Scuderia Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger has revealed that he has still to decide whether or not the team should retain four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais for 2009.
The Frenchman's arrival in Formula One was welcomed by those that felt he had been overlooked in the years since clinching the FIA F3000 crown, but Berger admits that the rookie has yet to do anything to convince him to extend his deal into a second season. Although he has scored points in his debut season, Bourdais has not been able to add to the brace he acquired in Melbourne's race of attrition - an event he also failed to finish after engine failure.
Since then, and despite the arrival of the 2008-spec STR3, his best result has been the tenth place he picked up in Valencia last time out - aided by a first appearance in the final phase of qualifying - with four DNFs punctuating a string of finishes in the bottom half of the field. As a result, Berger insists that there is still much for Bourdais to do if he is to hang on to his seat.
"In Formula One, you have to give someone half a year of time before you start to judge him," Berger admitted to the official website, "The half year is over and he is now in a situation where he has to prove his talents.
"I would not say that I already have a clear opinion on him, but I also have to say that Sebastian Vettel started a couple of races before [the 2008 season] and he performed very well in the first half year. We will have to see how the second half goes for Sebastien Bourdais. Honestly, I don't want to be drawn into an expression of opinion at this very moment. It's open."
"Every weekend is going to be different," added Bourdais. "If people had asked me to sign for that, I would have."
Berger was more complimentary, however, about Vettel, despite being resigned to losing the young German to 'sister' team Red Bull Racing next season. After a handful of impressive performances at the end of 2007, Vettel has led Toro Rosso's rise up the order this season, claiming four points finishes since the STR3 was introduced in Monaco.
"Sebastian has helped us to get the right atmosphere back," the Austrian noted, recalling an acrimonious 2007 campaign, "We had been really struggling with Scott Speed and Tonio Liuzzi last year, but he has proved what the team is able to do and done it in a very nice way, with us, with the engineers, with everybody. That has pushed us such an immense step forward - it is really a pity to lose him. There is not a single soul in the team that is not sad to see him go at the end of the season."
Bourdais' future aside, there has been much recent speculation about who might step up to replace Vettel next year, with the usual list of Red Bull-backed youngsters being joined by the likes of Bruno Senna, for whom Berger admits to having a soft spot after working closely with the Brazilian's world champion uncle during his own F1 career.
Despite the various rumours, however, the Austrian says that he has yet to make any decisions on his next driver pairing and could wait to see what happens when F1's annual 'silly season' finally kicks off. However, with Red Bull likely to continue as principal backer for another year, Berger admits that the decision will not be entirely his own.
"The first direction that we look in is, obviously, to the Red Bull young driver programme, and then we'll see," he confirmed, "But we are not quite ready yet, we don't really have a list in our heads at this stage. We are far from saying it's this one or that one because we are also waiting to see if something happens elsewhere - and probably then we'll get a new chance.
"Everybody will bring opinions and then we - Didi [Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz
] and myself - will try to find the right way for the team. At the end of the day, the last word will come from Red Bull because that is where we get all our resources from, so it is natural that we listen to what he would like to do."