Thursday, December 4, 2008

French F1 Drivers, Sebastien Bourdais

Sébastien Bourdais

Sébastien Bourdais was born February 28, 1979 in Le Mans and is a current Formula One race car driver. 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.

In Paris August 2008...

Born into a racing family (his father Patrick races in touring cars, hill climbs, and sports cars), Bourdais began his racing career at age 10 in karts. During the early 1990s, he competed in a variety of karting championships, winning the Maine Bretagne League in 1991 and the Cadet France championship in 1993. Bourdais was part of the winning Sologne Karting team which won the 1996 24 hour Le Mans kart race at the Circuit Alain Prost on a Merlin chassis with Atomic motors.

Bourdais progressed to single-seater racing in 1995, finishing 9th in the Formula Campus Championship. He then spent two years in the French Formula Renault Championship, ultimately finishing second in points in 1997 after winning four races and five pole positions. In 1998, he won five races to become Rookie of the Year (6th overall) in French Formula 3. He won the series outright in 1999, with eight wins and three poles.

Following his success in the lower formulae, Bourdais joined the Prost Junior Team in the International F3000 Championship. He finished ninth in the series with one pole and a best finish of second. In 2001, Bourdais moved to the DAMS team in Formula 3000 and took his first win in the series at Silverstone. He changed teams again for 2002, taking his Super Nova Racing car to three victories and seven pole positions. He beat Giorgio Pantano to the championship by two points after Tomáš Enge, who had scored the most points, was penalised for failing a drug test

Champ Days...

Bourdais won his second Champ Car title in 2005.
Following in the footsteps of recent F3000 graduates such as Juan Pablo Montoya and Bruno Junqueira, Bourdais moved to Champ Car racing in the United States and joined Newman-Haas Racing for the 2003 CART World Series season. At St. Petersburg, FL, Bourdais became the first rookie since Nigel Mansell to claim pole position for his very first race. However, he did not finish higher than 11th until his fourth race, when he led 95 laps en route to his first Champ Car victory at Brands Hatch.
He followed this up with another victory at Lausitzring. By the end of the season, he had earned five more podium finishes, including a win from pole at Cleveland. With a runner-up finish in Mexico City, he clinched the Rookie of the Year title and finished 4th in the overall standings.
Staying with Newman-Haas for 2004, Bourdais dominated the Champ Car series with seven wins and eight poles in his McDonald's-sponsored Lola, beating his team mate Junqueira by 28 points. His record also included podium finishes in 10 out of 14 events and qualifying results no lower than third all season.

Bourdais successfully defended his Champ Car title in 2005 with five wins in six races towards the end of the season, again with the Newman-Haas/Lanigan team. That May, he also finished 12th in his first Indianapolis 500.
Bourdais won a third consecutive Champ Car title in 2006. His season began with four consecutive victories at Long Beach, Houston, Monterrey, and Milwaukee, although his winning streak was ended by the emergence of A. J. Allmendinger, who won three races in a row through the middle of the season. Bourdais responded with a commanding victory from pole at San Jose, leaving him leading the Champ Car points standings.
However, an incident with his arch-rival Paul Tracy that knocked him out on the final lap of the following race in Denver, and a subsequent win by Allmendinger narrowed the gap between the two. Bourdais's win in Montreal and Allmendinger's DNF had widened his points lead to 62 points with three races left, and Bourdais clinched the championship at the next race in Surfers Paradise despite a weak performance in that race. Bourdais became the first Champ Car driver to win three consecutive titles since Ted Horn achieved the hat trick in 1948.
Bourdais won a fourth consecutive Champ Car title in 2007 with victory at Lexmark Indy 300 on October 21.

In 2002, Bourdais got his first F1 test with the Arrows team and was signed on to drive for the team but the team were on the verge of bankruptcy. In December he tested for Renault at Jerez but fellow Frenchman Franck Montagny secured the test drive instead of Bourdais- rumours suggested that Bourdais did not wish to sign a management deal with Renault boss Flavio Briatore in addition to a Renault contract.

Bourdais returned to F1 in 2007 after being given several tests with Scuderia Toro Rosso. On August 10, 2007 it was announced that Bourdais would race for Toro Rosso in 2008, replacing Vitantonio Liuzzi and partnering Sebastian Vettel. On March 16 2008, Bourdais competed in his first Formula One Championship race, the 2008 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. After qualifying in 17th position he took advantage of mistakes made by other drivers, in the first Formula One race since 2001 without traction control, and worked his way up to fourth. However, with three laps remaining an engine problem forced Bourdais to retire, but he was still classfied 8th having completed more than 90% of the race distance. He later inherited seventh place (and two Championship points) after the disqualification of Rubens Barrichello.
Bourdais qualified ninth for the Belgian Grand Prix. During the race he quickly gained places and held on to fifth place for much of the distance, and was on course for a podium position, but following a chaotic last lap finished in seventh position. After the race an emotional Bourdais was in tears following the result. This marked his best weekend of the season and his first World Championship points since Melbourne.

Malaysia GP '08 on board

Bourdais qualified in fourth place for the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. However, his car would not select first gear on the grid and had to start from the pit lane, a lap down (as the race started behind the safety car, there was no warm-up lap). Although he eventually finished a lap behind the race winner, team-mate Vettel, he set the second fastest lap of the race; only Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen went faster. At the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix he was 6th on the road, but received a 25-second penalty for causing an avoidable accident with Felipe Massa dropping him to 10th. Few agreed with the decision - ITV's Martin Brundle had stated during live TV coverage of the race that he felt Massa may receive a penalty, whilst his colleague James Allen states that 99% of experts he spoke to felt that Bourdais did not deserve a penalty.

24 Hours of Le Mans
Bourdais has frequently contested the famous 24 hour race of his home town, entering for the first time in 1999 (aged only 20) in a Porsche 911 GT2 run by Larbre Competition. The car, which he shared with Pierre de Thoisy and Jean-Pierre Jarier, retired after 134 laps with engine failure.
He returned in 2000, finishing fourth with Emmanuel Clerico and Olivier Grouillard for the Pescarolo team behind the three dominant Audis.
His next three appearances did not go so well. He shared a Courage C60 with Jean-Christop Boullion and Laurent Redon in 2001 but it retired after 271 laps. He drove the same model the next year and finished ninth in the LMP900 class with Bouillon and Franck Lagorce. He missed the 2003 race and returned in 2004, only for the car he shared with Nicolas Minassian and Emmanuel Collard to retire after 282 laps.
Bourdais' next assault on Le Mans would come at the wheel of a factory-backed Peugeot 908 in 2007. The car he shared with Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy finished the race second behind the winning Audi R10 TDi, despite an embarrassing slide on the first lap in wet conditions that cost Bourdais a place to one of the Audis, and car problems forcing him to park the car for the last minutes of the race, waiting for the lead R10 to cross the line.

While racing in the junior formulae and Champ Cars, Bourdais made several appearances in other championships. He won the Spa 24 Hours in 2002 with Christophe Bouchut, David Terrien and Vincent Vosse in a Larbre Compétition Chrysler Viper GTS-R. He also won his class at the 2006 12 Hours of Sebring in a Panoz Esperante. In 2005 he also competed in the International Race of Champions, winning his first stock car race at Texas Motor Speedway.

1 comment:

F1Wolf said...

It took him very long time to break into F1. It was quite surprising that no one really picked him until Toro Rosso for 2008 season.

I think he should still get the chance to show his skills on slick tyres. But it does not look too good for him now ... He has no serious $$ backing and what Toro Rosso will need the most in th near future is the cash ... It may well happen that 2009 will be season without French GP and without French driver on the grid ...