Despite his own misgivings, S?bastien Bourdais has a 'strong chance' of remaining on the Formula 1 grid in 2009 - that is the conviction of the Frenchman's manager Nicolas Todt.

Bourdais' future in the top flight has been the subject of much speculation for months, with his employers Scuderia Toro Rosso persistently refusing to offer any kind of solid assurances and recent revelations that the record-breaking multiple Champ Car king is now tabling offers to return back across the Pond once more [see separate story - click here].

Whilst he endured a troubled first half to his maiden season in F1 - what he termed 'one of the worst of my whole career' - Bourdais has appeared increasingly impressive of late. Not only has he qualified inside the top ten on the starting grid for five of the last six grands prix, he has moreover all-but matched - and at times even beaten - his highly-rated young team-mate Sebastian Vettel in race situations too.

That kind of progress, argues Todt - son of former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt, co-owner of leading GP2 Series outfit ART Grand Prix and a man who also looks after the interests of F1 title protagonist Felipe Massa - deserves to be acknowledged by means of a contract extension... and he believes it will be.

"As I have said often, there is a strong chance that S?bastien can remain at Toro Rosso," he told French radio RMC. "I am hopeful. It is my task now to make sure he stays in Formula 1 next season.

"[Given Bourdais' mixed debut campaign in 2008] some people could have some doubts about him, but I think S?bastien reacted well to his difficult period and has had some good performances - although not all of them rewarded."

STR co-owner and former grand prix star Gerhard Berger has confessed that Bourdais is at 'the top of the list' regarding potential candidates for 2009, with the small Faenza-based concern ideally searching to pair up one experienced driver with one younger one.