Posts Tagged ‘Toro Rosso’

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.

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Sebastien Vettel’s win in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza was a fairytale for Toro Rosso, but something of a headache for their competitors. Toro Rosso is a customer team, probably the purest example of the breed. They get a car from Red Bull Technologies, which is essentially the same as the Red Bull, except for the Ferrari engine and its installation equipment.

Their win is not good news  for the teams who manufacture their own car, like Williams and there have been some murmurs that the old battles may be opened up again in light of Vettel’s win. It’s one thing to score four or five points here and there, quite another to be winning races and have 27 points on the board! Sponsors ask awkward questions like, “Why can’t we do that?” and conspiracy theorists have a field day, because the team is officially up for sale. If you were an Abu Dhabi squillionaire thinking about buying Toro Rosso, wouldn’t a nice win and a strong position in the constructors table be just the thing to make you take the plunge..?

The problem is that the agreement on customer cars states that the team has to build its own car within three years. Toro Rosso would love to change that agreement, because it’s so much more attractive to a buyer if you don’t have to make your own car. That was also David Richard’s model. But it doesn’t work with the way F1 is and unless you go to an almost spec chassis formula, it never will.

The point here once again is that F1 needs to tell it’s story better – as was also illustrated by the Hamilton penalty saga in Spa. This is another example. Sometimes the people running the show forget what it is about the sport that the man in the street wants to see and believe. Look at it simply – Vettel’s win rejuvenates the sport because it shows it’s possible for an independent team to win. It probably won’t happen again for a few years, if ever.

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Sebastien Vettel wins the Italian Grand Prix at historic Monza, in an Italian car, which isn’t a Ferrari and he does so from pole position, driving away from a McLaren. He’s the youngest ever winner by a year and everyone in F1 is happy for him.

The story will go down in history as something very special. It is like James Hunt winning at Zandvoort for the tiny Hesketh team. The Toro Rosso team has Minardi DNA still running through its veins. Most of the guys who toiled for Paul Stoddard and Giancarlo Minardi are still there among the 168 employees. They have a workforce which is less than 20% of the size of the top teams and one of the smallest budgets in the field.

But it shows that it is possible for an independent team to win and the important point is that Vettel and Toro Rosso did all of this on merit. He didn’t win because leading cars retired in front of him. He won because he did a better job than anyone else in qualifying and then rode his luck in the race, making all the right moves at the right time and driving with faultless precision.

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