NOVEMBER 6, 2007

The case for Bruno Spengler

Bruno Spengler is one name that has been quietly mentioned as a possible F1 driver for some months now and he could be one of the outsiders in the running for the McLaren drive, although it is highly unlikely that the team would sign up the Canadian youngster before seeing him test.

The 24-year-old was born in Strasbourg, on the Franco-German border, but his family moved to Canada when he was three. He was schooled in Canada but continued to spend time in France and started karting at Biesheim, near Strasbourg, in 1995. He raced in both France and Canada in the years that followed and then in 2001 started racing in French Formula Renault. The following year he finished second to Christian Klien in the German Formula Renault Championship. This led to him being signed by Mercedes-Benz and in 2003 he was given a drive with the ASM team in the Formula 3 Euroseries. Unfortunately his career then took a bad knock when he crashed heavily in testing at Dijon and suffered a broken vertebrae which meant that he missed several races. Despite this he scored several podiums and was 10th in the championship. A switch to Mucke Motorsport in 2004 was not a success and in 2005 he joined Team Persson in DTM, driving a 2004 Mercedes C Class.

He did well enough to be promoted to the HWA team in 2006 and finished runner-up in the series. He repeated the same feat this year. His name was first mentioned in connection with F1 in the summer when there was talk that he would be one of the drivers of the planned Prodrive F1 team. We hear that he spent some time this summer in the McLaren F1 simulator in Woking and did very well. If Prodrive had happened it is likely that he would have been one of the drivers, in part because there may have been a Canadian sponsor in the background and in part because of Mercedes-Benz support.

Spengler is managed by Didier Coton (the man who oversaw the careers of Mika Hakkinen and Olivier Panis) and lives near Strasbourg. A big star with the fans in Germany, he speaks English, French and German fluently.

Whether McLaren would decide to take a second consecutive rookie remains to be seen but the success of Lewis Hamilton has undermined the belief that experience is all that matters in F1 and it is considered more important to find drivers who know how to overtake as this is the most valuable of skills in F1 in the current era.

There is also a lot of logic in F1 promoting someone from North America in order to keep interest in the sport alive. Since the disappearance of Jacques Villeneuve, Canada has no focus in F1 and with the United States Grand Prix and Scott Speed both disappearing this year, the only interest next year will come from how well Sebastien Bourdais does with Scuderia Toro Rosso. The four-time Champ Car title winner will bring some US fans to F1, but a Canadian would obviously help. This would also help to drive up interest in France, which has been in the doldrums for years.