On the back of a good year, Toro Rosso has still yet to name their two drivers for next season.
The 2009 line up still remains inconclusive as team bosses ponders between three main rivals consisting of Red Bull tester Sebastien Buemi, former Super Aguri Takuma Sato, and the Italian team’s 2008 driver Sebastien Bourdais.
Competition will be soaring; it will be two from three. Sebastian Vettel will move to Red Bull Racing next season as his fantastic performance and win in Italy proves he is ready for the step up to take over from the retired David Coulthard.
As Vettel joins Mark Webber, the trio of Buemi, Sato, and Bourdais will head to Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya to battle it out for his seat and the spare one. Toro Rosso will be keen to access the three drivers.
Japanese native Sato would bring a vast range of audiences as well as extra supporters if he would join. He is hugely supported, especially with the Asian fans. He has had somewhat of a poor racing career at the top level as he has only provided one podium from 93 races.
His former employers include Jordan, BAR, and Super Aguri; he hopes to secure another chance at Toro Rosso.
At Jordan, he remained very ineffective and gained a name for himself as "crasher." In 2003, he took over from Jacques Villeneuve at BAR for the last race and finished a very respectable sixth. He raced with BAR full time in 2004 and had the most successful season he has ever had.
At the United States of America Grand Prix, he finished third, only behind Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. Sat was only the second Japanese person that achieved a podium finished following Aguri Suzuki at the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix.
Throughout the remainder of the season, Sato points tally suffered, he did not finish many races. His Honda powered engine often gave up, the rumours started spiralling that it was his driving style and technique that caused the premature end to many races that season. Teammates Jenson Button’s car showed no similar problems, leading to talk questioning Sato’s ability.
He joined Super Arugi and an eighth place at the Spanish Grand Prix recorded his new employers the first ever world championship point. Later at Canada, he finished sixth, where Lewis Hamilton won his first ever grand prix. Super Aguri went bankrupt earlier this year leaving Sato without a drive.
Sato must remain one of the favourites to win a seat for Toro Russo. However, being 31 years of age team bosses may refer to younger and more untested driver to look if they can take the competition by storm.
Buemi, opposed to Sato, is only 20 years old and has been the current test driver.
He has done all of his graduating work through Formula BMW, Formula Three, the A1 Grand Prix and the GP2 Series and achieved limited success. He finished sixth in GP2 with two wins to name.
Buemi is certainly up and coming and fills Toro Rosso vision for the future as young, gifted and something to prove.
As for 2008 driver Bourdais, he underachieved massively compared to Vettel. Again, Bourdais is creeping up to 30 years of age and he has limited time to make impact.
He is one of the most successful drivers in the history of the Champ Car World Series, having won four successive championships from 2004 to 2007 before his promotion to Formula 1.
On his debut at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, he worked his way up from 17th to an impressive fourth before engine troubles caused Bourdais to retire three laps from the end. He later claimed seventh place after all the accidents involved in the race.
He showed that he struggles to deal with the pressure as a fifth place finish looked on the cards but a chaotic last lap bumped him down to seventh.
Bourdais is experienced on a wide range of motorsports, he regularly drives in his hometown race of Le Mans 24, and his best position was second in 2007.
I do expect Toro Russo to stick with Bourdais and go with Buemi as the drivers to participate in the 2009 season. Sato have had the chance to make an impact in the sport and his age is certainly against him. Toro Rosso will want to finish races and acquire credibility; Sato’s driving technique may not be what the team bosses want.
Bourdais did relatively satisfactory on his debut season with only the talent of Vettel overshadowing him. Buemi was the favourite to get one of the seats and I expect that to be the case.
What do you think?