Sebastien Bourdais has been given the nod by Toro Rosso for next season, alongside Sebastien Buemi. That’s three Sebastien’s in two seasons for that team, they seem to have a production line.
I liked the look of Bourdais at the start and end of last season, but he fell away in the middle when Toro Rosso got the new car in Monaco and once it got the power boost of the latest spec engines from Ferrari around Silverstone time, Vettel was able to do far more with it. Towards the end of the year, however, Bourdais got his act together and put in some very impressive showings, especially in Belgium and Japan.
Bourdais is an intelligent driver, blindingly competitive in Champ Car, who found the adjustment to F1 harder than he imagined. He definitely has the credentials and the speed for F1, that much is clear from his F3000 days and Champ Car, but the difference between a promising driver and one who delivers in F1 is all in the head and there were times last year when he seemed to be cracking up. He wasn’t always able to deliver up the killer lap in qualifying when the speed was clearly in the car. He took failure really badly and was in tears in Fuji when Massa and he collided and he was penalised and I think he really struggled to deal with Vettel doing a better job in the same car. It was also clear that the team and the Red Bull establishment all love Vettel and saw him as their golden boy and when you’ve been used to having it all your own way and being feted as the ultimate champion (as Bourdais was in the USA for years) that must take some dealing with.
Some racing drivers don’t need reassurance, but the vast majority do and Bourdais is in that camp, I reckon. That said, I think he’ll do well this year, even though I imagine Toro Rosso might fall back in competitiveness a little. But I’ve not seen anything from Buemi which makes me think he’s another Vettel. He does have powerful support from Helmut Marko, who is an important man in Mr Mateschitz’s racing world.
As I said yesterday Buemi is a rookie and there’s probably never been a tougher time to be a rookie in F1, with so little opportunity to drive the car outside of race weekends. The other really tough time I can remember was 1993 when drivers were limited on practice and qualifying laps. I worked closely with Michael Andretti for US TV that year and it was a nightmare for him.
With that in mind, having some experience and technical ability not ot mention continuity in the other car will be important for Toro Rosso.
The news leaves Takuma Sato again out of F1. He has had his chances, more than Anthony Davidson, but like his former F3 team mate, he finds himself on the shelf and it is tough to imagine a way back in.