Swiss racing driver Sébastien Buemi tells swissinfo.ch that, despite a long, difficult patch mid-season, he is satisfied with his 2009 campaign.
Buemi finished his first Formula One season in 16th place with six points after a late revival. The 21-year-old told Swiss national television on Sunday that he had re-signed with the Scuderia Toro Rosso team for 2010.
Buemi started the season with a seventh place in Melbourne in March 2009. After 12 starts without scoring the Scuderia Toro Rosso team had a late recovery, with the Swiss driver finishing in the points at the Brazilian (seventh) and Abu Dhabi (eighth) Grand Prix.
swissinfo: How do you feel your first F1 season went?
Sébastien Buemi: It was a good season. Of course there were positive and negative aspects, but I'm satisfied. To end with six points in the car I had is a good result.
swissinfo: You started and ended the season well, so what happened in between?
S.B.: It wasn't easy. As the smallest F1 team we couldn't have the "double diffuser" [a key aerodynamic accessory used from the start of the season by Brawn, Toyota and Williams that enhances tyre grip at the rear of the car], which was a big problem for us. We had the last version of the diffuser for the last three races; this explains the jump in performances since the Japanese GP.
It's a bit of a shame to have experienced such a difficult mid season. But we continued to work hard and the team did a great job to get the pieces, allowing us to go much faster at the end of the season.
But that's part of F1 - some teams evolve faster than others. We had a problem we worked hard on it and ended well. We now have to work hard this winter to start with a competitive car in 2010.
swissinfo: So was Brawn team's dominance this season heavily influenced by the double-diffuser?
S.B.: Brawn started the championship with a very competitive car, much more so than any other team. They therefore built up a lot of points at the start of the season.
They managed their season well, but at the end Red Bull caught up and even overtook them. But [as Brawn] were so many points ahead, it was impossible for Red Bull to win. If there hadn't been this double-diffuser business, Red Bull would've easily won the championship.
swissinfo: After your first season, has your impression of F1 changed?
S.B.: After experiencing F1 from the inside, it's slightly different from what I expected. I certainly didn't expect to have such a huge improvement in car performance during the season.
Another thing is that I expected the weeks to pass more slowly. The season flies by and on race weekends you don't have the time to prepare as much as you'd like.
In theory you have four hours' free practice time, which seems like a long weekend but in fact you have to start straight away at 100 per cent, to develop the engine as much as possible, or you get left behind, and to select the right tyres. There are so many things to prepare, something people on the outside don't realize.
swissinfo: Have you changed as a driver over the season?
S.B.: It's difficult to know how I've evolved, as it's a process that takes time. I now know all the circuits and drivers and everything seems quite normal.
I don't think my driving style has changed. I'm quite gentle with the car. I've never had big problems with tyre or equipment wear. You have to find a balance between attacking and saving your tyres. This will be especially important next year with the new rules about carrying fuel for the entire race.
We'll no longer pit for fuel, only to change the tyres. You'll have to set off with an enormous amount of fuel on board which won't be easy. You'll have to get used to huge wear on the brakes and tyres. It will be different driving a car that weighs 800 kg rather 650. It won't be easy; we might have to change our driving styles.
swissinfo: The life of a F1 pilot sounds like a lot of hard work. What about the glamorous celebrity-filled parties?
S.B.: (laughs) It's not what you imagine, unfortunately. There's only a very small amount of time for those kinds of things. Most of the time you have to concentrate and do a lot of physical training to be as ready as possible for a race; temperatures in the cockpit can get up to 50-60 degrees Celsius.
You have to be well prepared and during a race weekend you don't have time for those kind of things. There are also lots of back-to-back briefings, so it's difficult to find time. I'm now back in Switzerland to say hello to my family, but there is not much time for that either.
Simon Bradley, swissinfo.ch
Buemi was born on October 31, 1988 in Aigle, canton Vaud.
After graduating from kart racing, he spent 2004 and 2005 in German Formula BMW, finishing third and second in the championship respectively. He was also runner up in the 2005 FBMW World Final.
Buemi joined the Formula Three Euroseries in 2006, finishing 12th in the championship. He remained in the series for 2007, and finished second overall.
He competed in the GP2 Series in 2007 and 2008, winning two races last year and finishing sixth in the final standings.
In 2009 he finished 16th with six points at the end of his first F1 season (Australian GP: 7th/2 points; Chinese GP: 8th/1 point; Brazilian GP: 7th/2 points; Abu Dhabi: 8th/ 1 point).
Swiss Formula One drivers
Andrea Chiesa — three Grand Prix (1992)
Emmanuel de Graffenried — 22 (1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1956)
Jean-Denis Deletraz — three (1994, 1995)
Rudi Fischer — seven (1951, 1952)
Gregor Foitek — seven (1990)
Franco Forini — two (1987)
Peter Hirt — five (1951, 1952, 1953)
Loris Kessel — three (1976)
Michael May — two (1961)
Silvio Moser — 12 (1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971)
Clay Regazzoni — 132 (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980)
Albert Scherrer — one (1953)
Heinz Schiller — one (1962)
Rudolf Schoeller — one (1952)
Jo Siffert — 96 (1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971)
Marc Surer — 82 (1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986)
Jo Vonlanthen — one (1975)
Heini Walter — one (1962)