Sebastien Bourdais has credited the efforts of technical director Giorgio Ascanelli and the atmosphere within the team's Faenza base as reasons why Scuderia Toro Rosso had a successful 2008 campaign.
The Frenchman, who is by no means guaranteed to return for the second year of his contract as the team chases monied drivers to continue its fight towards the front of the pack, admitted that Ascanelli's input, especially with the new STR3 chassis which was introduced from Monaco, had served to focus the squad's efforts, eventually culminating in Sebastian Vettel's shock win at Monza, and consistent scoring drive that eventually led to sixth place in the constructors' championship, ahead of the likes of Williams, Honda, Force India, Super Aguri and, surely most pleasing of all, sister team Red Bull Racing.
"It's very difficult to put it up to one guy, but obviously Giorgio is very experienced and he's really serious about the work," Bourdais told Italy's 422race.com
, "He's blowing a fresh wind in the team to lead everybody in the right direction. Everybody is working really hard and having a lot of fun. I guess that's the key of the success.
"We started the season with the STR2B, which was a good car, but unreliable and not quick enough. We started strong in Australia, but then everybody started to put some updates on their cars and we started to seriously lack pace. We finally got STR3 in Monaco [but], for the first two races, it was very difficult. Then we got the new aero package in Magny-Cours and we started to get knowledge with the car and obviously, race after race, it started to pay off and we started to become stronger and stronger without ever really going back down."
With rivals Honda announcing that it was no longer going to run in F1, Toro Rosso became the only team yet to announce its drivers for 2009 and, with several candidates already having tested with the Faenza outfit, any refugees from Brackley appear to make Bourdais chances of returning next season even harder.
The Frenchman enjoyed a solid, if unspectacular, debut season in F1, possibly carrying the baggage of four straight Champ Car titles, but finds himself under immediate threat from Takuma Sato and Sebastien Buemi, as well as Bruno Senna, who was linked with STR before enjoying a successful test with Honda. Even though there is a seat open at STR regardless of Bourdais' position, following the departure of team-mate Vettel, the Frenchman remains realistic about his chances.
"For me, it's more of a 50-50 chance, so I'll keep on doing the best I can and see what happens," he admitted, having joined Sato and Buemi during the recent group tests in Spain.
"[Vettel and I] had a really good relationship, we pushed each other. It was very balanced between the two of us up until we got the new car and then, when we got the new car, he became a lot happier with the balance while I was struggling. Spa was really a one-off, the first time since Magny-Cours that I was happy with the balance, but I was feeling good in the car and I showed that I can do a good job."