Jean-Eric Vergne has been assured of a Toro Rosso seat next year by his team boss Franz Tost after the Frenchman was effectively ruled out of the running to replace the retiring Mark Webber at Red Bull.
The battle for the second Red Bull seat alongside three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, the most coveted seat on the grid, has come down to a shootout between Kimi Raikkonen and Vergne’s team-mate Daniel Ricciardo after Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said it was probably too early for Vergne to make the step up to a drive with the senior team.
“I’m convinced that Jean-Eric Vergne will race next year for Toro Rosso,” Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost said.
“We must not forget that Jean-Eric came later into Formula One (than Daniel) and why Red Bull Racing is thinking about racing with Daniel Ricciardo next year, it’s simply because he is more experienced, he showed very good performance in the first half of the season but Jean-Eric Vergne is quite close to him.”
Ricciardo has put in some eye catching qualifying performances particularly in recent races but the two are more evenly-matched in races with Vergne two points ahead of Ricciardo in the overall standings.
Red Bull have a history of dropping drivers from their young driver programme, which is run by Dr. Helmut Marko, unless they meet certain performance standards, with the programme’s stated aim to produce drivers of the same caliber as Vettel.
Red Bull also have a number of quick young drivers coming up through the ranks, most notably Antonio Felix da Costa and Carlos Sainz Jr., and Vergne’s future could well depend on Marko.
But as far as Tost is concerned Vergne will stay with Toro Rosso: “It’s not that Jean-Eric is out of the team. As far as I’m thinking, next year he is with Toro Rosso.”
Image courtesy Octane Photos