The Montreal weekend was a positive one for Jean Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso’s young driver, who secured sixth place in the race, a personal best for him and the team’s best result since Sebastian Vettel’s win in Italy 2008.
What is most pleasing for Vergne is that it was the result of a complete weekend, where he put it all together from start to finish, including qualifying, starting seventh on the grid. It is surprising how rarely that happens, the complete weekend.
“We shouldn’t get carried away with sixth place,” said the Parisian, “The road is still long. But I’m in a part of my career where I need confidence and these races are helping me to build that, making me a better driver.”
The Montreal result follows another positive weekend in Monaco where he qualified and finished 10th.
The momentum is positive, but the question is where it leads to. Red Bull Racing is the ultimate target for a driver passing through Toro Rosso and with Felix da Costa the next young Red Bull driver in line, likely to be given a chance next year, Vergne and team mate Daniel Ricciardo know that the next few months are decisive for their futures.
Paddock rumour continues to suggest that the common sense next move for Red Bull is to take Kimi Raikkonen, if Mark Webber is to leave the team. The money in F1 comes from Constructors Championship points and Red Bull went through the 200 point barrier on Sunday, an average of almost 30 points per race.
This comes from Vettel’s wins, but also from the consistent results Webber brings. Swapping him for a far less experienced driver like Vergne or Ricciardo is risky, taking the most consistent performer in F1 is not. Raikkonen’s 9th place finish in Canada despite brake problems and a fuel shortage, was his 24th consecutive points finish, equalling Michael Schumacher’s record.
Toro Rosso’s sixth place result was earned on merit; it did not rely on changeable conditions or retirements and after an erratic start, shows progress. The car can be very fast at times and if Technical Director James Key and his team can unlock that speed on a consistent basis – as Force India is doing currently – then the second half of the season could be strong.
“I’m pleased with the way he(Vergne) is progressing, race after race,” said Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost. “Ife we give him a good car I’m certain he can have a great second half of the season.”
As always with this team and this driver programme the future hangs by a thread. After Vettel’s win in 2008 Red Bull programme director Helmut Marko thinks that the barometer for progress to the A Team is whether a driver can win in a Toro Rosso.
That remains a tall order.