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Formula One | Season preview

Sebastien Bourdais to keep hopes modest in Formula One debut

After four seasons dominating Champ Car racing, Sebastien Bourdais will make the leap into Formula One at last this weekend.

Bourdais, a Frenchman who lived in St. Petersburg while racing in North America, spent several years trying to get into the world's most prestigious series.

In the interim, he made history here, becoming the first driver in a major North American series (either open wheel or stock cars) to win four consecutive titles.

But Bourdais, 28, is trying to keep expectations reasonable as he enters this season with Toro Rosso Racing.

"I don't want to put myself under pressure," he recently told the official Formula One Web site. "I want to enjoy what I am doing. Pressure is not a good thing as it can lead drivers to make mistakes."

Bourdais will partner with Sebastian Vettel, 21, who made his debut with BMW last season and became the youngest driver in series history to score a point. Toro Rosso then bought his contract to replace Scott Speed for the final seven races.

"Seb Vettel has done thousands of kilometers testing with BMW, he has just done half a season of F1, whereas I've just arrived from the USA and, despite my experience, I am the rookie here," Bourdais said after signing with Toro Rosso.

Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost expressed confidence that Bourdais will run near the front of the pack, though he added that it might take him a few races.

"During the winter we have completed a high (amount of testing) mileage, which has allowed Bourdais to get used to a new car, to get used to grooved tires, a light F1 car compared to a heavy Champ Car, to a car with power steering from a Champ Car without it," Tost told his team's official Web site.

"All these factors combined are not so easy for a new driver to deal with, but so far, Sebastien has done a good job. & The first few Grands Prix will not be so easy for him, but I expect he will be a frontrunner from the fifth or sixth race onwards."

But if Bourdais is to contend, he might have to do so from near the back of the grid. Toro Rosso has scored points in just two races (the top eight cars score points in F1), and Bourdais expressed concern last week about his form in qualifying.

"You need to qualify well, and I think that's my weakness right now," Bourdais said after testing in Jerez, Spain. "On long runs, I'm quite competitive. On first-lap performance, it's a bit harder."

12 HOURS OF SEBRING: The anticipated diesel duel between Peugeot and Audi took an unusual turn in a qualifying session that was red-flagged and abandoned when Ben Devlin crashed his Mazda Lola heavily in the first turn and ended on top of the tire wall.

Information from Autosport.com was used in this report.

Sebastien Bourdais to keep hopes modest in Formula One debut 03/13/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 14, 2008 3:40pm]

    

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