It is highly unlikely that many were more shocked than Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari yesterday afternoon following the driver announcement at the Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula 1 squad for 2012.
The young duo, who have been partnered together at Toro Rosso squad since the middle of 2009, were both dropped by the team in favour of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost remarked that he was “…pleased that we have been able to reach an early decision on our drivers for next year, because it means we can all give our full attention to 2012, without any distractions.”
While I have little issue with his choice of driver line-up, it has to be said that the middle of December is not exactly early.
Tost also noted “…when Scuderia Toro Rosso was established in 2005, it was done so with the intention of providing a first step into Formula 1 for the youngsters in the Red Bull Junior Driver programme. It is therefore part of the team’s culture to change its driver line-up from time to time in order to achieve this goal.”
Again, no issues here, but one wonders if the lack of an experienced hand harmed the progress of Buemi and Alguersuari in the first place?
Ricciardo has some little experience, but not much, while Vergne has painfully little car racing behind him. With the days of mass testing now a memory, are a few seasons of basic car racing realistically enough for Vergne?
This is not to take away from Vergne’s success in the junior categories, such as British Formula 3 and Formula Renault 3.5, but the Frenchman is being propelled into Formula 1 with a similar experience level to that of Alguersuari when he was promoted in the middle of 2009.
Alas, the lateness of the decision leaves painfully few good opportunities for Buemi and Alguersuari going into next year.
Even outside of Formula 1, the pair may struggle to source a competitive seat, irrespective of the Championship, although it is not inconceivable that they may find themselves in a World Endurance Championship programme. Yet that avenue presents a similar solution, in that front-running doors are closing quickly.
The problem here is not that Alguersuari and Buemi have been dropped, but rather they have been let go at a time when a majority of motorsport’s solid opportunities have been taken.
I wish both Ricciardo and Vergne all the best, but one hopes to not be writing a similar piece in two years time, on the off chance Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniil Kvyat step into Red Bull’s junior Formula 1 team.