Sébastien Bourdais and Takuma Sato have acknowledged that whichever of the two of them proves capable of bringing the most money to Scuderia Toro Rosso is likely to occupy the second cockpit at the Red Bull 'junior' concern in 2009.
GP2 Series Graduate Sébastien Buemi – who has paced both days of Formula 1 winter testing at Jerez de la Frontera so far this week – is reckoned to be all-but guaranteed one of the berths at the small Faenza-based outfit, with 2008 incumbent Bourdais and out-of-work Super Aguri refugee Takuma Sato the principal candidates for the other seat.
The two men have proved to be evenly-matched in testing at both Barcelona and Jerez, with Bourdais aiming to secure his second season in the top flight after coming on in leaps and bounds towards the end of his rookie campaign this year, and Sato bidding to re-launch his grand prix career which hit the skids when Honda's satellite team folded back in May.
Both drivers have supporters within the team, but it is believed that one crucial factor in Sato's favour is that he is able to bring more funding to the squad – in a time of such global financial upheaval, a matter of increasing importance – and Bourdais has admitted that he is facing an uphill struggle to retain his drive.
“I'm on the look-out,” the record-breaking former multiple Champ Car Champion told German magazine Auto Motor und Sport
, “but in the current economic crisis, it is difficult to find money, and not just in France.
“There are so many stories, but the fact is that even in Japan you don't just find money on the street.”
Whilst the land of the rising sun has indeed not been immune from the international credit crunch, it is understood that Red Bull is enthusiastic about Sato's potential to promote the energy drink in the burgeoning Japanese market.
“I have my money,” the 31-year-old – with 90 grand prix starts under his belt – told Auto Motor und Sport
. “My management has worked feverishly to find sponsors.
“When you are talking about the sums that are applicable for Formula 1, only large companies are relevant, and their decisions are not always made quickly.
“Private teams such as Toro Rosso are in the present situation under even more pressure than the manufacturers, so for them every sponsor is a gift. I can only hope that time does not run away from me.”