Sebastien Bourdais has never felt better in racing, and you can understand why


Sebastien Bourdais’ racing career has taken him to some of the most significant and legendary circuits in motorsport, ranging from Indianapolis and Le Mans to Monaco and Monza.

However, it was at the Milwaukee Mile last weekend that the Frenchman produced one of his most outstanding victories, crushing the field en route to his second win of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Bourdais was reflective at the time, refusing to focus on the stats and numbers involved in his victory. However, there is one number that remains with us all.


The heyday of Bourdais’ career may appear to have been and gone. It is remarkable to think that this time ten years ago, the Frenchman was en route to the second of his four Champ Car titles.

Since then, he has cut his teeth in F1, been spat back out by the unforgiving Red Bull junior system, finished second at Le Mans three times and returned to the United States.

Just as Juan Pablo Montoya has proven in the past two years, coming back to IndyCar takes guts. Coming back and being successful though is the mark of a true champion.

Speaking after his victory in Milwaukee, Bourdais was thankful to the KV Racing team for giving him the car to prove that he has lost none of the pace that served him so well in the past.

“[The team] gave me a chance to finally get me back in a car that’s something able to contend for wins,” Bourdais said.

“Not every weekend, but it’s a very competitive field. When you look who can win every weekend, it’s actually not so easy.

“I’m 36 years old, and I don’t feel I’ve been any better than I am right now. I’m just hoping it lasts as long as it can.”

Bourdais’ stock appeared to have nose-dived when he was dropped by Toro Rosso after just 27 races in 2009. The great talent that had tamed the American single seater racing scene was deemed to not have been good enough for F1.

At the time, it was an unfair assessment, and the success that has followed for Bourdais since he last raced in F1 has only made that clearer.

After all, the Red Bull junior programme is F1’s attitude to driver ability and worth at its most brutal. Bourdais’ replacement, Jaime Alguersuari, was dumped at the end of 2011 alongside Sebastien Buemi. Jean-Eric Vergne lasted two seasons before being replaced, whilst Antonio Felix da Costa never even reached F1, and is now a race winner in DTM.

The moral of the story is that there is life beyond and after F1, as Sebastien continues to prove.

Bourdais’ efforts at Toro Rosso were not aided by the fact he had Sebastian Vettel for a teammate during the German driver’s breakout season. The baby-faced 19-year-old stormed through the spray to win at Monza in 2008, becoming the youngest ever winner in the history of the sport.

However, it is often forgotten that it could also have been Bourdais’ breakthrough weekend. The Frenchman had qualified fourth, but a problem with his steering wheel caused him to stall at the start and drop a lap down. He eventually finished 18th, but posted the second-fastest lap of the race.

That came just one week after another near-miss in the Belgian Grand Prix. In one of the most eventful F1 races of the 21st century, a late rain shower caused chaos at Spa. Bourdais had risen to fourth by the penultimate lap, but Toro Rosso’s decision to keep him out on dry tires backfired as he dropped to P7 at the flag.

“It was a lottery on the last lap,” Bourdais said after that race. “It’s a horrible situation, as everything had been under control until then. It was so close to being a great result. I felt I could almost touch it.”

But he never did. By the time Bourdais was dropped following the German Grand Prix in 2009, he had finished no higher than seventh and had scored just six points in total.

At the age of 30, it was difficult to see what the future would hold for Bourdais. Unlike many other Red Bull juniors, he did not have time on his side.

That said, unlike some of the other Red Bull juniors, he did have an enormous amount of talent on his side. And it is a real testament to his ability that has got back to the top step of the podium in IndyCar not just once, but three times now since returning.

If he ever needed to, Bourdais has proven himself once again. He is comfortable in the series which, importantly, doesn’t feature the age ‘problem’ that F1 has – just look at the speculation surrounding the futures of Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen, who are both 35.

Of the top 10 in points in IndyCar at the moment, seven drivers are north of 30 – the lone exceptions are Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti and Josef Newgarden. Bourdais is sixth in the points, yet still behind 40-year-old Helio Castroneves and 39-year-old Montoya, the championship leader.

At 36, Bourdais has never felt better – and you can see why. This success may not last forever, but you would be a fool to think that his two victories in 2015 have been a mere flash in the pan. He is in a comfortable place, but do not think for a second that will become mistaken for complacency.

Will Power says IndyCar field toughest in world: ‘F1’s a joke as far as competition’


DETROIT – With the 2023 Formula One season turning into a Red Bull runaway, Will Power believes the NTT IndyCar Series deserves respect as the world’s most difficult single-seater racing series.

“It’s so tough, an amazing field, the toughest field in the world, and people need to know it, especially compared to Formula One,” the defending IndyCar champion told NBC Sports during a media luncheon a few days ahead of Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. “Formula One’s a joke as far as competition, but not as far as drivers. They have amazing drivers. And I feel sorry for them that they don’t get to experience the satisfaction we do with our racing because that is the top level of open-wheel motorsport.

“I think Formula One would be so much better if they had a formula like IndyCar. I love the technology and the manufacturer side of it. I think that’s awesome. But from a spectator watching, man, how cool would it be if everyone had a Red Bull (car)?”

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It probably would look a lot different than this season, which has been dominated by two-time defending F1 champion Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman won Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix from the pole position by 24 seconds over seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton. It’s the fifth victory in seven races for Verstappen, whose 40 career wins are one shy of tying late three-time champion Aryton Senna.

Along with being a virtual lock to tie Senna’s mark for titles, Verstappen is poised to break his own record for single-season victories (15) that he set last year.

“You simply know Max is going to win every race if something doesn’t go wrong,” Power said. “Imagine being a guy coming out as a rookie, and you probably could win a race. It would be really cool to see. But you know that would never happen with the politics over there.”

Verstappen’s F1 dominance has been a stark contrast to IndyCar, where Josef Newgarden just became the first repeat winner through six races this season with his Indy 500 victory.

Team Penske (with Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), Chip Ganassi Racing (with Palou and Marcus Ericsson) and Andretti Autosport (with Kyle Kirkwood) each have visited victory lane in 2023. Arrow McLaren (which has past winners Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist) is certain to join them at some point.

Meanwhile, Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez (two wins) have won every F1 race this season with the two Red Bull cars combining to lead more than 95% of the laps.

The primary differences are in the rulesets for each series.

While F1 teams virtually have complete autonomy to build their high-tech cars from scratch, IndyCar has what is known as a spec series in which the cars have a large degree of standardization.

IndyCar teams all use the Dallara DW12 chassis, which is in its 12th season. The development of the car largely has been maximized, helping put a greater emphasis on driver skill as a differentiator (as well as other human resources such as whip-smart strategists and engineers).

Alex Palou, who will start from the pole position at Detroit, harbors F1 aspirations as a McLaren test driver, but the Spaniard prefers IndyCar for competitiveness because talent can be such a determinant in results.

“Racing-wise, that’s the best you can get,” Palou said a few days before winning the pole for the 107th Indy 500 last month. “That’s pure racing, having chances to win each weekend.”

Of course, F1 is the world’s most popular series, and the 2021 IndyCar champion believes its appeal doesn’t necessarily stem from being competitive.

Though the ’21 championship battle between Hamilton and Verstappen was epic, F1 has grown its audience in recent years with the help of the “Drive To Survive” docuseries on Netflix that has showcased their stars’ personalities along with the cutthroat decisions of its team principals (IndyCar started its own docuseries this year).

“I don’t think the beauty of F1 is the race itself,” Palou said. “I’d say the beauty is more the development that they have and everything around the races, and that they go different places. But when we talk about pure spectacle, you cannot get better than (IndyCar).

“You can feel it as a driver here when you first come and jump in a car. When I was in Dale Coyne (Racing), we got a podium my rookie year. It wasn’t the best team, but we were able to achieve one of the best cars at Road America (where he finished third in 2020). It’s not that I was driving a slow car. I was driving a really fast car. I think we can see that across all the teams and the drivers.”

Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, who will start second at Detroit, is in his third season of IndyCar after winning three championships in Supercars.

The New Zealander said recently that IndyCar has been “the most enjoyment I’ve ever had in my career. I had a lot of fun in Supercars, but there were still things like different uprights, engines, all that stuff. (IndyCar) is spec. Really the only things you can change are dampers and the engine differences between Honda and Chevy.

“I have a blast,” McLaughlin said. “Trying to extract pace and winning in this series is better than I’ve ever felt ever. I’m surprised by how satisfied it feels to win an IndyCar race. It’s better than how it ever has felt in my career. I’ve always liked winning, but it’s so satisfying to win here. That’s why it’s so cool. There are no bad drivers. You have to have a perfect day.”

Qualifying might be the best example of the series’ competitiveness tightness. The spread for the Fast Six final round of qualifying on Detroit’s new nine-turn, 1.645-mile downtown layout was nearly eight 10ths of a second – which qualifies as an eternity these days.

Last month, the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course produced a spread of 0.2971 seconds from first to sixth – the fourth-closest Fast Six in IndyCar history since the format was adopted in 2008. Three of the seven closest Fast Six fields have happened this season (with the Grand Prix of Long Beach ranking sixth and the Alabama Grand Prix in seventh).

While the technical ingenuity and innovation might be limited when compared to F1, there’s no arguing that more IndyCar drivers and teams have a chance to win.

“The parity’s great, and no one has an advantage, basically,” Power said. “The two engine manufacturers (Honda and Chevrolet) are always flipping back and forth as they develop, but we’re talking like tenths of a second over a lap. There’s not a bad driver in the field, and there are 20 people all capable of being in the Fast Six every week. Maybe more. It’s incredibly competitive. There isn’t a more competitive series in the world. I’m sure of that.

“If you want the ultimate driver’s series, this is it I’m from a big team that would benefit massively from opening the rules up, but I don’t think (IndyCar officials) should. I think this should always be about the team and driver getting the most out of a piece of equipment that everyone has a chance to do so. That’s the ultimate driver series. Who wants to win a championship when you’re just given the best car? It’s just ridiculous.”

Power believes the talented Verstappen still would be the F1 champion if the equipment were spec, but he also thinks there would be more challengers.

“There’s got to be a bunch of those guys that must just be frustrated,” Power said. “Think about Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, Lando Norris, (Fernando) Alonso. Those are some great drivers that don’t get a chance to even win. They’re just extracting the most out of the piece of equipment they have.

“All I can say is if everyone had a Red Bull car, there’s no way that Max would win every race. There are so many guys who would be winning races. It’d just be similar to (IndyCar) and different every week, which it should be that way for the top level of the sport.”