Autosport magazine today printed a snippet from Giorgio Ascanelli, Toro Rosso’s highly respected technical director, who has previously worked with Ayrton Senna and Sebastian Vettel. Ascanelli has frequently praised Vettel and compared him to the legendary Brazilian driver.
Ascanelli told Autosport that the current drivers may have peaked. "I believe they (Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari) are complete. They have done what they can and I don't think that after 50 races there is a margin for improvement."
Whilst Ascanelli will not ultimately decide Toro Rosso’s line up, his words will be heeded by Dr Helmut Marko. He on the other hand will decide their line up for next year.
In Marko’s ideal world, Mark Webber retires. However, that isn’t the case for 2012, leaving Marko with four drivers for two spaces.
Rumours circulate of spaces for his protégés at Caterham and HRT, although Ascanelli’s words point towards neither Buemi nor Alguersuari being retained.
2011 has been STR’s best year since 2008, with several top 10 results and a real chance of 7th in the championship. Alguersuari saved his bacon with points in Valencia and has followed that up with several impressive drives.
Team principals of the top teams have given polite comments regarding Alguersuari, although of course they will be unable to see the data.
Ascanelli’s words are intriguing. When Vettel was at STR, there were regular press releases praising the young German. Very few words have emerged from STR praising the current line-up. Similarly, no driver at STR has lasted as long as Sebastien Buemi.
The men inside STR know what they want, and that’s a driver as good as Vettel. Judging by words from Ascanelli and Marko, the current duo is not good enough. Are we about to see a fresh line up of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne at the Red Bull Junior Team next season?
Vergne has complicated the situation. Red Bull expected to him to be ready at the start of 2013, not 2012. His good form in World Series by Renault - he finished 2nd in the championship - means there is a 4th driver on the scene, when Marko expected just 3.
One option could be to keep one driver as a barometer for the newbie. In that case, Alguersuari looks more likely to keep his seat than Buemi. Both are good drivers, but the lack of praise from those that know suggests they aren’t superstars.