The only confirmed 2009 F1 vacancy is at the moment at Toro Rosso. Sebastian Vettel signed with Red Bull from next year and his current seat is up for grabs. With Sebastien Bourdais struggling and having no contract for next season, the contest is pretty much on for both seats in the former Minardi team. That makes Toro Rosso the most likely route to F1 for the lucky one or lucky pair of Formula 1 newcomers. Therefore it comes as no surprise that a string of young drivers has already been linked with the Faenza based team.
Bruno Senna is seen as the favourite to take Vettel’s seat. His very marketable name and family background combined with likely backing by South American sponsors may be exactly what soon to be independent constructor may need. Toro Rosso owner Gerhard Berger, although a friend of Senna family and Senna’s mentor, insists that decision will not be based on name or personal relations but if Senna wins GP2 series it will not matter what his name is. Senna won two GP2 races so far this season and at the moment lies 2nd in the standings, 7 points behind leader Pantano.
There may also be another factor. With Sebastian Vettel being the only graduate of Red Bull young drivers programme currently racing for Red Bull in F1, Berger may be pressed to choose at least one 2009 driver from their own pool. Berger himself named Sebastian Buemi as one of candidates.
Not sure whether the fact that these two spent some quality time together running Red Bull and Toro Rosso cars around Lake Balaton last weekend has anything to do with Buemi’s inclusion on Berger’s shopping list. Buemi currently tests for Red Bull Racing and races in GP2 for Arden. He has won 2 races already and lies 5th in the championship.
Another Red Bull backed driver rather suprisingly linked with Toro Rosso is Karun Chandhok. If Chandhok ever makes it to F1 people would expect Force India to be his destination but anything can happen in F1. According to Chandhok himself he still sees Force India as his main target, but he is apparently in talks also with the two Red Bull backed teams. Chandhok also races in GP2 this season, e has won 1 race and currently lies in 7th place, only 3 points behind Buemi.
And then there is Sebastien Bourdais. Vettel’s departure may be his advantage as the team may not choose to go to new season with 2 rookies. Gerhard Berger however made it clear this week that the honeymoon is over and if Bourdais wants to retain his seat, he has to deliver in the remaining races of 2008 season. That may prove to be difficult task for Bourdais who himself admits his struggle with the new STR03 car …
So who will drive for Toro Rosso next year ?
You can download high resolution picture of Karun Chandhok here (right click and save)
Photos: Red Bull / GEPA