DECEMBER 15, 2006
The plight of Sebastien Bourdais
Sebastien Bourdais should not need to feel the urge to prove himself to anyone. With three Champ Car titles to his name he has shown that he is a top driver - even if Champ Car is not considered in Formula 1 circles to be what once it was. The fact that Bourdais is willing to come back to Europe and drive for what is not a very good F1 team, proves that his desire to be a Grand Prix driver is still strong - many drivers in his position would believe that such a move would be beneath their dignity.
The 27-year-old Frenchman says that he is going back to America this year - and will possibly also try to win Le Mans to beef up his CV a little more - but there is no doubt that in 2008 he wants to be an F1 driver and on Thursday in Jerez he proved that he has the pace, getting close to Scott Speed's lap times on only his second day of running. This was impressive given that Bourdais has not done any F1 testing since 2002. At the time he did tests with Arrows and then with Renault but he did not feel the need to sign a management contract with Flavio Briatore in addition to a Renault deal and thus the opportunity to be Renault test driver was snatched away - unfairly some might say - and he headed to the United States. In recent years he has had serious talks with BMW but in the end it was not possible for the two parties to agree terms.
Bourdais's record, however, is one that cannot be ignored. He won the French Formula 3 title back in 1999, was Formula 3000 champion in 2002 and has been Champ Car's dominant force in 2004, 2005 and 2006. It might have been a wise move for Renault to have turned to him this year rather than trying to make believe that Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen are a pair that will win World titles in 2007 - but there is too much water under the bridge for that to happen - at least as long as Briatore remains with the team.
However Bourdais will leave Jerez this evening having left his calling card in F1's hallway. It would be smart for the sport to do more than just nod to him. Bourdais's progress in F1 would bring more interest in France, where F1 audiences have been crumbling in recent years, despite the best efforts of Renault, and in America where open-wheeler fans would like to know how Champ Car is doing in the overall scheme of things.
And it would give more credibility to F1's claim that the sport includes the best drivers on the planet.
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