Teenage debutant proves his doubters wrong

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The Independent Online

He came and he saw, and while he might not yet have conquered, 19-year-old rookie Jaime Alguersuari proved that suggestions he would be out of his depth as the replacement at Toro Rosso for Sebastien Bourdais were wide of the mark.

Three-time world champion Niki Lauda yesterday suggested that the Spaniard's graduation would be "dangerous."

Alguersuari looked at home right from the start of morning practice, staying on the track while luminaries such as Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso strayed off course, and lapping fewer than three-tenths of a second slower than team-mate Sebastien Buemi.

In the afternoon Buemi lapped in 1m 23.176secs to his 1m 23.942secs, but to end the day only 1.9secs shy of fastest man Lewis Hamilton, in his first laps in an F1 car, could by no stretch of the imagination be termed dangerous.

"I don't care what anyone says," Alguersuari said. "I am here to learn. I know my level of experience, and my target was not to make any mistakes. I don't care about my speed right now, and I don't think I'm a danger.

"This morning I was very happy and felt very confident. I got a good feeling from the car. There were so many things to get used to: the different types of tyre compounds, runs on high fuel and runs on low fuel, the brakes, but it's one steering wheel and three pedals just like any other racing car."

The death of his friend and former team-mate Henry Surtees at Brands Hatch last Sunday added unexpected further pressure on Alguersuari as, at 19 years and 125 days old, he prepares to become the youngest driver ever to start an F1 race.

"I got to know Henry at Donington last year when he came to drive in F3 with Carlin, and on the Thursday before the race he and I went to Alton Towers," he said. "We spent the day going around together and got on really well. To hear the news, especially this week, means a lot to me.

"The risk is something every driver knows, we all know there is this very small possibility. I will try and do my best in the future and for the Surtees family this weekend."