TORONTO (AP) Sebastien Bourdais is trading in his helmet this weekend for the IndyCar race in Toronto. And he is looking ahead to a possible return near the end of the season.
The Frenchman is returning to the race track in a mentorship role for Dale Coyne Racing just two months after a crash during qualifying for the Indy 500. The two-time Toronto winner will help out team rookies Ed Jones and Esteban Gutierrez. Bourdais finished seventh in Toronto last year.
Bourdais fractured his pelvis , a hip and two ribs when his car exploded into pieces and spun through Turn 2 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after hitting the wall at 227 mph.
“If I see something, then I’ll try and help, and if I don’t, then I’ll just shut up and see what happens,” Bourdais said Thursday.
“I’ve been around this place a lot, but there’s only so much you can do from the outside so we’ll see how I can help them. It was important for me and the team to show up for the first time since the accident and just get to see everybody and try and contribute to the effort.”
Bourdais, 38, was walking without crutches and says his progress is ahead of schedule. He is not ruling out a return this season.
“Unless I get in the car in testing and call it quits because I’m not ready, the plan is to do Watkins and Sonoma,” Bourdais said of the final two races of the season. “That’s been my goal since really looking at the time frame and where we were going to be at the six weeks weight bearing, the eight weeks walking.”
Seeing the four-time IndyCar Series champion back around the track was a welcome sight. Will Power stopped to chat with Bourdais after the news conference.
“It’s great to see him back, can’t wait to see him in a car,” he said.
Bourdais, who started the season with a win at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, said that he has been starting to exercise again, which includes some cycling.
“It’s kind of a weird feeling because there’s some groups that are fairly equal side to side and one little thing that you feel very vulnerable,” Bourdais said. “But it’s all coming back nice and slow, but it’s going to be a bit of a process for sure.”
Being in a coaching position is nothing new for Bourdais, but it’s never come at the expense of him being sidelined. He said he’s fine with the mentorship role even though it’s tough not to be in the car.
“I’ve tried to be a good patient, not trying to rush things and do anything stupid,” he said. “But obviously now that I’m feeling not 100 percent but not far from it either, it’s definitely kind of itching to get back into the car.”
The German Grand Prix continues its biennial presence on the Formula 1 calendar – it’s hosted F1 events in even numbered years since 2014 – as Formula 1 returns to the Hockenheimring this weekend.
The German fans will undoubtedly be joyful in Sebastian Vettel entering his home race in the championship lead, by nine points over Lewis Hamilton. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, Vettel despite being one of the most successful and decorated drivers of his generation, Vettel has won in Germany only once (2013, at the Nurburgring) and he has never won at Hockenheim.
Conversely, Hamilton has won in Germany three times, including twice at Hockenheim (2008 and 2016).
As such, Vettel will hope to add to his points lead over Hamilton with a win on home soil, though Hamilton may be equally as motivated after watching Vettel his own home race at Silverstone two weeks ago.
Nevertheless, their 2018 championship duel will most certainly continue to be closely fought.
Talking points ahead of the German Grand Prix are below.
A Different World in 2018 vs. 2016
The Formula 1 landscape looked completely different back in 2016, the last time Formula 1 visited the Hockenheimring. Bernie Ecclestone was still the chief executive of Formula 1.
Nico Rosberg was partnering Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes team, and was on his way to a driver’s championship that year.
Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen were in the midst of a slump as Ferrari went winless in 2016.
The world was still getting to know a then 18-year-old Max Verstappen, the young Dutchman having won the Spanish Grand Prix in May that year.
And the cars looked completely different, with skinnier and taller rear wings and taller rear tires highlighting the appearance differences.
In 2018, Vettel and Ferrari might be the strongest combination. Rosberg is long from Mercedes, and Valtteri Bottas is doing his best to shine in the wake of Hamilton’s enormous shadow.
Verstappen is still a rising star, though he has come under fire at times for overly aggressive driving and his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo has garnered more headlines this year, with a pair of race wins alongside his status as an F1 free agent after 2018.
In short, the Formula 1 landscape is hardly recognizable from what it was back in 2016. And even though Hamilton won that year, followed by Ricciardo and Verstappen in second and third, very little will carry over from that race two years ago.
Hamilton, Mercedes Look to Take Back Momentum from Vettel, Ferrari
The seesaw championship fight has tilted back in the favor of Ferrari, with Vettel leading Hamilton after finishes of third and first in Austria and England. Hamilton, meanwhile, DNF’ed in Austria and came home second in England after spinning on Lap 1.
Hamilton trails by nine points, but this is hardly an unfamiliar position for Hamilton in 2018 – he started the year trailing Vettel until he took the championship lead for the first time after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Both teams have had multiple swings of momentum this year – Vettel won the opening two races before finishes of eighth in China (he spun after contact with Verstappen) and a pair of fourth place efforts in Azerbaijan and Spain before getting two more wins in Canada and England.
Hamilton, meanwhile stumbled out of the gates somewhat with finishes of second and third before taking a fortuitous win in Azerbaijan and two dominant wins in Spain and France before the misfortune in Austria.
All told the ebb and flow of the 2018 season seems to change with every race, and while Vettel now leads Hamilton again, things could change this weekend.
Raikkonen Trying to Fend off Ricciardo, Bottas
Kimi Raikkonen is somewhat of a forgotten man this Formula 1 season, but he does rank third in the championship at the moment, 10 points ahead of Ricciardo and 12 points ahead of Bottas.
However, both Ricciardo and Bottas are likely thought to have had better seasons – Ricciardo has the aforementioned wins (at China and Monaco) and the only thing that has kept Bottas from the top step of the podium is a string of horrendous luck.
However, Raikkonen, to his credit, has picked up the pieces whenever others around him have faltered, and he has six podium finishes through 10 races.
However, in order to fully silence any critics, and maybe even keep his Ferrari drive, Raikkonen would do well to get a win in 2018.
The driver challenging Raikkonen’s position within Ferrari is Sauber’s Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari junior driver has five points finishes, and that could have been six if not for a pit stop error at Silverstone that caused him to leave his pit stall with a loose wheel – it forced him to retire. Leclerc’s star is on the rise, and he could shine again in Germany.
Nico Hulkenberg is the “other” German driver on the grid. And though he has a 24 Hours of Le Mans win to his name, he is yet to finish on the podium in an F1 race. The Renault package may not be a podium threat in usual circumstances, but if he stays clean and others falter, he could sneak in there…and doing so in his home race would make that overdue podium even sweeter.
After a pair of eighth place finishes, Fernando Alonso has helped McLaren at least stop the bleeding after a dismal stretch of races from Monaco through France in which the team scored zero points. However, the team still has a long way to go, and Germany could be another weekend of struggles.