Gerhard Berger has again issued a warning to Sébastien Bourdais that he must prove that he deserves to remain in Formula 1 with Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2009 – but the former ten-time grand prix-winner admits that he is optimistic the Frenchman will be up to the challenge.
Bourdais has struggled thus far during his fledgling career in the top flight, scoring just once – in the season curtain-raiser Down Under back in March – and failing to make it through to the final phase of qualifying at all, in contrast to team-mate Sebastian Vettel's six points and three top ten grid slots.
That has prompted considerable speculation that the multiple Champ Car king is coming under increasing pressure to retain his seat at the small Faenza-based Red Bull satellite concern beyond the end of the current campaign – paddock whispers that Berger has done little to quash.
“During the season it can turn up that it didn't work,” the Austrian mused, speaking to Dutch magazine Formule 1 Race Report
, “because only then do you see them under pressure.
“We gave Sébastien half the season to adjust to Formula 1. That is over now, so he has to show that he deserves to be driving here. I think he can do it.”
One factor in Bourdais' favour is that should he be dropped – GP2 Series front-runners Bruno Senna, Sébastien Buemi and Karun Chandhok have all been linked to his seat – STR would then be looking for two new drivers in 2009, with Vettel graduating to the parent Red Bull outfit.
Whilst the 29-year-old from Le Mans has yet to prove he is worthy of a long-term tenure in the uppermost echelon, he will certainly be keen to avoid the fate suffered by fellow American racing convertee Scott Speed, who fell out spectacularly with STR co-owner Berger and team principal Franz Tost midway through last season, precipitating his return back across the Pond.
“Scott was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Berger reflected, “but I hear he is doing well in America and I'm pleased to hear that.”