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GP Week : Issue 29
Short Straights TAKUMA Sato’s impressive return to F1 action last week in a one-day test for Italian Grand Prix winners Scuderia Toro Rosso, has increased speculation that he will make a return to Formula 1 racing with the team. Sato, who has been out of competitive n Following his sensational Italian Grand Prix win, there has been much talk about the future of Sebastian Vettel. But Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz has insisted that Vettel is not for sale, and will remain within the Red Bull family to help push the team up the grid. n While most of the F1 teams went testing in Jerez last week, Ferrari spent time alone in Italy. Luca Badoer and Kimi Raikkonen spent two days in the dry in Mugello with Felipe Massa running in Fiorano, before the Brazilian spent the third and final day in the newly wet conditions at Mugello. n Mario Thiessen has moved to quell rumours of discontent at BMW. Rumours had started to spread that Robert Kubica was unhappy with the manner in which BMW had developed its car throughout the season. Thiessen, however, has admitted that he and Kubica share the same concerns over championship challenging potential. n The FIA has announced that Jonathan Palmer has won the bidding process for the Formula 2 tender. Using Williams-designed chassis and pumped up Audi engines from Palmer’s own FPA, the series hopes to have a grid ready for 2009, with driver budgets at 250,000 Euros. action since the Super Aguri F1 Team folded in May, is believed to have impressed the Toro Rosso team with his pace and feedback. As the team searches for a replacement for the Red Bull Racing-bound Sebastian Vettel in 2009, and with Sebastien Bourdais’seat under apparent threat, Sato’s test could form the initial foundations of a continuing relationship. “It’s one of the fastest Grand Prix cars I’ve ever driven,”Sato enthused in an exclusive interview with GPWeek. “You can’t directly compare between the years, but I must admit, this is a top contender’s car so I really enjoyed the drive.” Unexpected rain in the afternoon curtailed any chance for Sato to set a competitive lap-time as his running was predominantly limited to aerodynamic testing in the morning, with the Japanese racer evaluating upgrades the team hopes to run in the final four races of 2008. “The lap-time didn’t say everything, of course, but I was very happy with the way it worked internally with the engineers, and I got the impression that the team was very happy with the morning and what we did. Obviously I hope this will continue for the future.” With Red Bull junior driver Sebastien Buemi taking the car for two of the three days of testing, and the Swiss driver’s GP2 rival Bruno Senna also thought to be in line for an STR seat, Sato is aware that securing a berth at the team is far from a foregone conclusion. “Obviously it will depend on the team’s decision. The driver market is still open and it all depends on who moves where. We felt it was a really good test but now it’s just a matter of how things develop. I don’t think they will hurry with their decision so we will probably have to wait until the end of the season or maybe even the end of the year.” With rumour speculating that Sato could even be in line to replace the under- performing Bourdais before even the end of 2008, the Japanese driver insists that he is ready and willing to step in at a moment’s notice. “From now on I’m on stand-by for anybody to call me. If it’s a test or a grand prix, I’m ready for it. Otherwise I will keep on training, keep my head down, and that’s all I can do.” Read the full exclusive interview with Takuma Sato on page 18 Sato in ’09 frame after STR test