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GP Week : Issue 12
5 Minutes with ... Sebastien Bourdais GPWEEK: How much are you looking forward to your first Monaco Grand Prix? SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Very much. I think for any French driver it’s a very special race, for any driver actually, but for the French that’s even truer. I’ve had some great memories here winning six years ago in [Formula] 3000, and it feels like it was yesterday, so we’ll see. I know how good it was in 3000 and I can only imagine what it will be like in F1… a lot narrower I guess. Any wishes you were taking part in the first unified Indy 500? It [unification] doesn’t really change anything to be honest. I did the Indy 500 in 2005 and it was as it will be now, only with more drivers. The point is they are still a way from the good format over there. It’s too complicated to explain quickly, but the way the cars are made makes racing very dangerous at Indy. For me it’s not the appropriate formula. I had my try in Indy and we could have finished fourth, which would have been good for a first try. But my team-mate almost got paralysed so it’s not the best souvenir. I’m glad I did it, because the classics mean something to me, but the way they do it these days is kind of stupid. You had an incredible career in the States, but was the dream always to come back to F1? My goal was to be in Formula 1, and if possible to be competitive, and in the meantime at the end of 2005 I thought my window was getting really small and at the end of ’06 it was gone. Then a week later Nicolas [Todt, Sebastien’s manager] called me and said ‘Gerhard is willing to give you a test, do you want to try.’ Of course I said yes. Basically when I thought it was all over is when it re-appeared. We’ve seen the last three GP2 champions step up into Formula 1. As the F3000 champion in 2002 were you gutted not to get a jump straight into F1? Yeah. It’s always been the problem. Some years you have more openings than others, which makes it possible for the reigning champion of a series to step up. I think they probably give more credit to GP2 than they were to Formula 3000, but in the end it’s the same drivers - the ones who come from Formula 3, and they end up at the top of the series below F1. The problem is that you don’t have openings in F1 every year. There was a rumour back in 2002 that Red Bull wanted to back you for an F1 seat so long as the French government dropped its ban on Red Bull. Did you ever hear that one? Honestly no. For sure it would have been a bit easier to talk if the French market had been open. That’s no secret! But now you’re with Red Bull, as is your compatriot Sebastien Loeb. Have you ever thought about trying out Rallying? No, I mean I have a lot of respect for what they do and I drove rally cars in Canaria, Stade de France and Wembley for the Race of Champions, and it’s really cool but two different jobs: like being a hockey player and doing artistic ice skating. And yet you’re a guy who has tried a lot of different categories of racing. When you won the 3000 title in 2002 you were doing sportscars and a huge number of other categories. Is Le Mans something you’d like to try again? Yeah. For me Le Mans is still a target. I’d very much like to win that race. I’m from there. But like you said I’ve always been attracted by historic races. I did Sebring, Daytona, Indy, Le Mans and now Monaco. I like the old fashioned style regarding racing. I think it’s getting a little lost which is imposed by different things, but in the end it would be nice to allow the drivers to basically touch a bit more things than just Formula 1. Obviously it’s all the fact that we have exclusivity which makes it harder. Do you think a wider spectrum of racing would be good for young drivers coming through? No but it would probably mean that they would really, truly be passionate about what they do. In the old days they were doing it not for the money, that’s for sure, but because they loved it. You could see the same guys in Formula 1 as at Le Mans, even racing in Formula 2 just because they loved it and they were the best in the world. I like that concept. I liked that people could see them do more than just one thing in one given car and one situation where you’re only as good as what you’re driving . Obviously there’s an evolution and racing has evolved over the years. Finally, is F1 everything you thought it would be? Pretty much. I’ve been introduced to it step by step so it’s not been a big shock. I got to see what it was like from the outside in 2002 and then I tested a few times for the team and then finally all winter last year. I got to discover it slowly, not all at once, so I haven’t been too surprised. The four-time Champ Car champion spoke to WILL BUXTON about his first year in F1, his emotions as a Frenchman at the Monaco Grand Prix, and why he didn’t mind missing the first unified Indy 500… 20