Sebastien Bourdais’ troubles show why IndyCar drivers struggle in modern F1

Posted on | Author Duncan Stephen

Sebastien Bourdais made his last F1 start at the Nurburgring
Sebastien Bourdais made his last F1 start at the Nurburgring

F1 Fanatic guest writer Duncan Stephen, who writes Vee8, looks at how Indy Car drivers have fallen out of fashion in F1.

The departure of Sébastien Bourdais from Toro Rosso brings into focus two trends that have emerged in the driver market.

The first is the high turnover of drivers in the Red Bull teams, particularly Toro Rosso. This has been picked up elsewhere (including on F1 Fanatic and James Allen’s blog), so I will discuss it only briefly.

But another aspect has not been mentioned quite as much – the trend away from drivers who made their name in IndyCar.

Red Bull’s driver management

In its short history, Toro Rosso has built up a history of managing its drivers poorly. Since Toro Rosso’s first season in 2006, the team has gone through six different drivers. That is more than almost any other team, although McLaren has also gone through six in the past four years. The Woking-based squad has had some high profile driver management problems of its own in that period – first with Juan Pablo Montoya, then with Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

Back to Toro Rosso’s problems, the team’s management famously had a rift with Scott Speed in 2007 which ended in the driver accusing Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost of physically assaulting him. Needless to say, that was the end of his relationship with the team. Toro Rosso’s other driver at the time, Vitantonio Liuzzi, also ended up being disillusioned with the situation and has since cut his ties with Red Bull.

The parent Red Bull team has not had the most stable of situations with its drivers either. Its first season in 2005, also involving Liuzzi, was a disaster on this front. Although they had brought in veteran David Coulthard, who would serve as a stabilising influence and remains on the team’s books to this day, Red Bull intended to share their second seat between two drivers, Liuzzi and Christian Klien.

At first the promise was for the two Red Bull Junior Team graduates to be given roughly equal time in the race seat, with the drivers swapping places every few races. But this policy was quietly dropped after Liuzzi’s first four races, after which Klien became the permanent second driver.

Klien stayed on for the following season, but the relationship with Red Bull soon soured. Klien was not offered another year at Red Bull Racing, and was instead offered a drive at a Red Bull-backed ChampCar team. Klien baulked at this idea, and severed his ties with Red Bull, being replaced by Robert Doornbos for the remainder of the season. Following a stint at Honda, Klien is currently BMW’s reserve driver.

Red Bull heavily invests in young driver talent through its Red Bull Junior Team programme. This is the official explanation for Red Bull’s constantly changing driver line-up – it wants to give as many of its drivers a seat in F1 as possible.

This is supposed to be the raison d’?â?¬tre of Toro Rosso – but cynics say it is there to share costs with the main Red Bull team. For instance, why did S?â?®bastien Bourdais – not a Red Bull Junior driver – got a race seat there? Moreover, neither of Red Bull’s longest-serving drivers, David Coulthard and Mark Webber, were nurtured by Red Bull.

Red Bull point to the success of Sebastian Vettel, saying that he is proof of the success of Red Bull’s approach towards driver development. But the fact is that BMW can have a better claim to having prepared Sebastian Vettel for F1. It was BMW who gave him his first test in a Williams-BMW, his prize for winning the German Formula BMW championship in 2004. He became BMW’s permanent test driver in 2006. It was BMW who gave him his first race drive, when he scored a point at Indianapolis in 2007.

Vettel is not the only BMW prot?â?®g?â?® either. Robert Kubica is another successful driver whose skills have been nurtured by BMW.

The tide against IndyCar drivers

Bourdais won four Champ Car titles from 2004-2007
Bourdais won four Champ Car titles from 2004-2007

The departure of S?â?®bastien Bourdais also brings up the question mark surrounding the skills of American open wheel racers. Once upon a time, it was common for IndyCar drivers to make the switch to Formula 1. In fact, almost 100 Champ Car drivers have had involvement in F1, and four Champ Car champions have also become Formula 1 World Champions. Keith wrote a wonderful series about drivers hopping over the pond last year.

But today, open wheel racing in America is a shadow of its former self. Particularly over the past decade or so, the quality has decreased dramatically. But question marks over the ability of Champ Car drivers have been around for even longer.

No driver has successfully made the leap to Formula 1 from Champ Car or IRL for over a decade. The last successful Champ Car driver to compete in F1 was Jacques Villeneuve. He won the World Championship in 1997, but few would say he was among the most deserving drivers to become a World Champion. From this point onwards, the ability of Champ Car drivers to join F1 fell rapidly.

The next driver to make the jump was Alessandro Zanardi, also with Williams. Zanardi had raced in F1 before, but with a string of poor teams – Jordan, Minardi and Lotus which by then was on its last legs. But he had a more successful time in Cart, winning two titles in 1997 and 1998. This was enough to convince Frank Williams to give him a three year contract. But his first season turned out to be a disaster.

Zanardi lacked the speed and failed to get to grips with the complexity of Formula 1 cars. Towards the end of the season he even ran with heavier steel brakes, saying that he preferred them to the more modern carbon brakes used by everyone else. After a year of rumours, Zanardi’s three year deal was cut short at the end of the season, having failed to score a point while his team mate Ralf Schumacher scored 35.

Despite this experience, Williams obviously did not clock onto the fact that Champ Car drivers were no longer up to scratch because the next driver to make the leap into F1 was 1999 CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya, once again with Williams. However, this relationship was much more successful than the one with Zanardi. Montoya even came relatively close to winning the Championship in 2003.

But despite gaining seven wins in F1, doubts about the Colombian’s abilities increased as his F1 career progressed. His relationship with Williams soured before his move to McLaren in 2005. While driving for McLaren, he failed to get on top of the handling of the car.

Meanwhile, doubts about his fitness were constantly raised. While at Williams, he gained a staggering 10 kilograms (over 1½ stone) in weight during the course of one season. He did not go up in many people’s estimations when he had to sit out two of his first races for McLaren following a “tennis accident” which is said to have actually been a quad bike accident.

That was the last time Williams dared hire a Champ Car driver, but other teams failed to take notice. Toyota signed Cristiano da Matta for the 2003 and 2004 seasons after winning the CART series in 2002. His first season was a relative success, but in 2004 his performances were anonymous and disappointing. He finished in the points just once all year, before being replaced by Ricardo Zonta mid-season. Afterwards, Da Matta bitterly vowed never to race in F1 again, complaining that there was too much emphasis on cars’ technology – another sign of Champ Car drivers’ inability to handle the more sophisticated F1 machinery.

Since then, Formula 1 teams have generally given Champ Car / IndyCar drivers a wide berth – until Toro Rosso signed S?â?®bastien Bourdais for the 2008 season. Bourdais’s record seemed impeccable though, winning an unprecedented four Champ Car championships in a row.

However, by this time US open wheel racing was a shadow of its former self. Bourdais disappointed in F1, failing to capitalise on the opportunities he was given, thoroughly outclassed by his team mate Sebastian Vettel, and even this year by rookie S?â?®bastien Buemi. On the BBC’s coverage, Force India’s Ian Phillips recently scoffed that the problem with Bourdais was that he was used to driving “lorries”.

This year’s IndyCar series increasingly under fire for being too processional and producing poor racing. The sanctioning body has drawn up plans for a “push to pass” system to be introduced mid-season in a desperate bid to spice up the series (which, on the strength of last weekend’s race, seems to have worked). Somehow I think Bourdais will be the last IndyCar driver to make the switch to F1 for quite a while.

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112 comments on “Sebastien Bourdais’ troubles show why IndyCar drivers struggle in modern F1”

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  1. Forgive my ignorance, but what is the fundamental difference between driving F1, and driving a CArt/Indi car whatever they acll them nowadays.

    i wish they would put the two cars together on the same track so that we can see the difference between the 2 in speed and performance.

    on the driver’s side of the story, i think the less professional aspect of the the American series, and the less glitz, because of a ton of races and a thousand teams makes the requirements on each driver less.

    In F1, there’s so much money, exclusivity and fewer cars, that the quality of the drivers does really have to be top notch in order to shine.

    or it just might be that the American series are more open to the driver’s whining, because that’s all i hear those drivers do when they get to F1. Even Jacques…

    1. i wish they would put the two cars together on the same track so that we can see the difference between the 2 in speed and performance.

      around Montreal F1 cars were about 6-7 seconds per lap faster than (at the time) CART.

      1. Yet around Laguna Seca the Champ Car DP01’s were faster than a Toyota F1 car in the hands of a cetrain Sebastian Bourdais…..

        1. Bordais in a car he’s never driven before, on a demonstration run, on a track that car never vists and so doesn’t have any setup data whatsoever, and might be on hard demonstration tyres? Hardly a good basis for comparison. The Montreal times were taken from qualifying and races for each category.

        2. The sri lankan
          4th August 2009, 3:09

          it was driven by christiano da matta and the Toyota was largely de-tuned because all the power was not needed. i read that somewhere in an official report. i guess its arrogance on Toyotas parts but in the hands of a capable driver, and that car on it’s full race trim setup will thrash the Panoz and many more to come. for gods sakes champ car has wowed over and over to take on f1 and they fell flat didint they?

      2. Forget about the drivers, comparing CART cars to F1 cars is apples and oranges. Different brakes, tyres, engines, etc etc

  2. This writer is spouting rubbish. No one doubted Montoya was a top line driver while in F1. His wins were no fluke and by the end of 2005 he was able to beat Raikkonen a number of times in what was Kimi’s career season.

    1. In 2005, Kimi won 7 races, Montoya 3.

      1. I know the stats.

        First of all, this was by many accounts, Kimi’s best season in Formula One. The Kimi of 2005 would have destroyed the Kimi of 2007.

        Secondly, Montoya didn’t really recover from his injury until about mid season. It wasn’t until Canada that Montoya finally started to match Raikkonen. Ofcourse by that point Montoya was out of the championship race and the team had to throw its support behind the Finn. This cost Montoya probably wins in Canada and Spa (would bring the count to 5-5).

        Was Montoya’s time at McLaren a dissapointment for all concerned? Absolutely.

        Was he a hack only in F1 because he won in Champcar? No way.

        The author of this article would be wise to remember that Montoya was picked up by Williams and stashed in Champcar while they experimented with Button (whom still has less wins in F1 than Montoya).

        I can’t remember if it was Frank or Patrick that saw Montoya put two wheels on the grass to overtake a driver in F3 on a wet track. That was what impressed them and got him a test in an F1 car, not Champcar.

        1. Williams 4ever
          3rd August 2009, 13:14

          Matt – You said all that I had to say. The author hasn’t done enough research and randomly written the article based on superficial opinions of Self proclaimed “European(British) Pundits” who always run down non-brit/european driver ( in that order of preference).

          It was Frank Williams who was impressed by Juan Pablo Montoya’s F3 exploits that he was offered Williams Contract. He was loaned to CART series to give opportunity to test Zanardi.

          One point that was conveniently overlooked by the author is Montoya’s contribution to McLaren’s Rear suspension Geometry, which was one of its many problems ( primary being Compact Newey design not gelling with the Mercedes Engine). Juan actively worked with McLaren Engineers to resolve the rear suspension issues in car design, something that Kimi or David Coulthard before him had not been able to do.

          For twice as cardinal errors that Lewis Hamilton has done at critical junctures on 2007-08 campaigns the Self Proclaimed F1 Pundits have never lambasted him 1/10th as they lambasted Montoya.

          Juan Pablo is classic example of what happens to a race winner when team management doesn’t back its driver to the hilt. and Lewis Hamilton is example of what happens when team management puts its weight behind a driver and provides him technical and moral support

          1. It is often easy for viewers to confuse a driver’s attitude or personality, with performance. It takes a lot of personal discipline to move away from that, “because I don’t like him, he is useless”, mentality

          2. Thanks to point out that JPM was loaned to Ganassi and was always expect to make the jump to Williams after a couple of years. Then, Duncan article is full of mistakes like that.

          3. It doesn’t look like there are any hard feelings. Montoya just on his Twitter that he just got a call from Frank Williams.

            frank williams call me this morning to say hi. It was very special talking to him again. he is a very nice guy..and no I’m not going to f1.


            Montoya is also in the NASCAR play-off thingy at the moment. (Can’t really understand that. The Chase? or something.) He seems to be doing well.

      2. Montoya also gave up some wins as Kimi was going for the title. Besides montoya and Kimi have car set up preferences at opposing ends of the scale, so it took Mclaren a while to get the car up to Montoya’s liking.

        1. um, spa? when kimi went two seconds faster during Montoyas pitstop? Montoya gave the up? i dont think so. how about 2006? Montoya was even worse. The kimi hate continues.

          Montoya also gave up wins? how about Kimi’s dnf 3 times while in the lead, san marino, hockenheim, euro gp. Also, 3 engine penaltys when he set pole or top 3…thus fighting his way back up the grid.

          I remember Montoya only losing in Hungary maybe…while in spa he crashed with backmarker, turkey he again hit a backmarker, suzuka he crashed a backmarker. Montoya without a doubt the most overrated.

          1. Williams 4ever
            3rd August 2009, 16:08

            um, spa? when kimi went two seconds faster during Montoyas pitstop?

            Check your data friend, Montoya was cruising home till that fatal pit-stop when McLaren orchestrated “Switch” to ensure Kimi gets ahead. It was natural to do as at that stage of championship they had to back Kimi as he had genuine shout at championship. If not for that “Switch” JPM wouldn’t have even been where he would have got tangled with Pizzonia.

            how about 2006?

            2006 was Height of Unprofessionalism that a team can demonstrate. After Signing Alonso, McLaren practically switched off the plug on 2006 campaign in winter 2005. There wasn’t a single race where they went like bunch of rookies, with wrongly mapped engines, JPM and Kimi running barely 6-7 laps in Free Practice while other teams were running anywhere in excess of 15 laps per session. Its hard to believe for a team like McLaren that boasts abundance of resource not being able to give JPM car till Q1 phase in Imola’06. While the other drivers were running qualifiers JPM was trying to work on his car setup and inspite of that he made it to the Podium in that race. McLaren did everything possible to ruin the careers of their incumbent drivers in 2006. Of course Kimi had firm Ferrari contract in his back pocket and cared rat’s a$$ for all the cheap tricks that woking based team resorted to in 2006 season.

            Should I elaborate on all ‘interesting coincidences’ where JPM was always released in traffic while Kimi in Clean air in qualifiers in the newly introduced Qualifiying format.

            This all is “Pure Data” No hear say conspiracy theories.

            Montoya without a doubt the most overrated.

            – Yes while the So Called F1 Masters can’t do much better without Aerodynamic assistance of their Car, JPM had balls to drive worst aerodynamic car designed by Williams to race win in Brazil 2004 (Last of Williams F1 win). Whoever could drive that dog of a car to race win , doesn’t need anything to prove to anyone about racing and driving skills, whatever series one drives in..

  3. oho so this duncan stephen plagiarised my name…hahaha but its cool. i forgive you as the article is nice otherwise……

  4. Craig Dolby, currently driving quite successfully for SLF’s Tottenham Hotspur team and interviewed by us a couple of weeks ago: “I think [going to America] is a completely other route. It’s hard because I think that, as soon as you go to America, your F1 dream goes. It’s hard because you’d make money by going to America but it’s very hard to then come back over, like Bourdais has proved, and get to Formula One.”

    Full interview here.

    Also interesting is the fact that Adam Christodoulou has gone over to Star Mazda, a US junior open-wheel series, where he’s doing pretty well. This driver has a claim to be one of the most promising of the British up-and-coming ranks so it will be interesting to see if driving in the US really does put a halt to his European career. Of course, he had a bit of a torrid time over here during his carting days, and may be wanting to put the Atlantic between him and that incident.

    Dolby on Christodoulou: “He’s doing very well and I think he will have a career in America, but whether he comes back to England, I don’t know. It’s very difficult to get that connection back. It seems a lot of drivers go there and don’t come back.”

  5. I commented on this before. Again, I believe, it’s due to the courses in America being the main factor for the inability for a winning “Champ” driver to do well in F1. We just don’t have tracks that prepare you for Europe and abroad. Any decent driver can adapt to more downforce on a given track. But to be expected to perform on a “stage” that’s longer, wider, and safer right away for the first time is a lot to ask. As we’ve seen, you only get one or two seasons to do it. When Mario won in F1, he raced at Long Beach, Watkins Glen, Las Vegas, etc. F1 moved on a long time ago. Those tracks have not. Actually, none in the States have. So venue-wise, Indy Car is not a stepping stone to F1. Go GP2.

  6. French frog
    3rd August 2009, 9:48

    Here what is said on french forum :

    Bourdais with its 4 titles believed when he arrived in TR that his team will respond to his expectations. In particular, he doesn’t like car which oversteers. In facts, STR3 and STR4 have this behavior and the lack of practice time (due to bourdais crash in Barcelona and to new rules in 2009) made that he never manage to get a neat setup and that at the end, he was using Buemmi setup that is an admission of powerlessness. Everybody here think that he made some mistakes by having a too direct communication (no cant) even if it gave us a lot of informations and that TR didn’t give him the chances to express himself. He enter in F1 to late with too much expectations on what should be a F1 car. Vettel was much younger and a much more malleable driver. He manage to adapt himself much more easely to TR cars with the exceptional results that we all know.

    that’s a deception that is also due to Briatore attitude that ever refuse to get Bourdais. But all Renault fans would have liked to have a Alonso – Bourdais pair instead of a Alonso – Piquet pair.

    Perhaps that the Alonso – Grosjean pair will reconcile Renault fans with Briatore.

    Sorry for all my english mistakes :)

  7. I’d say Piquet has the same problem. He can be fast in a simpler car, but F1 seems just one step too high for him.

    1. So what is Alonzo’s excuse? He certainly has the experience with Renault and McLaren as well as being world champion.
      It’s the car as much as the driver. Trying to seperate them and make the drive the fall guy is just not on.
      F1 is a team sport. The WHOLE package has to be right if there is to be success. Just ask Lewis.

      1. What are you talking about? Alonso is doing a whole lot better than Piquet in that car.

  8. ages ago champ cars where slightly harder to drive than f1 cars. but they weren’t as fast. So people like Juan Pablo Montoya had a reasonable chance of being competitive in F1..and he was! now champ cars can be classed as “lorries” because there aerodynamics ain’t as great as F1s so bourdais was taking a to big of a step. He shoulda went into GP2 or something

    1. Bourdais is a former Formula 3000 (which preceded GP2) champion, so a move to GP2 would have been something of a step back…

  9. Even if I’m not a big fan of Piquet, he spend 1 year and a half with a car that didn’t have all the improvments of Alonso car and with a fuel charge that oblige him to wait for an earthquake on the track, a meteorite fall and a H1N1 pandemic.

    A driver without confidence is as fast as my grandmother

    1. Nonsense. Piquet almost always had the same material.

      That he was running heavy fuel loads was because Piquet is so extremely poor at qualifying. All cars that far back in the field start on high fuel loads.

      1. Williams 4ever
        3rd August 2009, 14:36

        Nonsense. Piquet almost always had the same material.

        You sound like Briatore :P. Are you Briatore :-?

        Having said that Piquet is not able to make it past earlier rounds in qualifying to give him benefit of doubt and sympathy like say one gives to Heikki. Heikki at least keeps Hamilton honest most of the times by making to same round as Hamilton

        1. Lol I’m not Briatore, but like him I’m sick and tired of the lame excuses.

          By Piquet’s own words, he didn’t have the same equipment in only 4 out of 27 races.

          It’s absurd to even present that as a reason for his failure let alone as the most important one.

  10. I thought Kubica was tagged by Renault before BMW?

  11. You’re right Rabi but Briatore let him go

  12. Why does competing in ChampCar define who Bourdais is as a driver? Huh?
    He did win the F3000 Championship – and that’s where the best European drivers are born and prove themselves.
    He’s been competing very successfuly in Le Mans, scoring two second places. And this is what he has achieved most recently.
    Doesn’t this define him as a great sportscar driver???

    And because of that F1 has become a very elitist club which doesn’t have the capacity
    And as regards the technology argument: Are the LMP cars so much inferior to F1 cars? Are they inferior at all?
    Well, I don’t think so. And Sebestien seems to master them perfectly. He jumped to an LMP car this year and was uber fast right away.

    This only proves that there is something wrong with F1 cars. Because they don’t allow a good racing driver to be a good racing driver – instead, F1 has become a discipline on its own, where universal driving skills are less important than some specific skills required nowhere else in the world but in F1.
    This is a shame.

    And because of that, F1 has become a closed circle elitist club which doesn’t give a platform for the most talented drivers from all over the world to compete against one another, but instead favours a small group of young drivers who have been bred specifically for F1 and haven’t proven themselves anywhere else outside it.

    1. > the F3000 Championship – and that’s
      > where the best European drivers are
      > born and prove themselves
      Sorry to rain on your parade, but this is a widespread misconception. Of all Formula 2, Formula 3000 and now GP2 champions, only one (1) became F1 champion, too: one L.C. Hamilton in 2008. Sadly I haven’t got the statistics right now, but even the F2/F3000/GP2 race winners haven’t been very successful in Formula One.

      1. Read more carefully – I said “best European drivers”, not “best F1 drivers (drivers that got lucky in F1?)”.

    2. I do agree with this point about elitism. No disrespect whatsoever to either Keith or Duncan who are both great guys who follow other race series in addition to Formula One. But F1 and sometimes its fans too can be extremely arrogant on occasion.

      American racing is a great spectator sport that has much to offer European fans. And one thing we hear from every driver we speak to is how much nicer it is to race over there. The finances stack up better, the atmosphere is equally competitive on the track but much friendlier and more supportive off it. And the exclusivity and insider culture of F1 is anathema in the States where fans have a level of access to drivers and teams that you couldn’t dream of in F1. Fans are, put simply, part of the club in the US, and a valued part at that.

      F1 and by extension GP2 are so exclusive and so expensive to reach that there is a whole generation of talented British drivers, without manufacturer or sponsor backing or a family with resources to fund their racing, that have simply had to find ways to drive that don’t involve them. That’s a reason why there are so many Brits in the IRL and associated series. Also, see friendliness, above.

      One final point. If F1 can’t even be bothered to hold a race on the North American continent, why on earth shoud American race drivers and fans actually give a stuff about it? This is likely a one-sided comparison. F1 fans might feel the need to draw parallels. IRL fans are far less likely to bother.

      1. That’s a great analysis LJH!!! As an American who lvoes F1- and just caught on in the last few yeats without any history in the sport- I can agree with much of what you have said.

        When you talk about Americans not wanting to bother with F1, you hit it on the head when nothing that F1 can’t be bothered to put a race on over here. American talent in racing continues to go to NASCAR, or to the IndyCar series and the to NASCAR, becuase that’s where the money and the fame is. Now we have some people in the form of USF1 who want to give some Americans a shot, and hopefully that will allow some talented drivers a chance to shine on the world stage.

    3. Williams 4ever
      3rd August 2009, 14:39

      F1 has become a closed circle elitist club which doesn’t give a platform for the most talented drivers from all over the world to compete against one another, but instead favours a small group of young drivers who have been bred specifically for F1 and haven’t proven themselves anywhere else outside it.

      Touché – Couldn’t agreee more

      1. Couldn’t agree more either.

        I do believe that a much larger problem than cars is the very different atmosphere of both worlds. Among all the drivers that come from US, only Villeneuve and now Bordais do look like they really want to stay in Europe, guys like Da Matta and Zanardi looked more reliefed of getting ride of F1 than their teams were of getting ride of them. It still shocks me that fans think there’s nothing wrong in the Montoya case: there was a top driver in the series that decide he rather driver a mid pack Nascar car than remain in F1. Why? Because he took a look and decide that he had drive for Chip Ganassi, Frank Williams and Ron Dennis and decide he was happier with Chip as his boss.

      2. This only proves that there is something wrong with F1 cars. Because they don’t allow a good racing driver to be a good racing driver – instead, F1 has become a discipline on its own, where universal driving skills are less important than some specific skills required nowhere else in the world but in F1.

        It sounds like “Those grapes are too green and sour for my taste…” Don’t you think?

        F1 is the most complex and demanding category, that’s all. And while the other racing championships remains the same for decades, F1 rules have to be changed every 3 or 4 years for the cars not to break the driver’s back and neck. You simply can’t compare an Indy car to a F1 car. F1 is light years ahead.

        F1 is the autosport’s pinnacle, and MUST be elitist. That’s the F1’s DNA.

  13. Bourdais and others fail to change their mindset from the US cars that are mainly driven on mechanical grip and F1 cars that have a much greater amount of aerodynamic grip. But its not that the quality is necessarily poor in the US; if you’ve been skiing and then tried snowboarding you’ll know however good you were counts for zip on a board. Its very hard for your brain to be instinctive at 2 things that are superficially similar. To suggest the quality is poorer in the US is an age old snobbery that we Europeans have indulged in since motor racing began.

    But Montoya wasn’t top top line by any stretch though he showed flashes of it, then again Justin Wilson is hardly a glowing testament of the transition going the other way. You pick your examples to tell the story you want to tell.

  14. I’ll take the ‘IndyCar drivers’ ability to drive a car over the ‘F1 drivers’ ability to set-up an F1 car any day!!!
    This is were a driver should compete against other drivers! On the track – and not in the garage.

    And, consequently, I hold Nigel Mansell’s 1993 IndyCar Championship that he won because of his driving skills in much higher regard than his 1992 F1 Championship, which he won because his Williams was way faster than anybody else’s car.

    You cannot judge a driver by how he performs in F1. It just doesn’t make sense.

      1. Yeah, I wonder he it’d look like if Schumacher drove the 1995 Symtek.

        1. It would look pretty similar compared to his team mate the lap time would just be slower for the both because of the overall package. Two drivers in the same machinery are being analyzed.

          The Benetton wasn’t the outright best car that season, neither was it the previous season and he won both championships. Good drivers make a difference. Champ car drivers still have to set up their cars, you might as well say “put them all in show room sports cars then we’ll see who the fastest is” but of course you wouldn’t because that would be lame.

          1. No. If Schumi drove a Symtek and Herbert a Benetton. Who’d be the better driver then?
            And who would Schumi be then against all the drivers in the Ferraris, Williamses, Jordans and the rest decent cars in the field (which there wasn’t many of in ’95)?
            He’d be a backmarker.

            Anyway, that’s irrelevant, because you cannot require from anybody to be like Schumacher.

  15. As an aussie I look at Briscoe. He was the Toyota tester one season (2004?) when friday testing was allowed, and he was always quick in the Friday sessions – top 5 normally. This was in the early days of one engine per race weekend which didn’t apply to testers obviously but his speed was there for all to see. He also won the euro F3 championship don’t forget.

    He is a classic example of a euro style racer who struggled at first on ovals but raced very well on what the yanks call ‘road courses’. I think he would do well in F1, but then I am a patriotic aussie and this may cloud my reasoning on the matter.

    I think at the end of the day the car makes far more difference than the driver. Were i a team owner I’d have a technical team of Newey, Brawn, Byrne and Symonds design my car over Alonso and Hamilton as drivers any day. As Fernando has shown you cannot demonstrate your ability as a driver anywhere near your potential in a shabby car. Bourdais wasn’t as quick as Vettel and TR were probably right to fire him for being slow. But I think it is a very broad statement to say Indy drivers couldn’t cut it in F1 anymore.

  16. Prisoner Monkeys
    3rd August 2009, 12:58

    I think there are deeper problems with Toro Rosso than their driver management. They shouldn’t be in Formula One; they’re nothing more than a glorified GP2 team. Their drivers are brought into the sport to get them some experience, and then poached away by Red Bull as soon as they come good. They run the same car as their parent team, yet they have to wait for all the updates. They’re essentially kept under Red Bull’s heel, unable to actually compete. At least when they were Minardi, they were actually able to have a decent go at it. I was actually quite looking forward to seeing them gone, – Epsilon Euskadi claimed to be in negotiations – but unfortuantely, it was decided that Dietrich Maserchitz could not commit to selling them. So we’re stuck with them until 2012, unless someone finds away around that.

  17. No driver has successfully made the leap to Formula 1 from Champ Car or IRL for over a decade.

    Timo Glock?

    1. Williams 4ever
      3rd August 2009, 13:22

      @Goofy – The author seems to use only those examples which s/he finds convenient.

      1. Timo Glock is successfull…are you sure.

        1. Williams 4ever
          3rd August 2009, 13:51

          Timo Glock is successfull…are you sure.

          – subject to the quality of equipment he is driving, he is not exactly driving McLaren car from 2007-08 is he :-?

          1. Yeah…I guess the term successful is a bit ambiguous and definable according anyones particular bias…but I really can’t disagree with this article.

            None of the drivers mentioned were American, they just raced in an American series. I used to watch CART in its heyday and F1. I saw many drivers switch sides. It seemed that the F1 drivers that went to cart did much better than the Cart drivers that went to F1. That includes Michale Andretti…who teamed briefly with Senna at Macca. He was mega in CART, but…

            Cheers, Alex

          2. @ Alex
            “It seemed that the F1 drivers that went to cart did much better than the Cart drivers that went to F1.”
            – Doh!!
            Every single F1 driver who went to IndyCar got a competetive car! Not only as fast as all other cars, but a car that he was able to set-up the way he liked. Why?? Because there are no uncompetetive/slow/underpowered cars in that series, there are no Torro Rossos, Minardis or Spykers.
            And what did the IndyCar champs get? Ferraris? McLarens? None of that.

            But one did get a top car – Jacques Villeneuve. He drove to pole in his first race, and had he not make one mistake, he would win the race, but he came second anyway. He almost won the WDC in his 1st season. He won it in his second.

            Montoya got a good car, result: a win in his rookie season, and a 3rd place in WDC in next two seasons.
            And what happens to the IndyCar champs in F1 is actually the same as what happens to… F1 champs in F1:
            – Damon Hill 1997
            – Villeneuve 1999 onwards
            – Hakkinen 2001
            – Alonso 2008-2009-…
            – Hamilton 2009 (until mid season)
            – Button 2010 (that’s for sure)

            You get a slow car – you’re done.
            But the F1 champs are lucky – because the F1 WDC gives them an immunity against any criticism.
            Whereas the Indy champs have nothing to defend their credibility with.

          3. @Damon,

            Does it matter what car they get? They are compared to their team mates driving the same equipment.

            For instance, Bourdais gets beaten by a rookie twice in a row.

            Andretti did get a McLaren BTW and Senna went 1.5 seconds faster in Andretti’s car (in those days they could swap cars) during qualifying.

          4. @ Patrickl
            And what if Buemi is in fact Formula 1’s best driver?? Do you know he isn’t??
            Bourdais has never really been more than 0.15s slower than him, and he was faster on several occasions.

            Buemi and Bourdais might have been F1’s new Senna and Prost, but we wouldn’t know that.

          5. @Damon,

            Don’t be ridiculous. We would know. Buemi obviously isn’t that good either.

            Besides, Bourdais got trashed by Vettel already. It was Bourdais who made Vettel look so “great”. Now that Vettel is up against Webber he suddenly isn’t so amazing anymore.

  18. Damon, ARE YOU SERIOUS! You wrote: “I’ll take the ‘IndyCar drivers’ ability to drive a car over the ‘F1 drivers’ ability to set-up an F1 car any day!!!” Have you ever even watched a crappy IRL race? I am from the US and have watched quite a few and let me tell you that 90% of the drivers are mediocre at best, and the other 10% are not much better, for christ sake they have three girls racing in the series! The IRL is a joke of a series nowhere near the level of F1 or even GP2. The series has become so bad that many of the races are not even shown live anymore. And let me tell you a very sad note, Many Americans who don’t know crap about open wheel racing are told by news sources in the US (ESPN, CNN) that Danica Patrick is the premier open wheel driver in the world! That makes me sick to my stomach every time I hear it? So don’t compare drivers in IRL to F1 thats like comparing the ferris wheel at your local fair to the London Eye.

    1. > for christ sake they have three girls racing in the series!

      How funny. This is just like Godwin’s Law. Make a comment like that and it’s an immediate green light for everyone else to point and laugh and disregard everything else you try to say.

      Remind us to point and laugh again when Bia Figueiredo or Simona De Silvestro become household names in racing…

      1. Until they become household names, point and laugh at yourself.

        1. Mark Hitchcock
          3rd August 2009, 16:42

          No Eric, we’re still gonna point and laugh at you.
          Women can be just as good at racing as men are if they’re given the opportunity, get over it.

          1. I understand that you’re all in for equal-rights and stuff like that, but let us not kid ourselves shall we? Women will never be as good as men at racing, simply because men are better suited to race than women. You’ll never get a woman into the same shape as a top-trained man, she’ll never have the same bravery and courage as a man with balls of steel – which is simply because her testosterone levels will never be as high. Therefore women can NOT be as good as racing as men. I don’t doubt you that you can probably find a good female driver who can keep up, but she’ll never be the best, simply because of the fact that men are better suited for sports than women.

          2. It would be like saying women can compete with men on the 100m sprint distance. Racing today is much more demanding and sophisticated than it was 30 years ago, racing drivers are in as good shape as elite marathon runners and that will always speak to the advantage of men.

          3. That would explain the women champions in all the major motorsports…. oh thats right there aren’t any!

    2. I agree with you but won’t say so publicly. :-)
      In the past, I used to wonder why the Indy car drivers looked so much fatter than their F1 counterparts.
      Unfortunately a lot of talented drivers are now ending up there for lack of slots in F1.

    3. I meant the real IndyCar that later became CART or ChampCar, not the idiotic IRL.

    4. I woult not make the same statement about the women racing in the series, but you do make several very good points…..

      I’m also an American and I can agree with you 100% about U.S. news outlets feeding us the Danica PR nonsense. Sure she looks good, but she’s a poor-quality driver. I can’t tell you how frustrating it becomes when I try to explain F1 to my friends and the first question I get is “Formula 1 is what Danica Patrick drives in, right? ”

      As for the drivers, I think the top-tier guys- Dixion, Dario, Helio, Briscoe, Kanaan, Wheldon, Tracy- could probably give the F1 guys a run for their money in somewhat-equal machines. But a poor-quality driver is still a poor-quality driver, regardless of the series. To Danica’s credit, she’s out-performing her three teamamtes, but she’s still way below the previously-mentioned drivers in terms of talent.

  19. This article isnt the best ive read on f1fanatic to say the least.

    It almost seems to more of an attack on American racing and the drivers it produces than anything else… I dont get what point its trying to get across??

  20. He won the World Championship in 1997, but few would say he was among the most deserving drivers to become a World Champion

    Everybody could say the same about Button if he wins this year

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