Buemi: It’s all to play for in Bahrain!

“The important thing in Bahrain is to stay calm, make sure the car runs reliably and make no mistakes.”

As of June this year a four-time Le Mans winner, Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Sébastien Buemi heads to Bahrain with particular local knowledge as a former resident of the Kingdom, and can look back on two WEC wins in 2022, including the jewel-in-the-crown 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as the 6 Hours of Fuji last time out. 

Séb and the #8 Toyota GR010 – HYBRID he shares with Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa enjoyed seemingly a perfect performance last time out to win the 6 Hours of Fuji and currently lead the title race. 

Here Séb sets the record straight ahead of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship season finale.

Tell us how your second win of the season came about in Fuji…
Qualifying was very close, but we just lost pole to car 7 by two hundredths of a second, so we started P2. In my first stint I maintained the gap to Kamui, but in the second stint our car had a bit more pace so we did the overtake. We went in a slightly different direction on our car with the race set-up, and this worked for us in the hot conditions. Once we were ahead, we just got our head down and concentrated on having a clean race and managing the tyres. We had perfect pit stops, no mistakes and all three drivers had strong stints, which were really consistent. 

How does the result on Fuji change the outlook to Bahrain?
We’re level on points with Alpine in the drivers’ championship so it’s all to play for in Bahrain. I don’t think it particularly changes things for us as a team because we would anyway go there with the target of winning the race. Obviously, for car 8 we only have to finish ahead of the Alpine to secure the championship, so we will manage the race and try to achieve that without taking any risks. Our focus will clearly be to win both championships.

The Fuji win looked to be pretty straight-forward, but were there any concerns behind the scenes?
It was a very smooth race for us, I think one of the cleanest races we have ever had. The hot temperatures gave everyone a challenge with tyre degradation, so we had to manage that. And traffic is always tricky in Fuji, but we stayed patient and kept it clean.

What will be crucial for a good result in Bahrain?
The important thing in Bahrain is to stay calm, make sure the car runs reliably and make no mistakes. We had a DNF in Spa due to a technical issue, and we lost a bit of time in Monza because I had to manage an issue with the front motor, so we need to have a clean race in Bahrain. Of course, finding the right strategy on tyres and having perfect pit stops, like we had in Fuji, will be important to maximise our result in the race.

What’s been the highlight of the season so far for you? 
Clearly Le Mans was the highlight for me. To win Le Mans once is special but to win it four times is incredible, and it was a real pleasure to win it with Brendon and Ryo, the first time for him. But Fuji was a very satisfying result as well because it is such an important race for the team, and it was our first time to race in Japan for three years. Getting a one-two and going into the joint lead of the championship was a good moment. 

What’s surprised you this season? 
It has been a very nice surprise to see how quickly Ryo has settled into the team and become a member of our family. We knew about his speed from Japanese racing, but it is still impressive to see him get up to speed so quickly in a Hypercar. He has done an amazing job all season.