S?bastien Buemi has confessed that his preferred Formula 1 team-mate at Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2009 would be Jenson Button, whilst it is claimed that the team is keen to retain the services of 2008 incumbent S?bastien Bourdais - sponsorship permitting.

Though Buemi has still not been officially confirmed at the Red Bull 'junior' concern for next year, comments from within the team have suggested that the GP2 racer is likely to fill one of its currently vacant seats.

The young Swiss ace may have trailed fellow candidates Bourdais and out-of-work Super Aguri F1 refugee Takuma Sato during initial testing at Barcelona last month, but he emerged on top on all three days at Jerez last week, and upon returning to his role of test driver for Red Bull Racing again at the southern Spanish circuit this week, he paced the opening day by some margin.

Should Buemi be confirmed, then his team-mate at the small Faenza-based outfit is likely to be either Bourdais or Sato, with the three drivers having taken part in the testing conducted since the 2008 campaign drew to a close as the team evaluates its options.

Although Bourdais struggled at times during his maiden season in F1, his results improved towards the end of the season although he admits that it won't be easy to secure the backing required to take up a drive.

Sato meanwhile has shown no signs of rustiness from his time away from the sport, having been on the pace immediately on his return to the track at Catalunya. Indeed, his first foray onto the circuit following the end of the year saw him set the pace on day one in Barcelona last month while the Japanese star has been inside the top two on every other day at the wheel since then as he stakes a strong claim for a drive himself.

However, since Honda's demise, Button has emerged as an outside bet too, with STR insiders suggesting the British star 'would not need an audition' for a race seat [see separate story - click here] and Buemi admitting that he would relish the opportunity to pit himself against a grand prix winner in his maiden campaign.

"I am hoping for a strong team-mate for 2009," the 20-year-old told Swiss newspaper Blick. "For me, the best of all would be Button.

"At the test before in Barcelona I was about three tenths behind the experienced guys, but [at Jerez] I had Bourdais and Sato under control.

"On Tuesday and Wednesday [Sebastian] Vettel is coming, which will be a good comparison for me. Three months ago he was better than me by two tenths, but I am in better form now because I have more experience."

Bourdais' manager Nicolas Todt, meanwhile, has claimed that Toro Rosso is eager to keep the record-breaking former multiple Champ Car king on-board for a second consecutive season, after the 29-year-old displayed increasingly impressive form towards the end of his rookie campaign in 2008. The only issue, he admitted, is budget.

"Toro Rosso wants to keep him," the son of former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt told French magazine Auto Hebdo, "but the economic context is really difficult at the moment, therefore it is not really in our control."

Todt was also insistent that the recent departure of co-owner and Bourdais supporter Gerhard Berger and re-sale of STR to parent company Red Bull 'doesn't change anything in a big way', adding: "Of course it is no simpler now, but also no more complicated."

The 2009 STR4 is to again be designed by Red Bull Technology and built in Italy, and will be ready to hit the test tracks at the end of February, a month before the season curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.


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