Bertrand Baguette, from Formula Renault 3.5 Series to Indycar
Formula Renault 3.5 Series 2009 title-holder Bertrand Baguette is very soon to be America-bound for a new challenge. The Belgian driver will be joining the Conquest Racing team in the Indycar Series. Baguette is seizing the opportunity to demonstrate his talents in the land of the American Dream while still keeping an eye to F1 for the future.
Thanks to your Formula Renault 3.5 Series 2009 title, you were able to test in F1 at Jerez, last December. That must have been the start of a busy winter time for you...
Yes indeed! The test with Renault F1 Team went very well, as did the one I did with Sauber at Jerez. From then on, it was discussion after discussion. My Formula Renault 3.5 Series title opened up a lot of doors for me, and then the Formula 1 tests interested some more people. But the budgets needed for F1 remained steep and we weren't able to gather enough funds together to secure a good seat. I had some very good offers to be third driver, but I really wanted to race in 2010. As things stand, the third driver in an F1 team hardly gets to drive.
Why did you decide to look to the USA and Indycar?
Formula Renault 3.5 Series is the ultimate stepping stone to F1, in the same way as GP2 for instance. Insofar as I won the Formula Renault 3.5 Series title, there was no point in competing in GP2 this season. I've already shown what I can do at that level. I needed to find a new discipline. So we quickly got into discussions with my countryman Eric Bachelart, who is team manager of Conquest Racing. He knew how well I'd fared in 2009 and he made us an offer to team up with him. That mean't finding a budget of course, but in fact we succeeded in raising more funds to join Indycar than for signing up with a Formula 1 team! After F1, Indycar is the ideal formula. My goal is to succeed in the States, with the objective of one day competing in the F1 World Championship, when the conditions are right. I've just turned 24, so I've still got time.
So Indycar is a good option after winning a title in a discipline like the FR 3.5 Series?
Absolutely! Look at the list of drivers - the line-up is very competitive. (Editor's note: Bertrand Baguette will find himself up against two other former Formula Renault 3.5 Series drivers: his team mate at Conquest Racing, Mario Romancini, and Will Power, who leads the championship after the first race). For me personally, it's going to be a very valuable experience, I'm going to discover a whole new approach to competition, very different from what we're used to in Europe. I have a lot to learn in Indycar and I'll be able to count on Eric Bachelart's wealth of experience to help me get up to speed. Everything is very show-oriented in the US and I think I'm going to like that. Also, drivers like Jacques Villeneuve, Juan-Pablo Montoya and Sebastien Bourdais have proven that there are bridges between Indycar and F1.
How does your schedule look over the coming weeks?
First, I'm flying to the States to attend the second race of the season, at St-Petersburg, in Florida. That will allow me to familiarize with the discipline. Next, I'll be taking part in a day of testing with my team, when I'll be able to get behind the wheel for the first time. Following on from that, my first race will be on April 11 in Birmingham, Alabama. That will be the first of my fifteen races on this year's calendar. I'm going to have many many things to learn in a short space of time, starting with the car, then oval track racing! I can't wait! It's going to be real hectic, with a busy schedule, but I promise I'll make it to at least one of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series events.