Bourdais, Or Not Bourdais?: The Toro Rosso Question
Sebastien Bourdais' tenure in a race seat at Toro Rosso is not long for this earth.
Since he first turned an F1 wheel last season, after a wildly successful stint in the US-based Champ Car World Series, there have been question marks over his ability to drive at the highest level.
Now all signs seem to pointing Bourdais towards the door, perhaps as early as to make this weekend's German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring his final F1 drive for the foreseeable future.
Now, and let's get this straight, I probably rate Bourdais higher than most people. Take his exploits in Champ Car, where he won four consecutive titles from 2004, and sportscars, highlighted by his runner-up spot at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours, and add that to his F1 career.
Through passages of last year he was close to Vettel, and often had promising positions taken from him by cruel luck, and knowing what we now know about Vettel's talent level that is no mean feat.
This year's performances have been less headline grabbing, holding his own against F1 rookie Sebastien Buemi, though he has only scored two points this season, in what I suspect is a badly substandard car.
But, is the increasingly inevitable Bourdais push the right thing for the team?
In my opinion no, simply because the names being lined up to take his seat are no better, if not worse.
Almost as soon as rumours surfaced two names leapt to the fore: Jaime Alguarsuari and Sebastien Loeb.
Jaime Alguarsauri is an early favourite for the seat given his current position as the reserve driver shared between the two Red Bull teams.
Indeed, throughout the broadcast of qualifying today, Alguarsuari was mentioned again and again, with seemingly only one selling point. That he is the current British Formula Three champion.
British. Formula. Three.
That's a long, long way from F1. Even given his rather unspectacular half a season of the current World Series by Renault campaign, he has nowhere near the experience of even a Bourdais at the top level.
The same is true when you look at other drivers somewhere in the Red Bull program in the feeder series.
Brendon Hartley was the Red Bull reserve earlier this season. However, he, like Alguersauri, is a WSR rookie.
The two drivers at the Red Bull supported Arden GP2 team, the same team that ran Buemi last year, Sergio Perez and Eduardo Mortara, are rookies in that series.
They might be ready for F1 in a season or two, but promote them now and they may be hopelessly slow on track, and that's without factoring in how they are going to be able to communicate with their team and set up the car, which is likely where Bourdais' experience elsewhere in the motorsports universe pays dividends.
Then there is Sebastien Loeb, who seems to have put himself forward for the seat. The mere idea of Loeb in F1 boggles the mind.
Yes, the man can handle himself himself in a C4 hurtling down a track somewhere beating the 12 other people who have decided to run in the WRC that week.
I'd even be prepared to say he can hold his own in sportscars given his previous exploits with Pescarolo at Le Mans.
But any parallels between what Loeb does currently as an F1 ride are very limited. I suppose you could say they both involve driving cars, but even that forces you to give the word "car" the broadest possible definition.
The chasm Loeb would have to jump is best illustrated by the others who have made it (or lack of them).
Yes, Kimi Raikkonen drives a rally car occasionally, Valentino Rossi juggles his MotoGP rides with occasional rallies and even once drove a Ferrari F1 car, although the results of that escapade are less than pretty.
The only man who has made the leap with any level of successful was Stephane Sarrazin (going from F1 to rallying), but even he was hardly an F1 sensation.
Loeb would be leaping into the deep end of a shark-infested swimming pool with half a dozen halibut heads tied around his waist.
Would, he or any of the open-wheel drivers represent a step up for the team in Bourdais?
However, if Toro Rosso must show Sebastien Bourdais the door, there can be only one man for the job.
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