Sebastien Bourdais has admitted that his return to IndyCar racing with Dale Coyne Racing is proving even tougher than he expected so far.
The four-time Champ Car champion has signed to race for the small IndyCar squad on the road and street courses on this year's calendar. But an 11th place at Barber Motorsports Park is his only finish in his first four appearances, and he missed the opener in St Petersburg after crashing in the morning warm-up.
Bourdais said that winter staff changes at Coyne's team and the outfit's lack of resources meant it was an uphill battle.
"It's his own money, so you can't blame the guy – but you really want him to do a proper job and at the end of the day he says, 'Yeah, we'll do this, we'll do that,' but everything started so late now it's always a struggle to get on track with the proper equipment," Bourdais told AUTOSPORT. "We seemed to have some progress in Brazil because we were in the top three or four group and fairly comfortable but still, we need to first confirm that it wasn't just specific to that racetrack. And you know that we haven't done any preparation. I signed my deal three days before the first race.
"It feels like it's a brand-new car for us, except we are fighting against teams who have figured it out for seven to eight seasons already."
The ex-Formula 1 driver said the difference in performance between his Coyne car and the Ganassi and Penske entries was dramatic.
"They just put them on the racetrack and they're on the money," he said. "We put the car on the racetrack and three-quarters of the time it's just a disaster, so yeah, it's more aggravation than we would have liked. I knew it was going to be tough to start with but I didn't think it would be that complicated."
Bourdais dominated Champ Car with Newman/Haas from 2004 to 2007, but is pessimistic about his chances of getting back into a top team in the present economic environment.
"The problem is pretty simple," he said. "Obviously, all the new deals that are generated by drivers these days come with sponsors and it's just getting to be the standard. I've never been particularly any good at raising money and I'm not going to start spending my own to make a deal.
"Penske has got three drivers and they probably have the money for two, really. And Ganassi, the second team [for Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball] is all funded by extra sponsors and they're not going to fire any of the drivers, so at the end of the day the possibilities are just not so huge to do it if you don't have the money. Everybody wants to do things but until the economic context gets better, I don't see it getting any better.
"And next year is going to be really tough on everyone, because they are going to have to invest in new cars and stuff and the transition is going to be really difficult. But yeah, I'd love to have again a program that gets me busy and where you're competitive and have a good team behind you and I know I can do well."