The breakthrough success of a driver from a nation that has never before produced a world champion often paves the way for a generation of new talent from that country.
So it was with Michael Schumacher, now it may be the case with Fernando Alonso as well. Jaime Alguersuari looks to have the talent, the backing and the connections to become the next Spanish driver in Formula 1.
Alguersuari, 19, is the reigning British Formula Three champion. He snatched the title from the grasps of Carlin team mates Oliver Turvey and Brendan Hartley at the final round of the championship at Donington Park.
He came to the British series after two seasons in Formula Renault, including a championship win in the Italian winter series in 2006. Despite being bundled out of the first race at Oulton Park by Hartley, he bounced back to win in the second event.
By the end of the season Alguarsuari had five wins to his name and secured the title in one of the most competitive seasons of British F3 in recent years. As well as his competitive Carlin team mates, promising Mexican driver Sergio Perez (now in GP2) was also in the hunt for the championship.
A step up to World Series by Renault for this year surprised few people as his father helped set up the series. Alguersuari is still partnering Turvey, and at the halfway point in the series lies ninth in the championship.
Turvey, fifth, won the Monaco round. But for the time being it is Alguersuari who seems to have the strongest connections for an F1 drive.
Red Bull backing
He has just taken over from Hartley as Red Bull’s nominated third driver. Although this involves little testing at present due to the ban, it puts him in a position where he could be drafted in to replace Sebastian Vettel or Mark Webber if they have to miss a race.
Being a Red Bull junior driver gives Alguersuari a great opportunity to graduate to F1 in one of the teams’ four seats. Earlier this month he declared he has his sights on a Toro Rosso drive in 2010. It would be a big step up for a driver with just one season of WSR under his belt, but we’ve seen in the past that Red Bull are happy to take gambles on driver talent.
If that weren’t enough, the arrival of Spanish team Campos next year could present another avenue into the sport for Alguersuari. He carries the backing from Spanish petrol company Repsol on his car and overalls, who have sponsored teams and drivers in F1 before.
Alguersuari’s record may not make him stand out as an obvious candidate for immediate promotion to F1. But he is young enough, shows enough promise and is sufficiently well connected for it to look quite likely that he’ll end up on the F1 grid.
Whether Red Bull should get him into the car quickly, or give him a little more time to develop at the lower levels, will as usual be grounds for debate.
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Jaime Alguersuari in action
Images (C) Renault, British F3