Sébastien Bourdais has revealed that in re-signing him for a second campaign in Formula 1 in 2009, Scuderia Toro Rosso acted only just in time to prevent him from returning across the Pond to compete in America once more.
The Frenchman made his bow in the top flight last season, following four years of domination in Champ Cars, during which time he achieved no fewer than 27 race victories. Though he initially struggled to get to grips with the Red Bull 'junior' outfit's STR3, he made impressive gains as the year went on, and for much of the second half was all-but a match for his highly-rated team-mate Sebastian Vettel, F1's newest and youngest-ever grand prix winner.
With the global credit crunch leading to a tightening of belts across the spectrum, however, his performances rapidly became secondary to how much money he could bring to the team when STR was debating its 2009 driver line-up, and Bourdais went head-to-head with ex-Super Aguri refugee Takuma Sato for the second seat alongside grand prix debutant Sébastien Buemi.
With America calling and a mooted offer from former team Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing on the table to jump ship to the IndyCar Series, Bourdais stated on numerous occasions over the winter months that he was neither willing nor able to wait indefinitely on a decision from STR. The 29-year-old's prospects looked bleak – until earlier this month, when the small Faenza-based outfit finally gave him the news he had been so badly hoping for.
“I was definitely relieved,” he confessed, speaking exclusively to Crash.net
. “I mean, it's a nasty situation. You wait and wait and wait. I was obviously trying to investigate other options, because over being a F1 driver, I'm a professional driver.
“That's what I make a living from, so I needed to make sure that this was still going to be true for '09 and that was not easy. It's been a very long and difficult winter, no need to deny that. It's never easy when you are left uncertain for so long.
“At some point I was not hoping so much anymore; I was just trying hard to get a seat in particular in the States. In the end Toro Rosso came back to us before anything in the States was completed, so here I am!”