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DATE News (chronologically)
07/19/07
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f1
Q and A with Sebastien Bourdais  Three-time Champ Car World Series champion, Sebastien Bourdais tested at Spa in Belgium last week for Scuderia Toro Rosso. Bridgestone caught up with him for the latest Racing all over the World podcast and here he chats about that two-day test, explains why he would still like to move to Formula 1 and lots, lots more…

Racing all over the World:
Sebastien at the moment you are three points off the lead in the race for this year's Champ Car World Series drivers' title, how much of a distraction is it for you to come to Europe to test an F1 car?

Sebastien Bourdais:
It is a lot of fun. Obviously you don't get the chance to test at Spa in a Formula 1 car everyday. It was a great opportunity and even though the weather isn't exactly great, it is still very enjoyable. We have been able to test in all sorts of different conditions - wet, intermediate and dry. It was very interesting.

Racing all over the World:
It sounds like you have been busy. Can you give us any more details on what you have been doing with Toro Rosso and how it has gone?

SB:

It was all about trying to evaluate what kind of downforce level is going to be appropriate for the race weekend [here in September] - and since it is the first time with the V8 cars around here, there were quite a few things to learn. From my point of view, I am just driving and giving feed-back on the different configurations they go through. I am also trying to judge: ‘What is the correct tire, at the right time and in which condition'. The conditions have been changing very rapidly and that has made it very interesting too.

Racing all over the World:
You are testing in Belgium, but you'll also be racing in Belgium when Champ Car goes to Zolder in September, are you looking forward to that?

SB:
Absolutely - it is great to be back in Europe with Champ Car. It has been a long time coming, obviously, because since 2003 we haven't had that opportunity. I think we will have a great response and in fact the interest around the series is good. I am pretty optimistic about what is going to be happening over there.

Racing all over the World:
Would you like to see Champ Car come to France in the future?

SB:
Well I think that is part of the plan – the series is trying to expand and is thinking about a race in France and also in England, so it might be a possibility. It would be great.

Racing all over the World:
Now you were at Toronto on Sunday and now Spa on Wednesday, how difficult do you find it having a busy schedule in different time zones?

SB:
It is quite difficult, especially since it has been nine weeks now that I am going from one place to another. After the pre-qualifying session at Le Mans we went to Portland. Then it was back for the Le Mans 24 and then testing the next day after the 24. Then we had the Cleveland race and then I went back to France for a knee operation and then two races in a row with St Jovite and Toronto and now here in Spa. It has been quite intense in the last nine weeks and I will finally make it home at the end of the week, which will probably be very enjoyable.

Racing all over the World:
Obviously when you are racing in Champ Car and when you are testing in Formula 1 you use Bridgestone tires. How much of a benefit is that when you jump between the two different series' you use tires from the same manufacturer?

SB:
Well you see that the relationship is great – great technicians and great products, although they are very different. We use Bridgestone slicks in Champ Car and grooved tires in Formula 1. It is always a learning experience.

Racing all over the World:
How different are the two cars and is there a different way to try and maximize the performance of the tires?

S

B:
Absolutely, in Formula 1 you have traction control and everything and you wear the tires quite a bit differently. In Champ Car the Bridgestone tires suffer more - you have pretty heavy cars and the cars are turbo-charged, so it is pretty aggressive on the rear tires. You have different concerns in Formula 1, but all in all it is still pretty much the same game all the time – namely to try and optimize the car and make it go fast.

Racing all over the World:
How different are the wet Bridgestones used in F1 compared to those used in Champ Car?

S

B:
Well we didn't quite get to run in the full, full wet conditions at Spa but I have to say they are quite nice tires. I was very happy with the supply. In Champ Car the car is quite a bit different in its conception, but we have still been pretty pleased with the amount of extraction that we can get through the tire water wise and in Formula 1 it was very much the same. It is two different animals but the same game. It is kind of like an obstacle course sometimes -you go through lots of water and you need the tire to be with you and when that is the case that is pretty great.

Racing all over the World:
Can we expect to see you in a Formula 1 car next year?

S

B:
It is a possibility. Obviously you hope that it is going to finally happen but it is all about timing and opportunities and if it is meant to be it will happen. If it isn't, we will keep on going in Champ Car probably or try and find something else. But in the end it has been a great opportunity and I am very thankful to Toro Rosso. It was great [to do this test] and now we will have to wait and see if there is going to be a succession to the story, I guess.

Racing all over the World:
What is it that attracts you to Formula 1?

S

B:
Obviously Formula 1 is the fastest car on the planet - and this is where you want to be when you want to be a top driver. Having won in Champ Cars for three straight years in a row it feels a little bit like: ‘What's next?' So we will have to see what the future holds exactly for Sebastien Bourdais.

Racing all over the World:
Champ Car goes to Edmonton next. What are you hoping to do there?

S

B:
Obviously it would be quite enjoyable to bounce back from two difficult weekends in St Jovite and Toronto. We need to score some points and finish. We were on pole at Toronto and we have always been fast at Edmonton. It is a great track and it is really a place where the Champ Cars really stretch their legs and show some really serious speed. I think the Bridgestone tires are very competitive on the airport courses and this is one of them, so it should be good fun.

Racing all over the World:
The next event in Champ Car marks the halfway point in this year's championship. What are you hoping for in the second half of the year?
SB:
I think consistency is going to be the key for us. So far we have only finished in four races out of seven - one mechanical, one mistake my end and I was taken out last weekend [July 7/8]. So, it is going to be really important for us to make sure we finish in pretty much every race, if we want to win the championship. A key point in the structure of the points system in Champ Car is that everybody scores points and when you don't finish it is quite hard. You need to see the checkered flag - that is going to be very important for us. We also need to keep our pace and keep on qualifying at the front to have good races.

Racing all over the World:
You are third in the standings at the moment - as we mentioned at the start. You are just behind Will Power and Robert Doornbos. Out of those two drivers' who do you think will be your biggest threat?

S

B:
I think if we look at the experience side, Will Power should be the biggest and toughest contender - although Robert has been pretty surprising and pretty consistent. He has finished every race so far and so it is going to happen to him also, that he is going to have a few bad weekends. That should even things up a little bit and I'd like to believe it is going to be between Will and myself.

Racing all over the World:
It is tight in the Champ Car standings, it is also pretty tight in the Formula 1 standings too. Any tips on who might take the title this year in Formula 1?

S

B:
Well obviously it seemed to be going McLaren's way after back-to-back wins in Canada and the USA, but now it seems to be Ferrari taking over. We will have to see if Ferrari keep on being dominant like they have been in the last couple of grand's prix [in France and Britain]. If they do keep going like that, it is going to be a very interesting championship all the way through to the end.

Racing all over the World:
Have you been surprised by what Lewis Hamilton has achieved in his first year in Formula 1?

SB:
Yeah, I think it is pretty clear Lewis has done extremely well. He has been surprising people and it is also a pretty good indication that the McLaren team is extremely powerful. He is always very well prepared. To jump in a Formula 1 car and be able to set fastest laps right away is pretty impressive. You can only do that if you are ready and prepared and he has done just that. It is pretty amazing, but I think it is good as it also shows that some rookies and new talents can make it into the field and still be very competitive right away, rather than thinking it takes three-years to get up to speed and be majored in Formula 1. It might give some hope for myself - and a few others.

Racing all over the World:
Does that not make things harder though, because now people expect that much more from a rookie? Will it make things tougher for you if you come to Formula 1 next year? S
B:
Obviously I won't be in a McLaren – unless something pretty drastic happens there! [laughs] It is all about opportunities. I think right now Toro Rosso is on the up and hopefully it is only going to get better and they can be a contender at some point. But you can only do the best you can and hope that it is going to keep getting on better - and that is what we are doing.

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