Exclusive interview - Toro Rossos Sebastien Bourdais 05 Dec 2007
Despite his wealth of racing experience, next season Sebastien Bourdais will become a Formula One rookie. But it will not be the classic F1 apprenticeship. With four Champ Car titles to his name, expectations will be higher and the pressure greater. Onlookers will form opinions far faster than they would of other newcomers.
Its a risk, however, that Bourdais is willing to take. He is realistic enough to know that 2008 might be the toughest year of his career, although his first day at Jerez this week already showed a glimpse of his champion qualities
Q: You arrive fresh from your fourth straight Champ Car championship win. It must have been a very emotional farewell
Sebastien Bourdais: I have left the States very quickly after that race in Mexico City because I had to be testing at Barcelona. After three days of testing there I had to be back in the States for the traditional end of season party with a dinner for the team and drivers. These past years in Champ Cars have really been fantastic. Americans like winners, be they French, Italian, Russian or Chinese. When I went there in 2003 they were not that keen on the French, but all they saw in me was a little rookie with drive and ambition. When I started winning they forgot everything and from then on everything was fine.
Q: Now you are starting a new chapter in your racing career - no doubt with lots of new resolutions. Can you share some of them with us?
SB: For the moment my resolutions are easy: to understand F1 and to do my best. I have to understand just how everything works at Toro Rosso and its systems, get to know the team and its methods. For F1 it might be a case of only Toro Rosso, not Red Bull, McLaren or Ferrari, but it is a much heavier workload than I have had to deal with over the last five years in the USA. I also have to get a better understanding of how the car works, how to adjust its settings and how to set it up the way I like while getting to grips with going through all the telemetry info.
Q: You have tested the Toro Rosso during the season, but now its your car. How does it feel to really take possession of your new office?
SB: I had done a couple of sessions to see how things went, to see if this was really what I wanted to do and it felt good. Now, things are different as I have a real job of work to do! The work of a driver is not just a case of turning the steering wheel. I feel ready for this new challenge.
Q: You are already familiar with the team, but how about your new team mate Sebastian Vettel?
SB: I did not know Sebastian Vettel until the Barcelona test. He seems like a nice guy, quiet, open, confident, quick and precise in the information he gives - a good team mate who is easy to get on with. I dont see any problem with him. I think he even speaks French reasonably well!
Q: There will be high expectations from the team. Co-owner Gerhard Berger said that what the team needs is world champion mentality. Is there already pressure on you to deliver?
SB: I dont want to put myself under pressure. I want to enjoy what I am doing. Pressure is not a good thing as it can lead drivers to make mistakes. Seb Vettel has done thousands of kilometres testing with BMW, he has just done half a season of F1, whereas Ive just arrived from the USA and, despite my experience, I am the rookie here. For the moment I just want to make the most of the time before the first race of 2008. If it took place tomorrow, Id be stressed. I know a lot is expected of me, especially from the French, but I would ask them not to expect too much. If I can make it through to Q2 on a regular basis and score a few points here and there, I would be super happy. But I dont want to have any firm targets.
Q: In you and Vettel, Toro Rosso have a champion and a relative rookie who has already has left his mark on F1. Could we see a repeat of the 2007 McLaren situation?
SB: Impossible. I am a champion in Champ Car not in F1. I still have a lot to learn. Vettel has much more F1 experience than me and even if we were Hamilton and Alonso I dont think we would be in the same situation. The interests of Toro Rosso are more important than those of the drivers. War between team mates is a selfish business and when a team has faith in you and invests in you, you owe it to them to give them something.
Q: Toro Rossos car improved immensely in the fourth quarter of the 07 season. Can you already feel the changes in the test kilometres you have done so far? Especially with your fantastic sixth-fastest time on the first day at Jerez
SB: The Barcelona test was my first real opportunity to tackle the technical side of F1. We started working on set-up but the only big change I made there was to the rear springs and I was not unhappy with the times I set. The same goes for this test now at Jerez. My primary goal is to bond with the team and find a set-up that suits my driving style - without chasing performance. Though the time went down very well
Q: Traction control is banned for 2008, but you are already used to racing without it. How big an advantage would you say that is for you?
SB: I definitely prefer racing without electronic aids as it is more fun and satisfying and I think the FIA should go even further and bring back slicks and reduce aero grip further.
Q: After living in the US, you are now returning to a European base. Have you already decided where?
SB: With my wife and daughter I will soon settle in Switzerland, in Morges, not far from another Seb, Sebastien Loeb.