Exclusive Bourdais interview - I know I need results 05 Sep 2008
For someone so used to winning, this season has been a rough ride for former Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais. The Toro Rosso drivers body language suggests hes not yet come to terms with life so far from the podium, and the fact that younger team mate Sebastian Vettel is dictating the teams pace cant be helping matters either. Nevertheless, since the Valencia race, when both cars made it into Q3, Bourdais confidence has been somewhat renewed and he is hopeful his Formula One future will still lie with Toro Rosso, as long as his results improve
Q: Sebastien, Gerhard Berger recently said that he is unable to judge your performance yet because a driver needs about half a year to come to terms with Formula One racing. From now on you will be under scrutiny. What does that mean for you?
Sebastien Bourdais: Well, that comes as no surprise for me. And being under scrutiny means that they probably dont think that the performance has been good enough to resign me for next year - but thats the game of Formula One. You need to show some results if you want to stay where you are.
Q: Are you satisfied with your season so far?
SB: No, obviously I cannot be satisfied. I had an incredible start to the season but then I ran into problems. We found some set-up changes and I felt much more at ease with the results. Sometimes I equalled Sebastian (Vettel), sometimes I was a bit better, sometimes a bit worse - although I think it was a pretty even game up until Canada. Then the new car arrived. It is a much faster car but it is also a very difficult car to drive if you want to extract the best out of it. It has some characteristics that go pretty much against my nature of driving, like oversteering in the slow corners and understeering in the high-speed corners. There is not much we can do. The car has been the same since Magny-Cours and I am struggling massively. Its not that Im getting my ass kicked every fortnight - but its not far from it. Probably it is one of my weaknesses - not being able to adapt my driving style to cars I dont really like - and the consequence is that I am leaving a lot of performance on the table. It is hard for me to put myself up, especially on one lap. If you compare mine and Sebastians performance in the race there is not so much difference - but it is difficult for me to extract the best out of the car on one lap. And as most of the weekend in Formula One is wrapped up in qualifying you can see where my problems stem from.
Q: But do you think that lately you have started to overcome those problems? You indicated recently that you feel that you have finally arrived in the team
SB: Obviously it takes a bit of time to integrate into a team and to find your own place, but everybody has been very supportive. They really want me to do it and, very importantly, they think that I can do it, but in the end it doesnt make you go quicker. I would describe myself at the moment as a guy who is mainly fighting understeer and oversteer like everybody else, but my strength has always been to identify a problem, find a solution and then go quicker. Unfortunately, in the system we are in right now, we, as Toro Rosso, dont decide what goes on the car as the development is done by RBT (Red Bull Technology) - and the car is the way it is. If you like it - good, if you dont like it - sorry!
Q: What have been the major issues that have been troubling you?
SB: Well, the gap in qualifying. On a good day I am two-tenths behind Sebastian. On a bad day I am five-tenths off, which is way too much for sure. And I dont think the reality is that I am five-tenths slower than Sebastian. I have proved that.
Q: Does that mean that the car supports Sebastians driving style more?
SB: I dont know. I definitely like cars in a certain way and Sebastian is much more flexible. He does not mind so much the instability, the braking in the slow corners and all that stuff. That is probably his number one quality I would say, as he really has been able to step up the game and to find ways around the problems, whereas I am just kind of hitting the same wall a bit. But I am trying to adapt, obviously.
Q: With Vettel moving to Red Bull, theres one cockpit is available at Toro Rosso for 2009, but what about yours? How confident are you of staying in Formula One racing?
SB: I dont think so much about it. I am just a driver trying to do the job as best I can - because that is all I can do. You give your very best and if it is good enough, great, if it is not then there is not much that you can do about it. I think I have a good chance of staying. But we have to have a couple of good races and results and to score points - that would definitely help in the decision process.
Q: So you would want to stay?
SB: Yes, absolutely. Another year and they would know better what I need in the car - not that they dont know, but Toro Rosso is going to restructure itself to become more independent and that could probably be the chance to find the car solution for me.
Q: Have you ever regretted that you left your winning surroundings in the US and got involved with Formula One racing?
SB: It was the end of an era for me. Champ Car has disappeared. And whatever happens I will never regret it as for me it was a real chance to go and try to do something in Formula One. If I hadnt tried it, then I would have regretted it my entire life.
Q: Coming to this weekend, Spa is a very particular track. How well do you know it?
SB: Well, I have done my fair share of mileage here. I first raced here in 98 in Formula Three, then three times in Formula 3000, and so on. And I tested here last year. But I dont really think that the knowledge of a track is really that important - its whether the compromise, in terms of the car, is more in my favour, or less. Potentially Spa could be a more suitable track for me.
Q: Valencia saw both cars in Q3. What is your guess for qualifying and the race this weekend?
SB: I hope that we can repeat it and carry the momentum on. If you dont approach the race weekend thinking that youve got a shot of making it into Q3 then you probably should not come.
Q: How important would it be for you to end up ahead of your team mate?
SB: It is not really the fact that hes been quicker - its more the fact that I am not able to display what I can do. So lets wait and see how the weekend goes. The weather forecast sounds very complex so a lot of things could happen in such conditions. If races get difficult and things go your way you can definitely end up much higher than you belong - you never know!