The brimming grin throughout the paddock over Mark Webber's Formula One victory for Red Bull in Germany overshadowed the quiet exit of Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais from sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso. SÃ©bastien Bourdais, Scuderia Toro...
The brimming grin throughout the paddock over Mark Webber's Formula One victory for Red Bull in Germany overshadowed the quiet exit of Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais from sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Just two years apart in age -- Webber is 32, Bourdais 30 -- the two held opposite ends of the stick Sunday at the Nurburgring. Webber broke through to victory after the longest drought to date, 132 races, his persistence -- and employers -- at last rewarded thanks to a worthy car. Bourdais parked with hydraulics failure as one of only two retirements. Kimi Raikkonen, 29, garaged his Ferrari F60 as the other driver with an underperforming car. Retirement ended a dismal weekend that found him subjected to questions of imminent firing. "I have a contract," he said.
In a three-sentence announcement Thursday, Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost announced Bourdais will be replaced in Hungary at the end of the month. He leaves the team having reached second qualifying three times, for 14th grid spot in Monaco and 15th in Malaysia and China. He finished eighth in Australia and eighth in Monaco to score two points this season. His point total was one fewer than his rookie teammate, Sebastien Buemi of Switzerland, and two more than Force India drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil, Renault's Nelson Piquet, and Williams F1's Kazuki Nakajima. Brazilian media maintain Piquet's job is next to go.
"In Sebastien's second year with us, the partnership has not met our expectations, and, therefore, we have decided to replace him as from the next round of the World Championship, the Hungarian Grand Prix," Tost said.
Bourdais issued a statement in response:
"I am very disappointed and shocked by the decision taken by Scuderia Toro Rosso of not allowing me to drive for the team until the end of the current season," the statement read. "I consider that, in doing so, Scuderia Toro Rosso has breached its contractual duties towards me; also, I believe that nothing in my behavior would legitimate a decision of the team to terminate the contract. I think that the team's decision is in clear violation of Scuderia Toro Rosso's obligations under the agreement.
"I have instructed my lawyers to review the situation including the possibility of issuing legal proceedings.
"I am even more frustrated by the team's decision considering that the latter has been taken immediately before the Hungarian Grand Prix, where a new, highly competitive racing package will be introduced by the team in order to try and overcome its current difficulties. I am convinced that if I was given the chance to race with such new package, I would have had the opportunity to achieve satisfactory results.
"Finally, I would like to thank all my fans for their support. My motivation is intact, and I will continue to be strongly committed to my Formula One project, for which I have renounced my career in United States."
Barcelona-born driver Jaime Alguersuari, champion of British Formula Three who was recently named Red Bull's reserve and test driver, told Radio Catalunya in the past week that he will get the seat. At 19 years, 126 days, Alguersuari, should he survive the first lap, would become the youngest contestant in the sport's history. Alguersuari cited Bourdais successes and lamented a driver change in midseason.
The team might give multiple World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb a try in the final race of the season, Abu Dhabi, after the Frenchman finishes his current title defense. He is a Sebastien, which the team seem to like, having employed three consecutive Sebs to drive, but Loeb's also well into his 30s, the wrong end of the trend. A karter from age 10, Bourdais claimed a Formula 3000 championship after ATomas Enge got himself on the wrong side of a drug test, then tested Afor financially failing rrows and Flavio Briatore-dominated Renault Abefore opting for Champ Car, where he dazzled.
Once he landed an apparently overdue F1 deal with tiny Toro Rosso last year, Bourdais couldn't get situated in the car. Something was always wrong. Uncomfortable. Uneasy. His progress was slow. He came across as fussy. He scored four points. His teammates, brilliant youngsters delivered through the Red Bull Young Driver Development scheme, outperformed him. One of them, Sebastian Vettel, produced the team's first victory in unlikely circumstances: from pole in driving rain at Monza, one of the fiercest circuits on the tour. Vettel was shipped off to the big team at season's end -- to deliver its first victory -- only for the next one, F1 rookie Sebastien Buemi, to outqualify Bourdais in six of this season's first seven races.
Bourdais became the face of F1 Darwinism. Develop or die. And he was swept up in a crushing vortex of a youth movement unseen in the sport. He was paired with overachieving 20-year-olds and pushed aside for a teenager.
But is F1 over for Bourdais? Perhaps his availability puts him in the frame for a Team USF1 ride. The new team's founders claim they are serious America Firsters of the sporting sort. How serious?
His comment about renouncing a U.S. career notwithstanding, Bourdais is known in America, which should count for attracting fans. Of course, it must be said that Formula One fandom in America doesn't rise to the level even of cult status. A close count probably would reveal more mommybloggers in the country than F1 fans. A preponderance of import-seekers make the place dear to carmakers who at least so far field F1 teams. Yet Bulgaria, a nation whose economy not even European Union membership can help, is closer to having an F1 race than is America.
Bourdais, winner of four consecutive Champ Car titles, would be a better candidate for the "American F1 team" than the nation's current top single-seat racer, Danica Patrick, and better than owner of the most electric surname in U.S. racing, Marco Andretti. Listen to them. Neither wants the job. Gee, it means traveling, married and settled Patrick whines. Well, maybe it's not the greatest series, Andretti argues, as if channeling a disappointed father.
Bourdais seems to have joined them in sour outlook. At least he's had an up-close look.