Jaime Alguersuari has opened up on his decision to retire from motorsport, and how his relationship with F1, Red Bull and Helmut Marko still affects him.
The 32-year-old spent two-and-a-half seasons competing in Formula 1, racing for Toro Rosso (which later became AlphaTauri) from 2009 to 2011.
As victims of Red Bull’s infamous young driver programme, both he and then-teammate Sebastien Buemi were dropped from Red Bull’s ‘junior’ team for 2012.
His only other F1-related stint was as Pirelli’s test driver, a role he occupied in 2012 and 2013, before taking a seat at Virgin Racing in Formule E’s inaugural season in 2014.
However, after fainting at the end of the 2015 Moscow ePrix, he elected to end his professional motorsport career, turning his attention to the music industry.
In an interview with Spanish publication El Confidential, Alguersuari exlpained the worrying circumstances around his motorsport retirement.
“Look, I think the body is the representation of the soul, and in the end, you have to listen to yourself,” said Alguersuari.
“You can ask my former team-mate in Formula E, Sam Bird. It was a very difficult year with the car. I didn’t want to travel, I didn’t want to go to races. I didn’t wake up wanting to do that, I didn’t enjoy when I put my helmet on, racing.
“I had a huge frustration inside me that wouldn’t let me live. I had a hatred that wasn’t just against Helmut Marko and Red Bull. It was against the world of motorsport.
“But I didn’t want to be bitter, which is what many people saw from the outside. I see it now when I read the interviews from back then. I say to myself: “wow, this guy wasn’t right”.
“And my body was somatising all that, putting up with a life that exploded at one point. In Moscow that was a physical warning, which had never happened to me in my life. I had to stop. Because I wasn’t well. I needed a reset in my life. From then on things changed, and they have been very different.”
Alguersuari: F1 trauma means ‘I wake up crying’
Alguersuari conceded that the environment he was in, along with the high-pressure demands set by Red Bull’s Motorsport Advisor Helmut Marko, still affect him to this day.
“I’m going to tell you something: I still dream, when I sleep I have very strange dreams, very strange dreams from all that time,” he added.
“Above all the helplessness and frustration of never meeting expectations, of seeing Mr. Marko always angry, telling me off. As if we were children. I see myself like that.
“This has created a trauma, and I’m convinced that Buemi, and many others, are going through it too. I have not been able to clean this, I have done therapies, and when I retired several psychologists helped me to deal with this to make a new life, but I wanted to deal with this to clean everything I had lived before.
“Now, even so, strange things come into my head. And sometimes I wake up like crying, when I’ve done a great lap, and I find Mr. Marko’s face and he’s angry. All this, since you’re fifteen years old… Strange calls that hang up on you in a minute…”
More people involved in F1 dismissal than just Marko
Such was the intensity of the Red Bull driver programme, Alguersuari made his F1 debut at the 2009 Hungarian GP, breaking the previous record for youngest driver to start an F1 race (19 years, 125 days).
The then-21-year-old lost his F1 seat after just over two seasons, along with Buemi, and both were replaced with Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Whilst Alguersuari believes that he never received a proper explanation from Marko for losing his seat, he doesn’t think the decision was made entirely by the Austrian.
“I never saw him [Marko] again. And I would like to,” added Alguersuari.
“The only thing I know about all that is that when Franz Tost called me the day after the Cepsa event at eight o’clock in the morning to tell us that Red Bull couldn’t help us anymore and that he had bad news… And he hung up on me, because I guess he didn’t want to talk to me.
“I pick up the phone, and I call Helmut Marko directly. “Is this a joke? “You’ve heard, haven’t you?”. “What’s this about, Helmut?”. And he says, “I couldn’t do anything.” [Silence]. It’s done, years have passed, but it made me understand that at Red Bull it’s not just one person who decides, but a ‘board’ behind the decisions, with different interests.
“But it was clear to me that Marko doesn’t decide, from what he told me. And that was the last time I spoke to him. When I was a commentator with the BBC I said hello to him in the paddock, nothing else.”