Was Overlooking Jean-Eric Vergne a Mistake?

Jean Eric Vergne Monaco FP3Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner recently ruled out the Frenchman as a possible replacement for Mark Webber, but was it right to overlook him?

Horner commented that it was “probably too early” for the Frenchman to take the step up to Red Bull and noted that Daniel Ricciardo has an extra six months experience.

Vergne wasn’t given the option to test in the RB9 during the Silverstone Young Driver Test, so we can’t compare the two in the Red Bull. Of course we can compare them in the STR7 and STR8; both have their strengths and weaknesses but they’re still fairly evenly matched.

Qualifying

Over one lap Vergne struggles and as a result has only made it into Q3 twice, while his teammate is much stronger on a Saturday afternoon and has out-qualified Vergne 25 times.

Ricciardo’s best qualifying position to date is fifth place at this year’s British Grand Prix, which he finished in eighth place following a chaotic race.

To be fair to Vergne though, his highest qualifying position was a seventh at this year’s Canadian Grand Prix, showing that strong qualifying positions aren’t impossible for the Frenchman.

Race Pace

During a race is where Vergne has the upper hand over his teammate having finished every race higher, or equal to, his starting position.

An eighth and sixth place finish, in Monaco and Canada respectively, prove that the Frenchman has got the talent to score big points on Sunday and put in a faster car, such as a Red Bull, he’d be capable of scoring even more points.

Vergne recently commented that he believes the lack of consistency is why Red Bull have ruled him out. The Frenchman has suffered four retirements so far this year, none of which were technically his fault; damage caused by other drivers forced him to retire in Bahrain and Spain, damage from a tyre failure ended his race in Britain and a hydraulic issue in Germany put an end to his race.

Interestingly Ricciardo finished all but one race above his grid position last year, but has struggled with race pace this year and is yet to finish a race higher than his starting position.

Experience

Ricciardo has been in F1 six months longer than Vergne, but that doesn’t automatically mean he is the better driver.

The Australian’s debut outing was at the 2011 British Grand Prix and he went on to finish the season with HRT, but does that really give Ricciardo a huge benefit over Vergne?

 

For a big team like Red Bull, they need a reliable and consistent driver to help their championship hopes, so perhaps Vergne’s four retirements concern them.

On the other hand, points aren’t awarded on Saturday so Sunday’s finishing positions are what’s most important to the team. By this logic, Vergne who performs better during the race and always makes up positions, seems like the better option.

All is not lost for Vergne though; Franz Tost, Toro Rosso Team Principal, has recently commented that he see’s Vergne with the team next year, which is a sure sign that his seat is safe.

Image courtesy of Octane Photographic

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