Jean-Eric Vergne insists he is ready to fight for his Formula 1 future, with just eight races remaining to secure a seat on the grid for 2015.
Toro Rosso revealed on Monday that Vergne, who has raced for the Red Bull junior team since 2012, will be replaced next season by 16-year-old Formula 3 racer Max Verstappen.
The shock move, which will see Verstappen – son of former F1 racer Jos – become the youngest driver to ever compete in Formula 1 when he takes his place on the grid in Australia next season, leaves Vergne, who has been backed by Red Bull since 2007, without a seat for 2015.
However, Vergne, who says he holds no resentment towards Toro Rosso for making the decision to drop him, is refusing to give-up on his F1 career, maintaining that he can do enough in the remaining eight races to secure a seat for next season.
“I understand the decision,” said Vergne. “I’m not p****d off. I’m a little bit sad obviously because I like the team and believe it is a good one.
“It’s always in difficult moments that you can show your best potential, and that’s what I’m going to do in the next eight races,” he added. “The best help I can have for next year is my performance.
“Everybody expects me to put a knee down, but it’s in these kind of moments that I’m the strongest. I’m keen to show my best potential in this difficult moment.”
The Frenchman cites his performances against Red Bull star and former Toro Rosso team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who he believes he would have been able to emulate had he stepped up to the senior Red Bull seat this season, as proof that he is good enough to remain in Formula 1.
“When you look at Daniel in Red Bull last year we were always fighting together. He was sometimes better than me in qualifying but that is the biggest point I’ve improved this year.
“I think I’m a much better driver than last year. I don’t like this kind of comparison, but I would be more or less doing what he is doing at Red Bull.
“That gives me a lot of confidence and credit at the same time. I just want to show it on track like I have so far this season.”
Pressed on whether he feels he deserves to remain in the sport beyond 2014, Vergne responded: “I have my place in F1, in a good seat to win races because I know I can do it. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I’m not the kind of guy who likes to be in F1 just to say “I’m an F1 driver’.”
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic