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GP Week : Issue 116
Formula 1 FEATURE >> their direct opponents: “ We still have to understand what changed from last year, because we are really struggling. The tyres are very different and we still aren’t 100%, like all the other teams, I think. Anyway, we’ll have to be smart and understand it before the others, so that we can find a way to reduce rear tyre wear and go faster. Let ’s take Sauber’s example: their cars seem at our same level in qualifying, but on Sunday, in the race, it is able to set times on used tyres which leave us completely stunned. They manage with just one pit stop, while we have to do three. That’s all that matters: the race, the race, the race!” On the other hand, the Catalunyan driver seems less worried by the other changes to the 2011 Formula One technical regulations: the Kinetic Energy Recovery System and the Drag Reduction System: “I think we reached a good level on these two features, above all since we performed a lot of simulator testing and in the first few races we understood them well. I don’t see them as a big problem for what concerns the per formance, because it’s the same for everybody. Of course, the only limit is that all this gets you busier in the driving seat and makes you take the hands off the steering wheel.” About this and other subjects, regarding his career, the Spanish driver spoke, a few minutes after our interview, in front of hundreds of students alongside his engineer Gianvito Amico. Days after turning 21, Alguersuari is used to beating precocious records. In Formula One, at 19 years and 125 days, he became the youngest rookie of all time. The previous year, he had been the youngest race winner in British Formula Three and, before that, the youngest Spanish karting champion. He took to the steering wheel having dropped his tennis racquet – he was a very strong junior player. “WhatdoIfeelbeinga driver? It’s simply my job, since I was eight, when I started racing in karts. Then I came to Italy and so on until now. I like driving, I like challenges, races, bringing the car over the limit.” Then (even before climbing into his father’s Seat, in which he would eventually take his driving test) Formula Renault 2.0 in Italy, Formula Three and World Series by Renault, abruptly interrupted halfway through the 2009 season in order to replace the underachieving Sebastien Bourdais at Scuderia Toro Rosso. “I found myself debuting in the Hungarian Grand Prix, without having ever sat in a Formula One car,” he recalls now. Those who know him well reveal that was the most difficult period of his life. The Spaniard managed not to give in to pressure, but the results on track, due to his complete inexperience, were nothing to write home about. At the end of the year, when he expected to get his dues, his efforts seemed to have been pointless: “ To secure the renewal for the following year, I spent all winter in Spain looking for sponsors.” This didn’t seem an impossible task, thanks to his popularity (which he gained the previous year by starring in a popular TV ad for Repsol) and F1’s increasing audience in Spain, thanks largely to Fernando Alonso’s success. The economic crisis, though, was a stubborn opponent: 33