S?bastien Bourdais has revealed that there are five drivers, not just three, under consideration for the two available Formula 1 seats at Scuderia Toro Rosso next year - as his manager admits that the Frenchman is undergoing 'a rather unpleasant period'.

Bourdais, namesake and GP2 Series race-winner S?bastien Buemi and out-of-work Super Aguri refugee Takuma Sato all tried out for STR during the first major group test of the winter around Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya this week. Though the former wound up the quickest of the three despite having completed by some margin the fewest laps, he stressed that his performance is no guarantee of a stay of execution at the Red Bull 'junior' concern in 2009.

"Obviously you have to show that you are the one who deserves to be there and obviously I need to show again that I am quick enough and deserve to be there," the 29-year-old - voted seventh in Crash.net readers' list of top ten drivers of the season [see separate story -click here] told the official Formula 1 website, "but that's not going to be enough.

"As long as they don't have the money to run the team in a proper way they won't be able to say [who they want], because it doesn't matter whether you have talented drivers at the wheel of the car if you can't run the car.

"There were three drivers in Barcelona, but Rubens [Barrichello] is on the list and Bruno [Senna] as well - if he doesn't get picked up by Honda - so anybody who has got talent and money today is a potential candidate."

Though Bourdais is undoubtedly talented - as his record-breaking four consecutive Champ Car crowns across the Pond attest to, as did his vastly improved form over the second half of his maiden F1 campaign in 2008 - he is struggling considerably more on the financial side, with both Sato and Buemi believed to be able to bring funding to the small, private Faenza-based outfit that the present incumbent cannot hope to match.

Reflecting on his rookie season in the top flight - one that had initially looked set to destroy his excellent reputation as he struggled to get a handle on the Monaco-introduced STR3 - the man from Le Mans admitted that it had been a big let-down, even if six top ten qualifying showings from the last seven grands prix and his increasingly gritty and impressive race performances towards the end proved that he deserves a second go in 2009.

"It was quite disappointing as far as I am concerned," he mused, "because obviously we had a good beginning with the STR2, where I was fairly close to Sebastian Vettel, and then with the STR3 it became a lot harder because I was facing balance issues which we really could not solve.

"We had one happy driver and one fairly unhappy driver. The time difference was getting very big sometimes, and you really don't look good and can't really be satisfied with that.

"It had nothing to do with my team-mate, but everything to do with my driving style and my window of operation where I can deliver and feel confident with the car. This obviously was a bit easier for Sebastian, and that was his big chance to be able to adapt to a car and to get the best out of it. I can do this as well with a car I am quite happy with, but if that's not the case it's getting a bit harder.

"The biggest difference is that I have never before been in a position where we could not fix the problems - there was always a solution. Here it is obviously very conceptual, meaning very much a design issue, and the flexibility in setting up the cars is quite narrow.

"If the car has characteristics such as this year with the STR3 - not taking away anything from the potential of the car, as it is very quick as Sebastian has demonstrated and I have also been able to show from time-to-time, but not on a regular basis - the margin and the flexibility that a driver has to set the car up in is a lot narrower than in any other series. I had never faced that before, where I was forced to drive a car I didn't like.

"First you have the phase where you desperately try to find solutions, and obviously we wasted quite a bit of time doing so - that is only a good thing when you find a solution, but when there aren't any solutions it is basically purely wasting your time.

"I think in some ways I helped the team to understand the car better, because we tried so many different things that in the end we had a very good idea of what was the best and what you should stay away from. That actually was a good thing, and in some ways might explain why we maybe had a bit better understanding [of the car] than Red Bull Racing.

"Then came the second phase where we tried to optimise what we thought was the best set-up on the car in terms of potential, and the third phase was starting in Japan - or actually in Singapore, but there we did not have enough downforce and I was still struggling in the car - where we had a little update that changed a bit the sensitivity of the rear of the car in the mid-speed corners, and that re-balanced the car a bit between high-speed and low-speed.

"I became not happy with the car, but a bit closer to where I wanted it to be and then I got a bit closer to Sebastian and actually delivered in two races - in Japan and China where I was a bit quicker than him in the race. That was a bit of satisfaction for sure."

Another factor in the equation is that - whilst Bourdais clearly wants to stay in F1 - in holding out for a decision from STR that may or may not go his way, the former International F3000 Champion risks missing out on other offers away from the grand prix paddock.

Whilst his manager Nicolas Todt acknowledges that is a concern, the son of former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt has equally sought to underline that he is confident the man whose 'achievements are the envy of many drivers... has a future at the highest levels of motorsport'.

"It is a rather unpleasant period," Todt acknowledged, quoted by F1SA. "It is correct that to be in November and not know what you will be doing next year is very unpleasant.

"Therefore our objective, whether he can be in Formula 1 or not, is to clarify [the situation] as quickly as possible. At the moment, I am concentrating on Formula 1. After that, we will see.

"In any case, I am not anxious. No matter what happens, S?bastien has a future at the highest levels of motorsport. Whether it is Formula 1 or not, is another question."


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