Scuderia Toro Rosso new boy S?bastien Buemi has revealed that whilst he acknowledges the pressure of stepping into the seat vacated by Formula 1's latest superstar in the shape of Sebastian Vettel, he is optimistic of proving his mettle as a worthy successor to the young German this year.

Buemi spent the 2008 campaign both as Red Bull Racing's F1 test driver, and also competing in the feeder GP2 category for Arden, finishing as runner-up in the Asia Series and sixth in the main championship, with three victories to his name and seven further rostrum finishes over the course of the year.

Though the majority of the grand prix paddock was suggesting throughout the winter that a deal between the Swiss ace and Red Bull's 'junior' concern was all-but done, no official confirmation was forthcoming until earlier this month. Buemi knows that in following in the wheeltracks of the top flight's youngest-ever grand prix-winner, he has big boots to fill indeed.

"I am very happy," he enthused of his graduation, speaking to the official F1 website. "It was just a blink before Christmas [when he was informed he had got the drive]. It was the best Christmas present imaginable - it was fantastic!

"It is almost impossible to describe how it felt when they announced it and I knew that I would drive in Formula 1, 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.

"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.

"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. 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.

"For sure I would like to [match Vettel's success], 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."

Toro Rosso has yet to announce a launch date for its new, Red Bull-designed STR4, with Buemi suggesting it will probably surface 'a bit later' than the Milton Keynes-based squad's own RB5 on 9 February. The 20-year-old has certainly been lapping up the testing mileage so far pre-season, though, taking to the wheel every day at Portimao in Portugal last week - and topping the times on all three days when representative times were set.

"They understand that for a new driver it is really hard to arrive at the first race and be 100 per cent ready," he explained of the decision to keep him in the car throughout the Algarve test, "so with these four days they are trying to prepare me as well as possible. The 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.

"[I can] 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, so we will already have a small idea about it.

"At that 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 [in Portugal], 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."

As to the driver who will fill the second berth at the small Faenza-based outfit, Buemi insists he is no wiser than the rest of the F1 world, stating that STR's deadline is as late as the Thursday before Melbourne - and that regardless of whoever does ultimately end up alongside him in the team, he simply wants to be faster.

"Now that I have the cockpit I want to beat my team-mate," he asserted. "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 [having] a preference, no.

"The only real comparison for me was the times that [Takuma] Sato and [S?bastien] Bourdais did [in the tests at Jerez and Barcelona late last year], and it was a good feeling to be ahead of them. Whatever the times were, they are good for the morale of the team and for publicity."

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment