Sébastien Bourdais could be set to switch to Renault in Formula 1 in 2009, it has been claimed – as the future of his present employers Scuderia Toro Rosso beyond next year looks to be in genuine doubt.
The security of Bourdais' seat at the small Faenza-based squad has been the subject of discussion for months, following a troubled 'rookie' season in the top flight this year for the multiple Champ Car Champion – one that seemed to step up a couple of gears with much-improved performances in Valencia, Spa and Monza, only to come crashing back down to earth again with a poor showing in Singapore last time out.
Now, however, French radio station RMC
has suggested that he could be set to make a belated move to Renault, a team that is currently weighing up its options for 2009, hoping that former double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso stays on-board and facing a choice between under-fire current incumbent Nelsinho Piquet, GP2 Series front-runners Lucas di Grassi [see separate story – click here
] and Romain Grosjean…and now seemingly also Bourdais.
That logic, however, overlooks the fact that the Régie
dealt a significant blow to the 29-year-old's F1 ambitions back in late 2002, when it elected to sign up Franck Montagny as its test driver rather than the then newly-crowned International F3000 Champion – sending the man from Le Mans scurrying across the Atlantic, where he went on to break all records in Champ Car circles. Following that snub, Bourdais had claimed that 'I know I don't belong there' when asked about Renault, F1SA
reveals, so it will be interesting to see if bygones really can be bygones when the silly season shakes out.
Meanwhile, STR co-owner Gerhard Berger has admitted that he is not optimistic about the future of Red Bull's 'junior' outfit once customer cars are outlawed in the sport as of 2010. Energy drinks magnate Dietrich Mateschitz has revealed that he wishes to sell his 50 per cent share in the former Minardi concern, leaving Berger unsure as to what the future holds for F1's newest grand prix winners.
“I would struggle to carry on alone [without Red Bull support],” the Austrian told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport
. “I need the backing of a car manufacturer – which isn't there.”
Indeed, despite commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone's apparent nonchalance about the issue [see separate story – click here
], the global credit crunch does appear to be bearing an effect on the sport, with Prodrive chairman David Richards – himself tipped to lead an entry into the uppermost echelon in 2008 before being dissuaded by the customer car regulations – suggesting the recently-collapsed Super Aguri F1 may not be the last squad to face the unthinkable.
“Those teams that are very dependent on car manufacturers for funding and don't have commercial sponsors might be under more pressure,” the former Benetton team principal told international news agency Reuters
, “but there is unlikely to be any knee-jerk reaction. Withdrawing is such a high-profile decision to make.”
Williams CEO Adam Parr, meanwhile, believes it would not take much for the new Formula One Teams' Association to come to a resolution to halve annual budgets.
“I know that because I know what we are spending,” he explained. “Why does anyone have to spend more than Williams spend on going racing?”