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Sebastien Buemi Q&A: I can live with Vettel comparisons 23 Jan 2009

Sebastien Buemi (SUI) Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula One Testing, Autodromo Algarve, Portimao, Portugal. 22 January 2009 Sebastien Buemi (SUI) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR3 Formula One Testing, Autodromo Algarve, Portimao, Portugal. 21 January 2009 Sebastien Buemi (SUI) Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula One Testing, Day Two, Autodromo Algarve, Portimao, Portugal, Monday 19 January 2009. Sebastien Buemi (SUI) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR3 Formula One Testing, Autodromo Algarve, Portimao, Portugal. 21 January 2009 Sebastien Buemi (SUI) Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula One Testing, Day Two, Autodromo Algarve, Portimao, Portugal, Monday 19 January 2009.

His stranglehold on the top of the timesheets at this week’s Algarve test will have come as a major boost to Sebastien Buemi’s confidence, even if his rivals were running in 2009 cars, whilst he stayed in Toro Rosso’s ’08 machine. And Buemi will need confidence. Not only is the Swiss driver set to be this season’s only newcomer, he’s also stepping into the seat of rookie extraordinaire, Sebastian Vettel, who took Toro Rosso to their first-ever victory last year. Buemi, however, is taking it all in his stride…

Q: Sebastien, how big a relief was it to be picked for one of the Toro Rosso cockpits?
Sebastien Buemi:
I am very happy, it was fantastic - and yet it is almost impossible to describe how it felt when they announced it and I knew that I will drive in Formula One. But at the end of the day it did not change my job so much. For sure, I am a bit more relaxed now and the good thing is I know now that I can start to work to be well prepared for the season.

Q: If it had not happened, what was your Plan B?
SB:
I was not thinking of a Plan B to be honest. But Red Bull would have thought about it because they manage me. They would have let me drive again in GP2 or play the part of the third driver. But in reality a third driver doesn’t drive much these days, so I am happy that I will be one of the Toro Rosso drivers in ‘09.

Q: When did they tell you?
SB:
It was just a blink before Christmas. It was the best Christmas present imaginable.

Q: As Sebastian Vettel’s replacement, you will fill big shoes. Are you feeling under pressure?
SB:
For sure coming just after Vettel is a bit more pressure, but he has improved the team, so my first feeling is that I am grateful to him for this. And of course I will try to do my best to live up to the standards that he has set. The rules have changed a lot so it will be very different anyway. We have to wait for the season start to see where we are and I will do my job in the best way I can. I don’t think too much about what he did or what I should do. For sure, there will be comparisons all year long, but I can live with that.

Q: But surely at the end of the 2009 season you would like to be in the position that he is in now…
SB:
For sure I would like to, but to achieve that you have to work very hard - and I am prepared for it. For the moment I have a lot to learn and only after the first couple of races will it become clear where we are performance wise, and if we can repeat last year’s success story.

Q: You were given the chance to complete all four test days at the Algarve track this week. The team’s management must have a lot of confidence in you and it looks like they have big plans for you…
SB:
They understand that for a new driver it is really hard to arrive at the first race and be 100 percent ready, so with these four days they are trying to prepare me as well as possible. These four days in the car have given me a lot of self confidence and helped me to understand the whole procedure of pit stops and starts, so that everything comes naturally to me on the grid in Melbourne.

Q: Your team mate is still unconfirmed, although there are two candidates for it - Sebastien Bourdais and Takuma Sato. Do you have a preference?
SB:
Not really. Now that I have the cockpit I want to beat my team mate - that is the objective. If it is an experienced guy, he will be a big help in improving the car and I can learn a lot. But as for a preference, no.

Q: Looking at the two candidates, both are indeed experienced drivers. Was that another reason why the team let you test for the past four days?
SB:
That was maybe the idea behind (it). If they take someone with experience, he needs less mileage.

Q: Did Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost indicate when the team will make an announcement about the second seat?
SB:
No. Their deadline is the Thursday before the (Melbourne) race.

Q: It seemed like you’d set up home at the top of the timesheets in Portimao, driving the ’08 car. But is it nerve racking seeing all your rivals gaining valuable data in their 2009 machines?
SB:
Yeah, but what can I do? Only learn the procedures and get as much confidence with an F1 car, so that I can fully concentrate on the new car when it arrives and don’t have to go through standard situations. Red Bull will work before us with the new car and so we will already have a small idea about it. At this test, yes, it was the ’08 car but with low wings in preparation for this season. It is true it is a lot better efficiency-wise, so it is difficult to imagine what the new package will be. The only real thing that we can try is the tyres. After the weather conditions over the past days, some of the others had long faces. But for me it was good as I was able to get a lot of experience in the wet.

Q: So the times that you did are a different matter to the others with their ’09 cars?
SB:
The only real comparison for me was the times that Sato and Bourdais did (last year). And it was a good feeling to be ahead of them. And whatever the times were, they are good for the morale of the team and for publicity.

Q: Any idea when the new Toro Rosso will be launched?
SB:
I don’t know exactly, but the RB5 will have its first outing on February 9. So I suppose we will get it a bit later.