Jaime Alguersuari made his F1 debut last year and yesterday got a one-year contract extension with Toro Rosso.
Briton Oliver Turvey was Alguersuari’s team mate for the last two seasons in Formula Three and Formula Renault 3.5. This year Turvey is racing in F1 feeder series GP2 – and believes Alguersuari’s progress proves that he too is ready to step up to Formula 1.
I spoke to Turvey at the Autosport International show where he was quick to praise Alguersuari’s performance so far:
It was fantastic he got an opportunity to race in Formula 1 and I think he did a good job considering the amount of mileage he had.
He showed he was competitive in some of the races. It’s good for me to know that I’ve raced with him and beaten him – last season I was quicker than him – and so I feel I can definitely race in Formula 1.
Turvey raced at two F1 weekends last year. He won the Formula Renault 3.5 support race at Monaco, which he described as his “biggest ever win”.
And he stepped up to GP2 Asia at the season finale in Abu Dhabi where he enjoyed a strong debut:
I scored points in both races. It was a good weekend, especially seeing as I had to miss the two-day test in Abu Dhabi because I was doing the last round of World Series by Renault in Spain. So I arrived late and we only had 30 minutes practice for me to get used to the cars and learn the Abu Dhabi track. There were a lot of new things to learn and I think, considering I’d only had ten laps in the car before qualifying, we did well.
In the races the car was strong and the pace was good, and we came through to eighth in race one. That put us one pole for race two, and I finished fourth, which I was quite happy with. Hopefully we can get on the podium in the next race.
Turvey remains with iSport for the 2009 season and will contest both GP2 Asia and the main F1-supporting GP2 championship. He already has some experience of the circuits on the F1 calendar:
I hope to be strong everywhere. Most of the circuits I know already, which is obviously a help. There’s a few I don’t know, like the Valencia street circuit and Turkey, which I’ve never been to.
One of the early events I’m looking forward to is round two in Monaco. Street circuits for me are very challenging, I love racing on streets. After winning on my debut last year I’d like to keep up my 100% record. It’s a special circuit, so many famous drivers have won there, and it’s regarded as one of the most challenging circuits.
I think Monaco will always be one of my favourites. I love racing at Spa as well, that’s another circuit I’m looking forward to this year.
Turvey is being supported by the Racing Steps Foundation, which helps promote talented British racing drivers who are struggling to find sponsorship.
He hopes his move up to GP2 will pave the way for a Formula 1 drive in 2011. But he knows he has to perform to make the grade:
My main focus this year is GP2 and hopefully if the results go well in that then we can get something in F1 the year after.
Nico Hülkenberg proved last year it’s possible for a rookie to win in their first year. And of course Lewis Hamilton did it too. I’ve got to approach the championship with the aim to win, and that’s iSport’s aim too.
He has already had an F1 test courtesy of winning the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in 2006:
That went really well, it was down in Jerez. I didn’t get so much time in the car, I had two eight-lap runs, but it went very well and I managed to set a competitive time. I think the team were really pleased with all the work I did, we were doing some tests for them for next season and I was able to contribute to that programme.
Hopefully there will be some more opportunities but the problem at the moment with F1 is testing is so limited, just getting an opportunity to test the car is quite difficult.
As well as his performance on the track, Turvey hopes his academic prowess will stand him in good stead for landing an F1 drive. He completed his degree in engineering at the University of Cambridge (which is my alma mater, so I’m obliged to support him!):
F1 is very technical and I think being a racing driver with an engineering degree will be very helpful in the future.
He was even given the first sporting ‘blue’ award for motor racing handed out by the university.
For now he’s got GP2 to conquer. He’s landed one of the top drives, with the iSport team Timo Glock took to the title in 2007, but he faces tough competition. Not just from experienced team mate Davide Valsecchi, but also Ferrari-backed Jules Bianchi driving for ART.
Look out for more GP2 and GP2 Asia coverage on F1 Fanatic throughout 2010.
Oliver Turvey’s career in pictures
Images: F3 (C) British F3; Formula Renault 3.5 (C) Renault, GP2 (C) GP2 Media Service/Drew Gibson, GP2 Asia (C) GP2 Media Service/Alastair Staley