SÉBASTIEN BUEMI – IN DEPTH

TS030 LaunchAfter a one-off appearance at Le Mans last season, Sébastian Buemi is back in the 2013 FIA WEC, sharing the #8 TOYOTA Racing TS030 HYBRID with Stéphane Sarrazin and Anthony Davidson:

So Sebastien, you must be pleased to have had a couple of races before Le Mans to prepare?

“Yes of course, I’m really happy with it, we can really build up something this year, not like in 2012 when there was just one race for me at Le Mans.

“We’ve had really good preparation so far including, of course my first WEC podium at Silverstone so I think we are on the right track.

“Obviously though we (the #8 crew) have not raced with the 2013 car so far but after Spa there was the opportunity to see exactly where we were in comparison to Audi as we prepare for Le Mans.”

It’s not been the ideal start to the season in terms of results…

“Audi are a very good team, and they know what it takes to win. For us, we have strengths too, and better still everyone is enjoying the challenge of taking on such a strong competitor. Now we are getting busy looking at where we can improve, and where we need to improve. Le Mans will be very interesting I think.”

You, together with some of your team-mates, have experience of other top-level motorsport such as Formula 1. How do you see the technical innovations in endurance racing?

“The TOYOTA hybrid system is amazing. This system is, I think, the future of racing. In Formula 1 next year they’ll be a lot closer to what we have already here but this is a completely new form of technology, which has taken some time to develop, and to get a good feel from the driver’s perspective, particularly under braking for instance.

“The whole technical process of energy recovery and harvesting has been fascinating but it has taken some time to get it right. It takes some time to adapt too to getting the best out of it but everyone has worked very hard and now you can start to see the results with it working properly and with the drivers getting the best from it.

“There is though still a long way to go until we get what we want from it, and what we think it can give.”

Is it an easy car to drive? The principles behind it sound simple but is it complex?

“In concept it is quite similar to a current Formula One car, it can get pretty busy in the cockpit.

“As a package it’s quite stiff and has very good aero so you can clearly see, and feel, the F1 background that TMG have had through the way they made the car. That’s good in very many ways and we just now need to make sure that we can be there and in competition at the end of the race.

“On the technical front, with the amazing facilities that TMG has, we have everything we need to be successful, so it’s just a question of exploiting that to the full.

“We saw last year just how well the team can use what they have, they did a great job. Now we need to keep up that kind of momentum and hopefully we can fight for a win at Le Mans.”

One of the biggest changes must be the transition from a single-seater programme in Formula 1 to a discipline which requires a car to suit three drivers?

“Actually the biggest transition is about the championship. It is a manufacturer competition. You race for TOYOTA, not for yourself as you would in Formula 1. Here the car is the star!

“You must work hard to find the best available compromise to get a good result, to enable everyone to be happy and comfortable with the car, to get the very best out of each of us.

“Yes it was a bit of a shock initially to find how much compromise was needed, but in truth I adapted pretty easily and it was actually a pretty smooth transition, helped of course by the fact that I have great team-mates who understood the issues.”

And is the partnership with your team-mates going well?

“For me I prefer to have team-mates who are fast and experienced as they know where the level is and give me an opportunity to get up to speed more quickly, and that can only be a good thing as we work together to develop the car.”

What was it like to have the race at Le Mans begin to go TOYOTA’s way and then see it all go so badly wrong with Anthony’s accident?

“It was a big kick in the face – you hope he’s fine and then, when you find out he’s okay there’s space for disappointment. But up to that point, honestly, you don’t care about the race, you just want him to be alright.”

You’re not alone in moving into endurance after time racing in F1…

“I think it’s a great championship, I think now after F1 this is the best of all of them, the cars are interesting, and they are quick too.

“I think this is better than some touring car championships which are slower and with less advanced technology. It is a great championship and with Porsche coming to LMP1 then it has a great future.”

A WEC race meeting is very different to F1 isn’t it? There’s a lot more access for the fans, to the teams, and to drivers like yourself. Do you enjoy that part of the weekend?

“I really do quite like it. It can bring a bit of pressure sometimes when, for example you need to get to your car but altogether it is a great thing for the sport to have more access.”

All of a sudden there seems to be a huge number of Swiss drivers in endurance racing, yourself, Marcel Fassler, Neel Jani, Mathias Beche, and several more…

“There a lot of us about! Some of them haven’t had their chance in F1 and with this being the second category now it is perhaps not too big a surprise that so many are here!”