So Long SeaBass, and Thanks for All the Fish

14 07 2009

Over this last weekend rumours  did the rounds that it would be SeaBass’ (Sebastien Bourdais) last race this season for Scuderia Toro Rosso (STR).  The BBC commentary discussed this during the German GP was as if it was a  fait accompli.  LeSeb is not saying anything other than he has a contract and the Team Boss Franz Tost has not denied the rumours.  Poor Sebastien had a miserable weekend and qualified in last place.  This year he has been out-qualified by his young team mate Sebastien Buemi in his first season seven times and has scored fewer points.  During the race he retired and body language as he hugged team members said it all.  Even his wife is reported to have said it was his last race with the team.

So what went wrong for the four-times USA CART Champion?  During 2007 there was much fanfair when STR announced their signing of LeSeb to replace the Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi.  The team also had Sebastian Vettel who had more lucky breaks in the season over the Italian but was not really much, if any faster.  During 2008 the young German wonderkid scored the teams first pole and GP win and he become the youngest ever driver to achieve these.  At the end of the season Vettel had 35 points to Bourdais’ 4.   Poor LeSeb had all the technical gremlins and a very harsh penalty by the FIA marshals at Japanese GP.  Yet in his very first race he got up to fourth before the car retired right at the end of the race but still was awarded seventh and two race points.

Seabass is set to be replaced by the Spanish teenager  Jaime Alguersuari, the youngest-ever British F3 champion.  He apparently brings a healthy dose of Repsol sponsorship.    Jaime has only recently replaced the androgenous-looking Brendan Hartley (a.k.a Goldilocks) as the reserve driver for both Red Bull teams.  One wonders if the decission to relieve Seabass from his contract pre-empted replacing Goldilocks.

Given that this years STR is fairly rubbish and most certainly the slowest car on grid, I wonder if it is not best for Seabass to bid farewell.  He was spectacular at this year’s Le Mans and finished second.  Hopefully a gap in Le Mans Series or a return to USA open Wheel series is possible so he can regain his reputation.  Of course with three new F1 teams set to compete in 2010 there is still the chance of seat in the F1 series come the new year.

So why did Red Bull replace their reserve driver just before announcing the replacement of one of their drivers?  It is fairly clear that they did not want poor Goldilocks as their driver.  I can only speculate that it revolves around image since Brendan is no slouch in a racing car and was on occasions faster than Jaime but ultimately not as as consistent.  Should Jaime find himself  at the wheel of the STR for the Hungary GP he will be the youngest ever F1 driver at 19 years and 125 days.  I wonder if this is more of a marketing tactic than anything else, and coincidentally it will be the first outing that the team will deploy their rear double diffuser.  I am not sure if Jaime will sink or swim, but he is certain to grab headlines for his first few races based on his youth and presentable good looks.

PS I guess I need to learn  to pronounce his last name.

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