Vettel makes last test appearance for Toro Rosso

STR MonzaGerman ace bids farewell to STR test crew

Red Bull-bound sensation Sebastian Vettel was back behind the wheel of his Toro Rosso car today for his last test session with the spirited Italian squad

After his incredible maiden win in Monza the German ace was quickly ushered into Red Bull’s senior team to help with preparations for the final four remaining races.

But on the final day of testing at the Spanish test track, Vettel was back in the STR3 for what will probably be the last time he works with his test team.

He marked the event by taking photos with his mechanics before setting the fourth quickest time, four tenths shy of McLaren pace-setter Pedro de la Rosa.

BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld and Renault’s test driver Lucas di Grassi lapped second and third quickest, just ahead of Vettel, with Sebastian Buemi in sixth ahead of Timo Glock, Alexander Wurz and Nico Rosberg.

GP2 star Sebastian Buemi tested the Toro Rosso car on Wednesday, alongside Takuma Sato, and is widely believed to be Red Bull’s preferred choice for a drive next year. But Team Principal Franz Tost admits that STR’s co-owners are in no rush to make an announcement.

“On Wednesday, Red Bull young driver Buemi was in the cockpit and, as expected, he did a good job. Despite only completing a few laps, Sato also put up a good performance.

“Although those two days were something of an audition for a 2009 seat with Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull is in no hurry to make a decision at this point in the year, when we are concentrating on doing well in the final four races.”

After testing was interrupted by rain on the drivers were pleased to get some clear running in at last.

“That was a hectic day of testing because I carried out a lot of work for the different kinds of race tracks we have coming up,” said Glock. “We got through a lot of laps, finishing our programme without issues.

“It’s good that we had consistent weather today but it was still a bit tricky because yesterday’s rain on this new surface meant that there was only one line and the rest was really dirty. Nevertheless we made useful progress and gathered information that will help us in the final part of the season.”

Tost: We will give Buemi a 2009 race-seat

toro rosso logoFranz Tost has told Swiss newspaper Le Matin that the Toro Rosso team are planning to give Sebastien Buemi an F1 drive next season. Buemi had tested for the team earlier in the week, along with former F1 driver Takuma Sato. Although no official contract has been signed, it seems the 19 year old driver has made enough of an impression and convinced F1 bosses he is ready for a race seat.

“Sebastien has done an excellent job,” Tost explained. “He has prepared a plan and fully met our expectations. He put in some very good times, is a hard worker, is dedicated to the team, has a good relationship with our engineers, and has provided the team with some excellent technical information.

“After what we saw this week, and if we manage to find an experienced driver for support, I think we can risk signing Sebastien to Toro Rosso for 2009. You can consider that an official statement!

“He is very, very talented. And as we belong to the Red Bull family, we, of course, encourage drivers. But we are in no hurry to finalize the contracts.”

Buemi to make 2008 F1 debut?

Toro Rosso logoSebastien Buemi’s uncle, Humbert Buemi, has revealed that the Swiss driver might get his Formula 1 debut this year.

Humbert Buemi told newspaper the Gulf Daily News that the two Red Bull teams might have a reshuffle before the end of the season, allowing Buemi to make his F1 debut towards the end of the 2008 season. Red Bull Racing driver David Coulthard has already announced that he is retiring from racing at the end of the 2008 season, with Sebastian Vettel moving up from the Toro Rosso team to take his seat next season.

However it has been rumoured that Coulthard may not finish the end of the season and Vettel may be promoted early, leaving a vacancy at Scuderia Toro Rosso for the end of the season. Both Buemi and Takuma Sato have test runs with the Toro Rosso team at the Jerez circuit this week so many believe that should a seat become available, one of these two drivers would fill it.

“The possibility of Sebastien being in F1 this year is very real, but it depends on a lot of factors that are out of our control,” Humbert Buemi explained. “I am convinced that Sebastien can do well at Jerez and hopefully race in F1 soon.”

Bourdais gives his STR credentials a boost

Hungary BourdaisToro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger may have to think twice about his driver line-up for next year after Sebastien Bourdais delivered one of his best qualifying performances to date.

The Toro Rosso driver has come under intense pressure to sharpen up his act at the team having been consistently out performed by Sebastian Vettel.

And with several new talents linked to the Faenza-based outfit it has been rumoured that the multiple champ car champion could find himself without a seat for next year.

A sterling qualifying performance at Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand prix may have just saved the Frenchman’s bacon though: he unexpectedly went quickest of all in Q2 after bolting on the soft tyres in the closing stages, before edging out his team-mate for ninth place in the shoot out.

“It was nice to see my name at the top of a time sheet in Q1,” he said afterwards, “It’s been a long time!”

“It was a qualifying session when I can get out of the car and say that I drove well and that the team, as usual did a good job.”

“The car worked well even if we couldn’t mix it too much with those ahead of us. But let’s see what strategies the others are on in terms of fuel loads tomorrow.”

“A couple of tenths is all that separated us from sixth or seventh. It’s beginning to come together and it’s been a good weekend so far. I feel this track and its corners suit me better.”

Team-mate and Red-Bull bound Sebastian Vettel was pleased to have progressed into the shoot-out but admitted that he could have gone quicker had he not made a mistake on his final run.

“I’m quite happy and we can be satisfied to get both cars in Q3, which we did not expect at this track. It was a strong qualifying performance. I was struggling a bit on those sections where the driver doesn’t have to do much.”

“I could not find the pace my teammate had. I messed up my last run a bit but it didn’t affect the result in the end. I think we have a good strategy for both cars so let’s see what happens. At the moment, I’m starting on the dirty side of the track but if it rains for the race it becomes the clean side.”

It is the second time in a row that Toro Rosso, aided by Ferrari engines, have got both their cars into the top ten. Technical Director Giorgio Ascanelli admits that the result exceeded expectations:

“I had predicted tenth and thirteenth. It is the second race in a row that we get both cars into Q3 and they have run reliably. Clearly our guys are on two different strategies, so Vettel didn’t get the full potential out of the car as he is clearly heavier and he didn’t have the benefit of a first sighting run in Q3.

“Anything can happen at this track and for the race we wanted to have our cars positioned differently: the fastest driver and today that was Bourdais, gets the fastest strategy in Q3. Overall, it was a strong performance.”

Sato to test for Toro Rosso

Takuma Sato will reportedly be testing for Toro Rosso later this year as the team evaluates who should drive for the team next season. There is currently one confirmed spot at the team for the 2009 season with Sebastien Vettel confirmed as moving to sister team Red Bull Racing for the 2009 season, with a small chance that the team may also be looking for a replacement Sebastien Bourdais.

It is already widely known that GP2 racer and Red Bull test driver Sebastien Buemi will be testing for the team, and now German magazine Auto Motor und Sport has reported that Takuma Sato will also be given a chance to prove his mettle at a future test for the team. Toro Rosso owners Gerhard Berger and Dietrich Mateschitz are not thought to be making a decision on their 2009 line-up until at least October.

Senna keeps schtum as queue forms for STR seat

SennaGP2 star Bruno Senna is giving nothing away about his negotiations to secure a seat in Formula One next year as rumours about the Brazilian’s future, as well as Toro Rosso’s 2009 driver line-up, continue to mount.

Senna, nephew of triple world champion Ayrton and a close family friend of Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger, has been linked to the Faenza-based outfit since impressing in GP2 at the start of the season.

But with Berger confirming that the team are to evaluate Senna’s GP2 rival Sebastien Buemi at a Jerez test next month, coupled with the fact that Super Aguri refugees Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson are also in the frame to bring experience to the Italian outfit, Senna’s move to the team is by no means guaranteed.

“The ideal situation would be a young driver and an experienced one,” Berger told autosport.com, pointing to the increasingly crowded list of drivers vying for a seat with his team. “We are putting everyone on the list who is free, but there is no clear opinion at this stage. We will take our time.”

Red Bull backed Buemi is believed to be the preferred choice for Red Bull’s motor sport advisor Helmut Marko.

As for Senna, it was also muted in the Valencia paddock that the GP2 driver could take on a test role with BMW Sauber before making the switch to a race seat with Toro Rosso in 2010.

“Yeah I’ve been hearing that story as well … oh dear,” he told GPWeek, laughing off the rumour. And the Toro Rosso rumour? “No it’s all lies. All bullshit,” he added.

The growing list of drivers looking to break into Formula One puts Sebastien Bourdais’ Toro Rosso seat under increasing uncertainty. Bourdais’ manager Nicolas Todt has confessed that the Frenchman’s future in Formula one is not yet secured.

“In F1, whether it is your first or your tenth year, you always have something to prove and you are always judged on your most recent races,” Todt told GMC. “Right now, Sebastien’s future in F1 is not yet assured, but I have a good feeling that he can stay at Toro Rosso.”

Teams confirm no problems with refuelling rigs in Hungary

Toro Rosso, Williams and Honda have revealed what they believe caused the flash fires which were seen during pit-stops at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

All three teams saw brief flash fires during one of the pit-stops and many initially thought there was a universal problem with the refuelling rig. However Honda have revealed they believe their fire was thanks to the refuelling hose not being fitted squarely onto the car.

Williams have now said that they think their problem was caused by pressure in the fuel tank which caused some excess fuel to come up inside the hose.

“We planned a two-stop race but put enough fuel in so we had the possibility to go one stop,” Rod Nelson, Williams chief operations engineer explained in the Williams official podcast.

“And on the basis of Coulthard’s performance against Webber – Coulthard started on the option tyre – we decided to go for it. We were nowhere by that stage anyway because of problems at the start, so we went for it with Kazuki which meant we were putting a lot more fuel in the tank than you normally would, certainly.

“It was very hot so fuel was vaporizing at a massive rate and that causes some foaming within the fuel hose. You get fuel up the vent hose and some of that splashed down into the car connector just as they took the rig off. As soon as you drive out, that splashes over the exhaust system and you have a small flash fire,”

Toro Rosso have yet to reveal what their hypothesis is however they have confirmed they do not believe it is a problem with the refuelling rig itself. “I can confirm it was not a problem with the rig,” a spokesperson from the team said. “The problem has been resolved to make sure it does not happen again, but there is no further comment from our technical group.”