GP2’s latest F1-graduate: Sebastien Buemi

I must confess that Sebastien Buemi was not one of my favourite GP2 drivers.  His 7th place finish in Australia doesn’t change my opinion.  But apart from subjective reasons I may have, I will first try and stick to the objective ones.

A summary of his pre-F1 career:

2006:  F3 Euroseries:  20 races, 1 win – 12th place in the championship

2007 and 2008: GP2 Main Series: 21 races, 2 wins – 21st place in 2007 / 6th place in 2008

2008: GP2 Asia Series: 10 races, 1 win – 2nd place in championship

Not precisely an F1-meriting performance, with many, many drivers putting in much more stellar or deserving drives.  Just to name a few:  Lucas DiGrassi, Bruno Senna and even the highly inconsistent Pastor Maldonado.  I leave out Giorgio Pantano, 2008 GP2 champ, since he already passed through F1 without much glory.

Why Red Bull, and especially Dr. Marko, focused on young Sebastien is beyond me.   Yes, he got a good result in his debut F1 race last weekend, but if you saw the race you can see how he ended up in 7th place, and in the points. Just look who actually finished behind him: Bourdais, Sutil, Heidfeld and Fisichella – the BMW driver being the only challenging driver he beat.

I’ve read on autosport.com that Dr. Marko feels vindicated by his decision to promote Buemi.  I would guess he is much rather breathing a strong sigh of relief with his luck.   Had his other protege, Vettel, let Kubica pass – Buemi would have ended up 10th – and out of the points even after Trulli’s penalty.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Buemi is in F1 – keeping alive the annual “tradition” of GP2 drivers moving into F1.  With Buemi,   35% of this year’s F1 grid is made up of GP2 graduates (7 out of 20).

But personally, I don’t think Buemi should have filled that Toro Rosso seat, since it undermines the objectiveness of the Red Bull Junior Team.   It’s true that lately the program is suffering from lack of strength and talent at the top of its ladder, but Buemi is not the driver to revive it.  Recent bets made by the RBJT have had little reward and have promoted fewer drivers that expected to the 4 seats at Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso – 6 if you count test drivers.

If the progam is to work as it should, Buemi should have been off the program this year – not promoted to F1.   After all, Marko has a strict philosophy of results-driven promotions, which many drivers have seen enforced, namely Michael Ammermuller, Vitantonio Liuzzi or Neel Jani – just to name a few.  The inconsistency of Marko’s favouritism for Buemi undermines the program and its long term viability.  If I was a Red Bull driver, I’d be very confused on how I was being evaluated.

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