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Time is ticking for Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso

Jun 29, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT

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He may have had more than his fair share of bad luck so far this season, but time does appear to be ticking for Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso, and perhaps even on his F1 career.

Being a member of the Red Bull junior programme has its perks and drawbacks. The obvious benefit is the backing from one of motorsport’s biggest brands, with Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo being its two biggest stars. However, they have also set a dangerous precedent: this is the kind of quality that the team is looking for.

When Mark Webber confirmed at Silverstone last year he would be retiring, a race between Ricciardo, Vergne and Kimi Raikkonen was sparked for his seat. The Australian driver eventually won out, rising to the occasion and performing when it mattered. Vergne, on the other hand, failed to score in the final eleven races of the year.

So far this season, Vergne has two eighth place finishes to his name and eight points, but he could be right to feel short changed given that five of his races have ended in retirement. The Toro Rosso car has certainly improved since the beginning of the season, yet its pace is still hindered by the dud Renault engine in the back.

For Vergne, the pressure comes from below. Should he see out the end of the season, he will have started more races than any other driver for Toro Rosso, but history suggests it may not go far beyond that. Traditionally, Red Bull has jilted ‘under-performing’ drivers from the team in favor of other juniors. Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari were both hard done by, but they simply had not done enough and were sacked at the end of 2011. Vergne is already coming under pressure from the next batch of Red Bull juniors.

Carlos Sainz Jr. (son of his rally legend namesake) is the next junior in line for a seat, it would appear. He is currently leading the Formula Renault 3.5 championship, and all of the signs suggest that he will go on to win it. If anyone is going to get a seat at Toro Rosso, it would probably be him.

Then again, the same thing was said about Antonio Felix da Costa last season, only for the Toro Rosso seat to go to Daniil Kvyat. da Costa’s career appears to have hit something of a dead end, and he is now racing in the German DTM championship.

The outsider for Vergne’s seat would be Britain’s Alex Lynn. The youngster received Red Bull backing at the beginning of the season, and he is already proving his worth in GP3, leading the championship after four races.

For now though, Sainz must be the favorite. If he can follow in Kevin Magnussen’s footsteps to win the Formula Renault 3.5 title, it would surely be curtains for Vergne. Bad luck aside, a change has to come for the Frenchman to keep his F1 career alive.

  1. techmeister1 - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    Driving for Toro Rosso is a double edged sword. A lot of the time the team does not have their act together and as a consequence their cars are unreliable or uncompetitive. Prior to recent years the management was pretty piss poor also. A driver can only deliver so much when the car is a POS. Ask Kimi, Button, Rosberg, Massa and other very successful F1 drivers.

    It’s extremely difficult to size up a drivers true talent in a bad car. If Vettel was not driving when Adrian Newey won the last four championships, based on this season’s performance Vettel would not be driving for anyone in F1 in 2015 but Ricciardo certainly would be.

  2. wiscpaul - Jun 29, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    Vergne’s not doing too bad. He’s tied for thirteenth in the standings with Lotus’s top driver and one spot behind Kimi in the factory Ferrari. How much better can he do with that car. He’s also ahead of his teammate. He’s not any worse than Massa of Bottas, they just happen to have a Mercedes power unit. It all depends on how much money potential young drivers can bring with them to the job. It’s not about talent anymore. Just ask Danica.

  3. techmeister1 - Jun 29, 2014 at 10:23 PM

    wiscpaul-

    Even though Vergne has done OK with what he’s had to work with IMO, your cheap shop comments are inappropriate be they about Massa/Bottas or Patrick.

    Considering Patrick has about three seasons experience in CRASHCAR compared to most everyone else who has spent their entire careers in some form of CRASHCAR, she’s doing just fine – despite the haters. A lot of people like to hate because she gets a lot of media attention which she actually deserves as she has accomplished more in every form of racing where she has competed than any other woman in history. When she passes her boss Tony Stewart in the same equipment, he didn’t let her by. When she qualifies and finishes better than her teammates, it’s not by accident. When she qualified on the pole for the Daytona 500 two years in a row – once in NNS and once in CUP, it wasn’t due to lack of ability.

    The fact is there are always going to be haters no matter how much she achieves in her racing career. Jealousy and ignorance aren’t going to detract from her accomplishments so you might as well spare us your ignorance.

  4. kitnamania13 - Jun 29, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    JEV simply doesn’t have the outright pace to justify keeping his seat at Toro Rosso. He’s put in some good race performances, especially at Montreal, but he doesn’t seem to be able to get the most out of the car in qualifying. Toro Rosso is looking for the next Vettel or Ricciardo, and we’ve seen enough from JEV by now to know he’s not the one.

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