Sébastien Bourdais is eagerly anticipating a step forward from Scuderia Toro Rosso in the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona in just under a fortnight's time, after enjoying the most encouraging race of what has thus far been a miserable 2009 Formula 1 campaign for him in Bahrain last weekend.
The record-breaking former multiple Champ Car king wound up at the very back of the starting grid in Sakhir – the third time in four outings that he has been out-qualified by young rookie team-mate and namesake Sébastien Buemi – but a much more impressive performance a day later saw the Frenchman work his way up the order into 13th spot at the chequered flag, four places ahead of the sister STR4 and having set the ninth-fastest lap time along the way, less than a second shy of the quickest outright.
“It was a really good day for me,” the 30-year-old affirmed, “except that I started so far back on the grid, which meant I couldn't get into the points. Clearly, the car was working well and I had good race pace. The team adopted the right strategy starting me on 'Primes', and after that I was quite quick.
“It was nice to drive a race on the attack, feeling comfortable with the car, and I knew that with the different strategies I had to push right to the end, running the 'Options'. Overall, I'm fairly happy with this result and now I'm looking forward to Barcelona and updates on the car, as I'm sure they will make a big difference. Thirteenth is nothing special, no points, but I can be pleased with the day's work.”
From 16th on the grid – less than a tenth of a second short of making it through to Q2 for the second time during his maiden season in the top flight – Buemi struggled in the oppressive heat of the desert kingdom, as he fell back at the start and failed to make much progress from thereon in, ultimately crossing the finish line a dispirited 17th.
“I'm not happy with the way it went,” confessed the Bahrain-domiciled Swiss ace. “It was very difficult and it could have been better. My start was bad with a lot of wheelspin, losing places, and then I was unable to attack and was sliding a lot.
“I'm not sure why I struggled with the car, as its behaviour was really strange. I was not concerned by the heat and gave my maximum from start-to-finish. At least I finished, which is a good experience, but there is nothing much else to say apart from the fact I was slow and had a bad weekend!”
The Red Bull 'junior' outfit has just four points on the board so far in 2009, 23.5 fewer than its parent concern. Despite possessing what is essentially the same car as Red Bull Racing, the small Faenza-based squad has remained largely glued to the bottom reaches of the order, and that is a situation that team principal Franz Tost is adamant must change soon.
“Given we were far back on the grid, the race was not so bad,” the Austrian mused, “especially with Bourdais who drove a very good second stint on new 'Options', and was around 1.5 seconds quicker than in the first one. For Buemi, it was good that he finished the race to get more mileage and experience, and so far he is improving constantly. Unfortunately, a piece of debris from a BMW ended up wedged on his front wing, which meant he suffered with understeer.
“The team worked well in the difficult conditions and we are looking forward to the next race in Spain, when we will have some updates to the rear diffuser, giving us more downforce. The entire field is very closely-matched and so the key to doing well on Sunday is to qualify well. That is difficult, given you have around five cars within a tenth, so getting out of Q1 involves being very well-prepared.”