Scuderia Toro Rosso new boy Sébastien 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.”