Bourdais comfortable with rookie role as home French GP set
Sebastien Bourdais doesn't have much chance of winning his home Grand Prix this weekend at Magny-Cours, France. But he understands his role as a rookie with Toro Rosso, and that is to help score points for the fledgling operation, writes Dan Knutson.
- MAGNY-COURS, France -- Sebastien Bourdais has no chance of winning his home Grand Prix of France this weekend.Possible winners are, of course, the Ferrari duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa as well as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen. As Robert Kubica proved in Canada, he and BMW Sauber teammate Nick Heidfeld have a shot at victory as well.Wild-card winners include Fernando Alonso in his Renault, Nico Rosberg in his Williams Toyota and Mark Webber or David Coulthard in their Red Bull Renaults.But Bourdais in a Toro Rosso Ferrari? At most, he can hope for a point or two if he can finish in the top eight.That's quite a shift for a guy who won 28 Champ Car races on his way to earning four consecutive championships. But it is a mindset that Bourdais knew he had to adopt even before he stepped foot in a car to begin testing for his Formula One debut season."It does not matter what you are fighting for," he said. "You just are doing your job and doing the best you can, and then you end up where you end up."For me it was always very clear. It is trying to enjoy yourself, which is the first target, and give your best for yourself and for the team. And then if the car is only good enough for 15th and you finish 12th it is sometimes even more satisfying than winning a race with a car that everybody knows is capable of winning. You just need to reset yourself a bit."The car and the team make all the difference whether a driver can win or not in F1. Bourdais' Toro Rosso has the same Ferrari V-8 engine as in the Ferraris of Massa and Raikkonen, but the Toro Rosso team is not the Ferrari team."In Champ Car, I won the championship in my second season," Bourdais said earlier this year, "and I could have been a contender in my first. But here it is a different game; nobody has the same equipment so you're not playing by the same rules. If you have a McLaren or Ferrari you have more chance of winning. If you don't, then just scoring some points will feel like a win."Bourdais' rookie F1 season started off with a bang. He was in an outstanding fourth place in his first Grand Prix, in Australia, when his engine blew with just four laps to go. Still, he was classed seventh and salvaged two points.Since then, however, good results have eluded the Frenchman. Mechanical problems eliminated him from two races and accidents from two more. The only time he made it to the finish line was in Bahrain, where he crossed the line in 15th, and Canada, where he was 13th.Toro Rosso decided to start the season with an updated version of its 2007 STR2 car. The team reasoned that it could pick up some points with a well sorted out car while other teams were still getting to know their new cars. Besides, the 2008 STR3 was not ready in time.The strategy didn't pay off as Bourdais and teammate Sebastian Vettel failed to finish many races. The debut of the STR3 was further delayed by one race when Bourdais destroyed one in a testing accident.Still, the team did the correct thing by delaying the new car, says Vettel."It was the right decision to start the season with a car that we knew from before," Vettel explained. "So now we have had the chance to test the new car. Obviously it is not enough, you never get enough testing, but it is good."Finally, the new cars showed up for the Monaco Grand Prix at the end of May."We are on a steep learning curve with the new car and are going to make progress," Bourdais said. "We know that the new car is faster. It is just about trying to get it right and put everything together."We did not show what we wanted to show in Monaco because we were lost in the setups because of lack of knowledge, and because the track is so atypical that it is difficult to be spot on."Bourdais struggled on the street track in Montreal as well. Having raced on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and done well there in Champ Cars, Bourdais was looking forward to the Canadian Grand Prix. But he had a miserable weekend because of the crumbling track."I could not do anything with the car," he said afterwards. "I went slightly off the line and got on the gravel. If this happens once or twice you are concerned it can happen again which is not good, especially when you're running last."It was a complete disaster for me so I just forgot about the possibility of trying to drive fast, just tried to bring the car home and even doing this was a challenge."This was the worst race ever for me, the worst weekend of my entire career. I have never experienced anything like it. I'm looking forward now to the next race, my home race and at a circuit where the track doesn't break up!"Team co-owner Gerhard Berger fully supports Bourdais."His first race he could have finished fourth," Berger told ESPN.com "And that race in Australia is always a tricky one; there is always a lot of incidents, yellow flags and that type of thing, showed that he is really a racer because he did not get flustered. He reacted well to each situation. That is the sort of experience that money can't buy and he learned it from wheel-to-wheel racing in America."He has struggled a bit since then, at some tracks more than others. But he is facing a steep learning curve. He is still a novice at F1. We are happy with what he has done so far."[+] EnlargePaul Gilham/Getty ImagesSorting out the new STR3 has been a chore for Sebastien Bourdais and Toro Rosso, but they believe they are making progress.
-- Sebastien Bourdais
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