Sébastien Buemi will make his Formula 1 racing debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2009, the Faenza-based outfit's team principal Franz Tost has confided.
Buemi has been one of a number of drivers in the frame for an STR seat next year, alongside fellow GP2 Series front-runners Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok, as well as present incumbent Sébastien Bourdais and Super Aguri F1 refugee Takuma Sato.
Both Buemi and Sato tested for the Red Bull junior concern at Jerez last week, as STR looks to find a replacement for RBR-bound Sebastian Vettel – and, if Tost's words are to be taken as read, Bourdais too…
“After what we have seen [in testing], and as long as we manage to find a suitable experienced driver to be next to him, I think we can take the risk to have Sébastien with us in 2009,” Tost told Swiss newspaper Le Matin
on the subject of Buemi, who also has Red Bull's backing for the drive.
“You can take that as an official declaration. He is very, very talented, and as we belong to the Red Bull family, we must help to support their drivers.”
Current RBR test driver Buemi finished sixth in this year's GP2 title standings, 26 points adrift of champion Giorgio Pantano and with a brace of victories to his name. Whilst Tost insisted STR is 'not in a hurry' to finalise the deal, the Austrian did hint that it is a matter now of when, rather than if, the 19-year-old signs on the dotted line.
Sato, meanwhile, remains an outside chance for an STR drive in 2009, it is understood [see separate story – click here
], with the Japanese veteran of almost 100 grands prix telling Swiss publication Blick
: “If they need me, I would be ready.”
Sato proved the quicker of the two drivers during Jerez testing, by just over two tenths of a second, but the 31-year-old's time was set in faster conditions. The former Honda star set a best effort of 1m 19.574s to Buemi's 1m 20.210s, and Vettel's 1m 19.470s on the final day. Buemi placed third on day two and Sato sixth on day three of the eight drivers present on each day.