Former Red Bull Junior Driver Recalls ‘Trauma’ on His Way Up the F1 Ladder


Jaime Alguersuari at the 2011 Japanese Grand Prix.

Jaime Alguersuari at the 2011 Japanese Grand Prix.
Photo: Peter Fox (Getty Images)

When Jaime Alguersuari retired from motorsport, he was a mere 25 years old but had already seen enough of the racing world to burn him out. His struggles largely stemmed from his backing by the Red Bull Junior Program, which had provided support through his career and ultimately landed him a seat in Formula 1. Now, he’s opening up about the trauma he still holds from his years in the program.

Alguersuari made his debut in F1 at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, during which time he was a mere 19 years old and became the youngest F1 driver to compete in a race. He was ushered into the sport as a mid-season replacement for Sébastian Buemi despite his lack of experience being called into question — and it promptly kicked off a dismal 2.5-season run with Scuderia Toro Rosso. In his first season, Alguersuari failed to score a single point. The following year, he was outperformed by his teammate. At the end of 2011, his final year of F1, Alguersuari and Buemi were both replaced by Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo.

Three years later, Alguersuari returned to racing to compete with Virgin in the brand-new Formula E series, but before the finale doubleheader in London, he announced his retirement from motorsport, citing unspecified health conditions, a lack of love for the sport, and the temporary suspension of his racing license. He moved into a DJ career instead.

Now, Buemi has opened up to Spanish outlet El Confidencial about his traumatizing time in motorsport, as reported by The Race:

Speaking to Spanish outlet El Confidencial, Alguersuari acknowledged that he was “lucky to be helped by Red Bull for many years”, but stressed that he was “full of ego and prickly” in his time in F1.

He badly struggled to make peace with being cut loose by Red Bull. “It made me a childish person,” he said. And though he feels he has changed, he still feels the impact of being in the Red Bull pressure-cooker.

“I tell you something – when I sleep, I still have very strange dreams of that time,” he said. “Especially about the impotence and the frustration of never making it, of seeing Mr. [Helmut] Marko always angry, telling us off. As if we were children.

“This has created a trauma – and I am convinced that Buemi and many others are also going through it.

“I have not been able to erase this. I have done therapy, when I retired several psychologists helped me… now, even so, strange things come to my head. And sometimes wake up, like, crying, having dreamt of having done a great lap only to see the face of Mr. Marko, angry.”

While it wasn’t explicitly mentioned at the time of his retirement, it was rumored that Alguersuari was struggling with that nasty split from Red Bull. He had mentioned it had impacted his mental health, but details about the matter were few and far between.

And Alguersuari’s experience didn’t happen in a vacuum. Red Bull also allegedly put pressure on driver Jean-Eric Vergne to maintain such a low weight during races in order to be more competitive with his teammate Daniel Ricciardo that he was taken to the hospital after events. Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat have both experienced the cruelty of promotion and then demotion between Red Bull Racing and junior team Scuderia Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri). Time and again, Red Bull’s Junior Program has displayed a tendency to show favor to one driver, often at the detriment of everyone else.

Alguersuari continued in El Confidencial that he has made some tentative peace with the decision from Red Bull but that there are still aspects of it that bother him. For example, he argues that Red Bull held something of a grudge against both him and Carlos Sainz Jr. due to the fact that both drivers had famous fathers. Of course, it’s worth noting that Red Bull’s current lead driver, Max Verstappen, also has a famous father.

However, the fact that Alguersuari was so deeply impacted on a mental and emotional level should imply that changes needed to be made within the Red Bull program. Recent reports that Yuki Tsunoda has sought a sport psychologist to temper his moods could be a promising sign — or it could be the exact opposite.

Whatever the case, Alguersuari is once again finally returning to the motorsport world, this time in the form of karting. At 32 years old, it’s a bit late to get his restart, but it’s good to see him making more peace with what was an immensely difficult time.


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