari
Our new series explores the "what happened to" from motorsports yesteryears. In this instalment we start with the forgotten man of Toro Rosso, Jaime Alguersuari.
So picture this, it's 2009. Toro Rosso are coming into the season post their first win with a young Sebastian Vettel and a car that in certain conditions, seemed relatively competitive. On top of that, they signed another Sebastien to partner the multiple CART title winning Sebastian Bourdais with, well ...another Sebastien. Sebastien Buemi.
It seemed like a decent team to perhaps push for top six in the constructors and prove the Red Bull academy put in place a few years before was alive and well. However, midway through the season, results weren't quite going the way of one of the Sebastien's. That Sebastien being Bourdais.
Can I stop saying "Sebastien" now? 👀
According to Autosport, once a combination Gerhard Berger departing the team and his younger teammate being on par for pace pretty much from his first outing in the car saw this days numbered. The German Grand Prix that season would be Bourdais last in F1.
Cue the subject of today's profile. A 19 year old Formula Renault driver by the name of Jaime Alguersuari. Helmut Marko at this point thought he found a very promising driver! Afterall, in his first few years of motorsport he won the Italian Formula Renault 2.0 Winter Series, following it up with a runners-up in the main series. He subsequently followed it up by winning one of the most coveted F3 titles in the world, the British Formula 3 championship in 2008.
Pretty much though, whatever series he graced, he was winning races or regularly appearing on the podium. At the start of the 2009 season, his season was going relatively straightforward for a young up and coming driver, aged 19. He joined Carlin in the now defunct Formula Renault 3.5 series. You could look at this series as an almost GP2 equivalent, which at the time was making some noise as Formula 2's precursor.
Throughout the 2009 Formula Renault 3.5 season he showed some pace, however at the time of his switch to Red Bull, he had been 8th in the championship with one podium to his name. Hardly pulling up trees and behind drivers like Bertrand Bauguette (who eventually won the championship and went on to GT racing).
Curiously, in that season a few other drivers who'd make it to F1 at varying degrees of success were knocking about the championship. Drivers such as Charles Pic, Jules Bianchi, Brendon Hartley, Max Chilton and a certain Daniel Ricciardo all contested specific rounds.
When the doctor first signed Jaime however, he was replacing fellow Formula Renault 3.5 competitor Brendon Hartley as a reserve driver at Toro Rosso. Fairly standard for an F1 team to pick up a talented young driver as a reserve or free practice aficionado. Two weeks later though, he was replacing Bourdais to start his first Grand Prix in Hungary.
Interestingly, Bourdais who's F1 career never really took off the way his career in the States did, post a promising F3000 career, he had picked up 2 points in the 10 rounds he contested. Back then it was 1 point for 8th place and he nabbed 8th place twice. It's not like Toro Rosso were mega competitive either, finishing plum last in the constructors in 2009. Perhaps a bit harsh to drop him in favour of a driver who'd been performing OK in junior Formula, but such is the Helmut Marko way.
Getting back to Jaime though, he didn't really set the world alight in the poorest car in the field for the remaining races. Despite breaking Mike Thackwell's record in becoming the youngest driver to ever contest an F1 race at Hungary he had a fairly ordinary race. Qualifying plum last and coming in one place ahead of his teammate Buemi in 15th. The only other notable thing to happen to him in the 2009 season was a pretty spectacular crash in Japan chasing down his first points, which alas ended in the retirement column.
Toro Rosso decided however to continue with Jaime for another two seasons. Toro Rosso's 2010 season was as bad as their 2009 season, but they were saved from finishing last thanks to the advent of 3 new jokes ...I mean teams on the grid. The ill fated Lotus (no not that one), HRT and Virgin Racing teams propped up the foot of the constructors table. Jaime had an interesting season to say the least, scoring his first points with a 9th place in Malaysia and perhaps a standout personal achievement of grabbing a point at his home Grand Prix in Spain.
2011 was slightly better though, with Toro Rosso making improvements to their car. The new points system introduced in the previous season also saw the team pick up more points with Jaime scoring the haul of their points, finishing one place ahead of his teammate Buemi by 11 points. Despite some decent performances and career high finish of 7th at the Italian Grand Prix, his F1 career was abruptly over at the end of the season. Dr. Marko decided to fill the seats with fellow Red Bull junior drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne for 2012.
His career like so many talented drivers to grace F1 petered out into the role of Pirelli test driver for a couple of seasons. Particularly during the 'bad' times with Pirelli when their tires were old pieces of rubber banded together. Some might say, those were the good 'ol days of tyres. More deg please!
In 2014 however, he found himself signed up to Alejandro Agag's new Formula E series with Virgin Racing. This perhaps from the outside seemed like a lifeline for a lot of drivers who'd either been burnt by F1 or discarded too early. Some of the names competing in that first season were drivers who'd been around the lower reaches of the F1 grid in the past decade.
The initial grid could boast names such as Karun Chandok, Bruno Senna, Jerome d'Ambrosi, Sebastien Buemi, Jarno Trulli, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Lucas di Grassi, Nick Heidfeld, JEV, Charles Pic, Nelson Piquet Jr and Takuma Sato. All of these drivers had contested in a subpar or semi-decent F1 car at some point, decent field.
Jaime initially started well with a fastest lap at the second ever race in Malaysia, but that was about as high as the season got. Now in his mid-20's his career was slowly grinding to a halt, finishing 13th in the championship with 30 points. It seemed as though a once hotly tipped driver, with proven pace in junior categories was drifting away from motorsport and that is exactly what happened.
In 2015 he announced his retirement from motorsport citing a break up from a girlfriend or something. In this case, motorsport was the girlfriend he fell out of love with.
Meanwhile, in the background of his racing career he had been flying off to perform DJ sets. This being his huge passion. In the years that have followed his retirement, he has been performing at clubs such as Amnesia in Ibiza. Citing feelings of feeling like a puppet in F1, he described music as the vehicle that makes him feel truly free and has since followed his passion to great success.
Perhaps one of the more interesting stories we'll find going back over drivers post-F1 careers!
If you're interested in his music, you can check that out here.