Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Driver File: Sebastien Bourdais

Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Bourdais is a rookie in Formula One, but by no means is he inexperienced. He is truly one of great versatile drivers of this era and his talent should have landed him in F1 a long time ago.

He did well in lower formula and in 2002 claimed the championship in F3000, the old equivalent to the current GP2 Series. He was doing some testing for Arrows and Renault in 2002 and Renault were very much looking to get a French driver on the F1 driver roster. The top 3 names they were interested in where Bourdais, Franck Montagny and Romain Dumas. After his efforts Bourdais signed a contract to race with Arrows for the 2003 season, but the team went bankrupt and shut down their operation. There was an opportunity at Renault in which he pushed hard to get, but the test seat went to Montagny. It seemed like a good fit, a quality French driver in an Anglo-French team but it just was not to be and Bourdais felt snubbed.

So, for 2003 Bourdais signed with Newman-Haas to race in the United States in the Champcar World Series, a formula similar to Formula One. In that period of time, Sebastien became the most successful driver in that series' history. In 5 seasons, he amassed 31 wins and 4 straight championships. His win percentage was a mind boggling 43%.

In that period he continued to try and get into Formula One. However, he was snubbed each and every time. He was even snubbed a second time by Renault. Feeling jilted he had these words in regards to Renault, "I don't get any slap anymore from Renault, especially the last winter. I know I don't belong there. I don't expect anything. They've got their own policy. I'm not a part of their strategy. It's fair enough. I was just a little disappointed that they kind of nailed me like they did during the winter."

In November of 2006, he basically gave up his bid to get into Formula One. "I think it's over. It's frustrating but there are loads of talented drivers who never went to F1...one can always say it's unfair but that's F1, and it's never been fair." It would have been a miscarriage of justice if the talent of Bourdais sat on the F1 fence on the outside looking in. However not a month went by after those demoralizing words that he got the opportunity to test for Scuderia Toro Rosso. In the brief opportunity he got, he showed Toro Rosso that he belonged and was given the race driver for the 2008 season. He was obligated to finish his contract with Newman-Haas in Champcar for the 2007 season.

2008 has been a learning experience and a trial for Bourdais. He has been outqualified by superstar teammate in the making Sebastian Vettel. At times he has driven well but he has not capitalized on the car's improved performance with race results. Bourdais is being outscored by Vettel 27 to 4. He has attributed the lack of pace to the car not suiting his driving style. The Toro Rosso car handling characteristics are low-speed oversteer and high-speed understeer; and according to him, since the French Grand Prix the car has been undriveable due to the aerodynamic package. Nevertheless, Bourdias will adjust and perform at the level that we are all accustom to.


kevin said...

nice post
i thought you were an anti-Bourdais ^^. hope that STR will sign him at least for an other season and that the next car will suit him, cause this year was a total disaster for the good driver he is

Pete DaSilva said...

Nah, I really like Bourdais and respect his skill. I just try to be objective in terms of driver performances. If I think a driver is doing well, I will say it. If I think a driver is underperforming I will also say it.

I really hope the folks at STR really get behind Bourdais.