Faenza, Saturday: Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais has today denied that he is on his way out from the Italian team, suggesting that his being locked out of the Red Bull Energy Station last night was a “prank” by some of his mechanics.

Locked out: STR driver Sebastien Bourdais
Locked out: STR driver Sebastien Bourdais

Bourdais returned to the Nurburgring paddock on Friday evening only to find that the locks on the team motorhome had been changed, and that he had not been issued with a new set of keys. “Some people have speculated that this is the team’s way of telling me I’m no longer wanted,” Bourdais told reporters. “But really, it was all a big joke by some of the guys.

“It’s just their slightly weird sense of humour. I had to sit outside in a cold and damp paddock all night until someone came out for the milk at six in the morning. Honestly, what a hilarious set of events!” the Frenchman added with a nervous and unconvincing laugh.

Bourdais also denied rumours that STR’s reserve driver Jaime Alguersuari had been given Bourdais’ room overnight to prepare him for the experience of the Hungarian Grand Prix, where he is tipped to replace the four-time Champ Car champion for the remainder of the season. “That was all part of the prank,” Bourdais insisted.

Red Bull, who own STR, have a history of playing unexpected tricks on their drivers, most recently at the end of 2008 when David Coulthard was to retire. At the final race of the Scotsman’s career, the Brazilian Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing engineers spent the whole of Saturday night replacing the driver’s special “Wings for Life” livery with little notices advising Coulthard to “Just Bugger Off.” “That was a really funny prank, what a team!” Coulthard commented at the time.

STR team boss Franz Tost has insisted that Bourdais’ “lock-out” was indeed a joke played by some team members. “And if anyone wants to argue about that, I’ll smash their face in,” the Austrian said.