Sebastien Bourdais: the driver debates

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, Monte-Carlo, 2008, 470150

For many years, Sebastien Bourdais was the driver everyone thought deserved a crack at Formula 1.

He won the Formula 3000 championship (since replaced by GP2) and claimed the final four Champ Car titles before the series collapsed.

With only six Formula 1 starts to his name it’s hard to draw solid conclusions about his potential. What do you think of his career so far?

Bourdais was originally expected to graduate to Formula 1 with Renault after his F3000 title win in 2002 (at the expense of Tomas Enge, disqualified from one round due to a drugs infringement).

Bourdais, however, did not want to have his racing career managed by the man who was also Renault’s team boss, Flavio Briatore. Instead he tested for Arrows and was being lined up for a race seat when the team collapsed.

Unable to find an alternative route into Formula 1 Bourdais went racing in America, joining the Newman-Haas Champ Car team that had won titles with the likes of Nigel Mansell. In his maiden season he won three times and was fourth in the championship.

The Champ Car series had been mortally weakened following the Indy Car split and over the following years grid sizes dwindled and the quality of some of the entries was poor. But Bourdais still faced some talented opposition in the form of Paul Tracy and Justin Wilson, and he saw them off comprehensively to win four consecutive championships and 31 races from 73 starts.

Finally an F1 team realised his potential – Toro Rosso signed him to drive for 2008. Bourdais kept clear of trouble in his first race to finish seventh, although he had been even higher before his engine failed with three laps to go.

Since then his performances have been patchy. He and Sebastian Vettel have out-qualified each other three times. Bourdais has had a few crashes at Sepang, Monte-Carlo and Istanbul, although the latter may have been caused by car failure.

The worry for Bourdais is that, with Toro Rosso now up for sale, and Vettel already expected to be at Red Bull next year, he may be left out in the cold.