|16. Sébastien Buemi – Toro Rosso Ferrari
Sébastien Buemi’s appointment to Toro Rosso in 2009 came as a surprise to many, particularly when one considers that the team overlooked the rapid Takuma Sato in favour of this young Swiss-Italian driver.
Granted, he had been a Red Bull backed driver since his early days in the junior categories, but as the grid’s sole GP2 graduate his results in the feeder series weren’t exactly headline-grabbing.
Nonetheless, the team was certain that he was better than his results suggested, and they were instantly proven right when he scored points on debut in Australia.
That he trounced team-mate Sébastien Bourdais was a bigger surprise, to the point that the four-time Champ Car champion was shown the door mid-season to make way for Jaime Alguersuari. Buemi comfortably had his measure too, and rounded off a promising season with solid showings in Suzuka, Sao Paulo and Abu Dhabi.
Having proved his worth in his debut season, Buemi must take further steps forward in 2010 if he is to fulfil his ambition of graduating into the senior Red Bull team.
Too many of his Red Bull junior protégés – Christian Klien, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed – are testament to the fact that the drinks giant is quick to go cold on its young sign-ups if they don’t keep delivering the goods…
Sébastien rose through the junior ranks with two impressive seasons in the German Formula BMW series where he racked up a total of 7 wins and 26 podium finishes.
Sébastien moved up through the ranks, and often competed admirably in a variety of championships – such as Formula 3, Formula Renault and A1GP – in the same season.
By 2007, Buemi was invited a stand-in role in place of the injured Michael Ammermüller at the GP2 race in Monaco, and stunned everyone by putting the car fourth on the grid – Ammermüller was soon shown the door and Sébastien snatched the GP2 seat and the Red Bull F1 test driver role that came with it.
His first full season in GP2 secured him two impressive wins during the 2008 season, but it was his testing form for the factory F1 team that had tongues wagging and saw him become F1’s first Swiss driver for 15 years.
Buemi impressed in F1 from the outset with some solid testing results in the senior Red Bull team, and his F1 race debut marked him as a driver to watch, as he not only outqualified his more experienced team-mate, Sébastien Bourdais, he also out-raced him to 7th place and two points on debut!
He backed up this result with a solid 8th in the wet at China, and would have finished higher were it not for a coming-together with race-leader Sebastian Vettel.
Toro Rosso’s lack of development during the mid-season – coupled with a few race-ending prangs – saw a dip in his results mid-season, but as the enhancements filtered down to the junior team from its senior sister team, his results started to pick up once again.
His raw pace at Suzuka was simply stunning, but he blotted his copybook with several trips to the Armco that weekend. Fortunately, he bounced back with mature drives to points’ finishes in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, and is hoping for better things to come in 2010.
- A highly-regarded wet-weather driver, who surprised many in the paddock with his speed and commitment.
- Very much in the shadow of his predecessor, Sebastian Vettel – is he superstar material, or a midfield runner?
- Prone to the occasional mistake – ruined his best weekend with several accidents at Suzuka.
What defines success in 2010?
- Build on the late-season form being shown by Toro Rosso, and aim to score points regularly.
- A shock podium would be a bonus, but there’s no reason so believe it couldn’t happen if he keeps it all together.
[Images via StatsF1]