F1 2009 driver rumours: Sato and Sutil

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Fisichella and Sutil set for another year at Force India in 2009

Two new rumours surrounding next year’s F1 drivers have emerged.

Takuma Sato has been tipped for a comeback and Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella look likely to stay on at Force India for 2009.

Takuma Sato to Toro Rosso

Rumour rating:

A rumour in Swiss magazine Motorsport Aktuell places Takuma Sato at Toro Rosso in 2009. Apparently Gerhard Berger is considering fielding two new drivers for the team in ’09, one a GP2 graduate such as Sebastien Buemi or Bruno Senna, the other a more experienced hand.

Sato, with 90 Grand Prix starts to his name, is being tipped as the experiecned half of the equation. As a bonus, he may help Red Bull sell to the Japanese market. This scenario would leave Sebastien Bourdais without a seat.

I’m sceptical about this rumour. With the best will in the world it’s hard to see Sato as the kind of experienced driver Toro Rosso need to take them forward. Honda only kept him in F1 because of his PR value to them and he never shook off his crash-prone tendencies. But maybe Toro Rosso see something in him I don’t. What do you think?

Force India to keep Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil

Rumour rating:

Vijay Mallya said yesterday:

I have two good drivers. The experience of Giancarlo is invaluable and Adrian has lots of talent – I think he is improving race by race, becoming more consistent.

I am quite happy with them and, more importantly, they have a great attitude that will help me to face the challenges of tomorrow. I think they will be very satisfied driving the 2009 car, which I am sure will be a significant improvement and a big surprise.

That sounds like a pretty strong vote of confidence in his two men – it’d be surprising to see him go back on that at short notice. Force India face a long haul up the grid and stability in the driver line-up would be a bonus.

Aside from Monaco, Sutil has not impressed very much this year, but there aren’t many likely alternatives to him out there. Mallya is known to want to get an Indian driver in his car one day, but the most likely candidate is Karun Chandhok and judging by his GP2 form it’s still too soon to promote him – he’s made a lot of mistakes and had one win, in a sprint race where he took pole position by dint of finishing eighth in the previous day’s race.

Share your thoughts on these rumoured moves and any other changes you’ve heard of below.

F1 2009 drivers and teams
F1 2009 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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19 comments on “F1 2009 driver rumours: Sato and Sutil”

  1. The only way I can ever see Takuma Sato in a race seat again is if there is some Honda-backed team ala Super Aguri. There’s no way I can see Berger going for someone like him.

    Staying put with their two drivers is a good call by Force India at this point. Fisi is solid, and Sutil has been highly rated for his talent. He put on a great drive at Monaco, and he’s had some good performances in the wet. However, without much of an impressive F1 record and with younger guys on the grid and coming up through the ranks, his time could run out very soon to move to a top car if he doesn’t pick up the pace.

  2. If I were Berger I’d keep Bourdais, if only for continuity’s sake. Yes, Sato is more experienced, but he’d be new to the team, while Bourdais would have a full season under his belt.

  3. Toro Rosso needs to give SeaBass another year. I think the ’09 car will be much more to his liking. The rationale about Sato being able to help sell Red Bull Energy Drinks in Japan sounds weak to me. Isn’t Dieter selling his shares in the team? That would leave them with a new sponsor, assuming one could be found.

  4. I agree, Bourdais deserves another year. Granted, he hasn’t done too well this year, but he dominated Champ Car for years, and talent doesn’t just disappear. Sato isn’t what Toro Rosso needs, he would have higher wage demands than Bourdais or a youngster, and a small team like Toro Rosso don’t need that when they’re trying to progress on a small budget.

  5. ^ Champ Car being what it was I’d be cautious to give him too much cred. He was a big fish in a very small pond.

  6. Raising the game with Sato?. I think it will be really stupid from Berger dumping Bourdais for Sato and unexperienced rookies. Even as he has expressed to wait for the drivers market to settle once Alonso establishes on a team, replacing Bourdais for more experienced drivers such as Heidfeld or Barrichelo would be unwise because they are not in there best stage of their carrer, and I am sure that we will soon be seeing better results from Bourdais. We have to understand he is on his first season getting used to a completely different car that has been changed twice this year, and he is not on a top team.

  7. I think its too soon to be writing Bourdais off and I hope he’s on the grid next season. That said, the Sato/Senna combo makes sense to me. Granted, Sato is no world champion, but he’s a decent, solid driver that would be a good marker for Bruno to work from.

    Won’t happen though.

    It does sound like VJM is aiming to keep the same line up, but then Nick Fry was singing the same tune a few weeks back…

  8. Good move by Force India if they keep their drivers. I agree that Bourdais maybe needs another year to evaluate. Toro Rosso have had a little bit of a venturesome season with the car coming in late and new owner speculation. I see them giving Bourdais one more spin but pulling a Scott Speed and dumping him for something young and German/Austrian rather quickly.

    According to my calculations here is the grid next year so far:

    1: Kimi? (Retiring? Naaa)
    2: Massa

    3: Hamilton
    4: Kovi

    5: Kubica? (Needs to sign a new deal)
    6: Heidfeld

    7: Trulli
    8: Glock

    Red Bull
    9: Webber
    10: Vettel

    11: ? (Who knows what Alonso is thinking)
    12: Piquet Jr.

    14: Roseberg
    15: Nakajima

    Toro Rosso

    18:? (Who knows what Brawn is thinking)

    Force India
    20: Fischi
    21: Sutil

  9. @ Sebastian
    > Champ Car being what it was I’d be cautious to give him too much
    > cred. He was a big fish in a very small pond.
    That is true.

    However, while Sato won the British Formula 3 Championship, Bourdais was (a) 2nd in French Formula Renault, (b) lifted the French F3 title, (c) won the International F3000 Championship from Giorgio Pantano and Tomas Enge, took 4 Champ Car titles, AND (e) came 2nd in this year’s Le Mans 24 hours.

    Bourdais’d be my pick.

  10. I forgot to comment on Bourdais. Obviously, he deserves another year. He hasn’t had the flashy results that Vettel has had, but the qualifying and race head-to-head matches between the two drivers are actually even. STR should give Bourdais a chance with a lower downforce car and slick tires.

    Regarding Dan’s prediction of the grid:

    1: Kimi? (Retiring? Naaa)
    2: Massa”

    Firstly, be careful with the numbering. Lewis is leading the WDC and can most certainly take it.

    Secondly, Kimi is set for next year. He’ll honor his contract, and then he may retire after next season.

    3: Hamilton
    4: Kovi”

    This will be the McLaren lineup for many years to come.

    5: Kubica? (Needs to sign a new deal)
    6: Heidfeld”

    Kubica will surely be back, as will Heidfeld.

    7: Trulli
    8: Glock”


    “Red Bull
    9: Webber
    10: Vettel”


    11: ? (Who knows what Alonso is thinking)
    12: Piquet Jr.”

    I wouldn’t say Piquet is quite out of the woods yet, but he’s picked up the performance quite a bit.

    Alonso’s certainly looking to leave. If he does, I think Lucas di Grassi will get the seat. He’s lighting up GP2 since going back and has been testing for Renault the whole year. All signs point to him getting the seat if Alonso leaves, given Renault’s past method of prepping drivers.

    14: Roseberg
    15: Nakajima”


    “Toro Rosso

    I think it’s safe to say that a young GP2 guy- be it Senna, Buemi, Grosjean, etc., will be in one seat.

    18:? (Who knows what Brawn is thinking)

    Button will be back. Brawn is certainly trying to pull Alonso away from Renault. If he is unsuccessful, then Barrichello will be back.

    Force India
    20: Fischi
    21: Sutil

  11. I agree with Dan’s assessment of Honda, in that if any team would want to do a wholesale “throw it out and start over,” they’re the ones to do it. Despite that, I think Rubens and Jenson are stuck there.

    Otherwise, if Sato is even a consideration for the vacancy at Toro Rosso, why not Anthony Davidson, or Neel Jani?

    It should be someone both suited and happy to be a test driver on any team.

  12. Pickup on Chunter; Ant does make sense to a degree at Torro Rosso if wither they do get rid of Bourdais or not. He is experience and seems pretty sharp however in terms of performance, he has never really had the car to show what he can do. If Toro Rosso can’t get Burno or anyone else from GP2 in that seat because of the uncertainty with the teams’ ownership, Ant might be a safe bet to replace Vettel.

  13. On the topic of Force India, I think Vijay will keep both drivers for 2009, giving Fisi a one-year deal to help develop the car under the new regs and sending him off happy with a nice little career under his belt. After next season, he gose and gets his Indian driver to partner up with Sutil, if he has not developed and jumped to a bigger team.

    With the rest of the grid, I think Bourdais absolutley should keep his seat for 2009- he’s a proven racer and still has plenty of F1 potential in my view. Nothing against Sato, but I don’t think he’ll make the team any better than Seb will next season.

    As for the rest of the grid, Renault may indeed be eager to promote di Grassi. But stop and think for a moment….would they want two drivers who are both young and still low on experience, as well as being of the same nationality? And if they did want two young guys, would they take Lucas over their other protege, Roman Grosjean?

    It’s just a hunch, but if Toro Rosso- or whatever the’ll be called next season- changes both drivers for 2009, and if Alonso is on the move, who else thinks Flavio and Company will give Bourdais a call?

  14. I don’t, Gman. Remember that the very reason Bourdais didn’t get into F1 as early as 2002 was because Flavio offered Bourdais a seat on the condition that Flavio would become his manager.

    Bourdais refused, and Flavio took the deal off the table. Bourdais didn’t get any other offers, and he ended up going Stateside.

  15. Isn’t Mallya the head of motorsport in India? I am surprised that he hasn’t been pushing for a local driver right from the start – but I seem to remember an interview where he said he knew there weren’t any Indian drivers who were good enough…..
    I don’t like the thought of Sato back behind any wheel, no matter which team. But if Berger is confident enough to talk about drivers, does this mean that the team has found a new owner?

  16. GMan,

    I honestly don’t think Flavio puts racing considerations first when he makes decisions. Sure, he’s hired great drivers (Schumacher, Alonso), but he did so mainly because of the marketing potential they presented when it just so happened they were great talents. (Not that Flav has the slightest clue when it comes to racing talent; everyone knew that Schumi and Alonso were elite, and he was the one who snapped them up.) Exhibit A: What did Flavio do before putting Alonso in a race seat? He bought the television rights of F1 in Spain, and he has since made a killing off of them.

    Furthermore, the main reason why Piquet got the other seat this season is because of 1) the financial backing from Carlos Slim, and 2) the name, which is very marketable, particularly in one of F1’s largest markets. (Brazil) I see promoting di Grassi as the best racing decision that Renault could make if Alonso moves on (he’s vastly outperformed Grosjean, who has been highly erratic), but that won’t be Flavio’s main motivation for doing so. He’ll want to put another young and marketable hotshoe in the seat from a country with a rich F1 tradition win tons of F1 fans.

    Flavio has demonstrated time and again that he cares only about two things in life in this order:

    1) Himself, and
    2) Money.

  17. Paige, I must say I got a great laugh out of your bit of info on Flav- good stuff, especially the last part!

    I never knew about his deal for Spain’s F1 TV rights and all, so when you talk about di Grassi I can agree with that for the financial and marketing reasons. My thinking on Bourdais would be to 1. get an experienced driver in the team to partner Piquet and 2. keep the French fan base happy with a hometown hero behind the wheel. Still, your bit makes more sense I would need to say.

    My last word on the whole thing is no matter what we all think about Flav’s management style, it all depends if he’s even running the team next season and not floating around on his yacht full time with that new wifey of his…

  18. there is no doubt whatsoever that bruno senna will have a drive available to him next year

  19. Aaron: And you base this firm belief on what?

Comments are closed.