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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 16, 2009

Auto racing: F1 team Toro Rosso fires French driver Bourdais

Associated Press

FAENZA, Italy Formula One team Toro Rosso has fired driver Sebastien Bourdais.

Bourdais, a four-time Champ Car series champion in the United States, had been unimpressive in the 2009 season, his second in F1.

"I am very disappointed and shocked by the decision," the French driver said in a statement. "I consider that, in doing so, Scuderia Toro Rosso has breached its contractual duties toward me."

Toro Rosso said a replacement driver would be chosen in the lead-up to the Hungarian Grand Prix.

"In Sebastien's second year with us, the partnership has not met our expectations and therefore we have decided to replace him from the next round of the world championship, the Hungarian Grand Prix," Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost said in a statement.

Toro Rosso's reserve driver, 19-year-old Jaime Alguersuari of Spain, was among the leading contenders to get the ride. If he does, he will be the youngest driver to start an F1 race.

In 2008, Bourdais was outshone by teammate Sebastian Vettel, with the talented German winning the Italian Grand Prix and earning a move this season to Red Bull, where he has emerged as a title contender.

This year, Bourdais was expected to be the senior driver alongside rookie Sebastien Buemi, but the young Swiss earned three points over the opening nine races of the season against two points for Bourdais. Buemi qualified ahead of Bourdais in seven of nine races.

"I am even more frustrated by the team's decision considering that the latter has been taken immediately before the Hungarian Grand Prix, where a new highly competitive racing package will be introduced," Bourdais said. "I am convinced that if I was given the chance to race with such new package I would have had the opportunity to achieve satisfactory results."

In all, Bourdais totaled six points from four points finishes across 27 races. He never bettered the effort of his debut in the 2008 Australian GP when he was running in fourth place and looked as if he could make a podium finish but had an engine failure and was seventh.

He had bad luck at the 2008 Italian GP, which Vettel went on to win. Having qualified fourth after a rain-soaked session, Bourdais had a strong chance for a career-best finish, but his car stalled on the grid and by the time he started, he was already a lap down.

Bourdais' removal was the first driver change in the 2009 season.