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Jean Eric Vergne stakes his claim
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Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Jun 2013   |  2:34 pm GMT  |  80 comments

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.

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  1. Michael S says:

    Kimi clearly can see Lotus is losing momentum, chief designers and sponsorship… I have to think he is all for going to Red Bull should the door be open. I would love to see him against Alonso at Ferrari, but there is no way on earth Alonso would ever allow a top driver again after his year at McLaren with Lewis.

    1. Justin Bieber says:

      Why would Ferrari hire someone they sacked a few years ago.. As for Alonso, even Vettle says he didnt think I would work if Kimi went to Red Bull. Team harmony is very important..

      1. Michael S says:

        so you think Vettel and Webber have team harmony?!

        I think RB makes a ton of sense for Kimi, but I also think it is Vettel’s team and the car is built to his liking etc. Hard for me to see Kimi doing much there with Vettel.

        Actually McLaren makes the most sense for Kimi, but they would have to let Perez or Button go

      2. C Lin says:

        Kimi to partner Button would be great.

        I can’t see Kimi partnering (idiot) Perez or Perez (I did nothing wrong) teaming up with Kimi ha!

  2. Donald says:

    ‘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’s demented.

    1. Nazdakka says:

      I agree. Vettel’s win at Italy 2008 was the result of a whole string of strange events. Vettel is certainly an exceptional driver, but he was helped by a rare wet race on an unusual track, a major strategy error that left one of the fastest cars (Lewis) starting from 15th, and a Toro Rosso that turned out to be very well adapted to the conditions. People forget that Sébastien Bourdais, who Toro Rosso fired a year later, qualified fourth, so the car was clearly pretty good that day.

      Expecting lightning to strike twice seems unrealistic.

      1. Bart says:

        Yes, Bourdais qualified 4th, but wouldn’t have had the race pace for his Toro Rosso to stay there. A whole 43 seconds off SV’s race pace, even after cancelling the time he lost at the beginning.

        http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2008/09/17/could-sebastien-bourdais-have-beaten-sebastian-vettel-in-the-italian-gp/

      2. AZ says:

        As you said Bourdais lost time at the start of the race, and this meant he had to deal with traffic and the spray with the other cars. I remember clearly that when in clean air their lap times were fairly similar. Don’t take me wrong, Bourdais made a mistake at the start, so Vettel deserved the win, but they were lapping at a similar pace.

      3. Bart says:

        @AZ – The time lost at the beginning is factored in, that’s why the amount is 43 seconds, not 160 seconds (plus their times were only similar near the end of the race). Though I’m sure Bourdais’ pace wasn’t bad (and as you acknowledge, Vet deserved the win), I don’t believe it was too similar.

      4. KRB says:

        +1000

        If Marko seriously believes that, he is demented. Not that I didn’t think that already, but …

    2. Nuvolarifan says:

      Agreed. Even Alonso couldnt win in the TR.

    3. Bart says:

      I don’t even know where James Allen even got that idea. I remember Marko saying after Buemi and Alguersuari were sacked that STR want “GP winners”, but that does not equal literally needing to win a race for STR. Vettel was even promoted before Monza 2008.

      1. James Allen says:

        From what he has said to drivers in the past.

      2. Bart says:

        But as I said, Vettel was announced as a RBR driver before Monza. Why would Marko assume that any driver deserving of a top ride would be obliged to do the same?

    4. Tank says:

      I agree – back in 2008, Coulthard commented that STR were diverting valuable resources away from the senior team. STR also had the same-spec Ferrari engines as the senior team, which went through a boost phase around the time of the Italian GP.

      Fast forward to now, RBR are in a dogfight with the established front runners. They would have corrected their resourcing priorities. Expecting someone to win in a Toro Rosso is possible only through that they participate, and highly unlikely.

      1. hero_was_senna says:

        RBR were running Renault engines in 2008, STR Ferrari

      2. Tank says:

        You got me – I meant the works team…

  3. Elie says:

    That’s more than a tall order right now James!.
    Marko has to be dreaming. I think if the Torro Rosso finishes ahead of 1 red bull, 1 Ferrari, 1 Lotus and 1 Mercedes then that would be a great job meaning 5th place or better.

    I’m particularly impressed with JEV’s wet track performance. I think he has more potential than Ricciardo at this point- I felt differently last year but Daniel has half a season advantage- I still really don’t see these guys as any better than Alguessuari was at the same point at TR just goes to show how fickle F1 can be.

    1. Rishi says:

      The battle between the two drivers seems to be finally developing into the rivalry I think we all expected and/or hoped it would be.

      Like you I felt Ricciardo seemed to show a bit more performance last season but JEV also gave us glimpses like in Korea and Malaysia (a wet race).

      This year Ricciardo did well in China and Spain but JEV has responded in the best possible way in the next two rounds. The other positive for JEV fans is that he seems to be improving in areas where he didn’t do too well in 2012; in particular, in his qualifying performances. It’s going to be hard to see them progress to the sister car (Red Bull) at this point because as you say they’re not doing that much better than Alguersuari and (in my view) Buemi were but a good season could still see them stay in the sport so still a lot up for grabs.

  4. David Grant says:

    I’m slightly concerned Marko will do the same thing with the current drivers as he did with Algeursuari and Buemi. Which would be a shame because i think Ricciardo can step up to RBR.

    1. petes says:

      Why don’t you think JEV can make the move?
      It seems to me he is getting consistently ahead of he team-mate.

      1. Tristan says:

        @Petes, JEV has certainly had the better of DR in the last two races, but for the rest of the season he has been getting comprehensively beaten by DR.

        DR has outqualified him for the better part of the last year and a half, and this year has finished ahead of him in the race. I think DR has been the more consistent and mature.

      2. Geronimo says:

        You want to double check that. DR generally manages qualifying better, not the race. He was beaten on points last year, and this season is no different so far.
        JEV has done some serious racing on quite a few GP, think of Sepang this year for instance.

    2. Bart says:

      Ricciardo hasn’t shown himself to be consistently good enough in races to step up to RBR or do better than Webber. A shame, because I though he’d kick on from some of his misfortunes that were the main reason he lost to JEV on points last year.

  5. goferet says:

    Great weekend and result for Vergne, it wasn’t too long ago like Ricciardo seemed like he was in the driving seat for the Red Bull drive.

    Unfortunately for the Torro Rosso drivers, Helmut Marko doesn’t take fluctuating performances kindly so unless the Torro Rosso drivers can somehow get a podium, am afraid at best, they will stay with the team.

    Also the rumours of Kimi joining Red Bull aren’t helping their cause more so because Kimi is a good mate of Vettel so this pretty much seals that deal if the rumours are true.

    However, if you were to ask me, I would strongly discourage Kimi for joining Red Bull for Vettel’s qualifying pace has the ability to send one’s career into retirement for everybody knows by now the damage Vettel can do from pole.

    Staying on the topic of Torro Rosso, it doesn’t necessarily have to act as a training ground for the sister team.

    Torro Rosso can be it’s own team with midfield runners whereas Red Bull can poach the best talent from other teams for right now Red Bull is officially among the greats and hence a reputation to keep.

    1. Seán Craddock says:

      +1 for the last paragraph, people are expecting that it’s going to be one of the Toro Rosso drivers that will get the seat, but Vettel is the only driver to have ever been ‘promoted’ to Red Bull Racing

  6. ed says:

    Steady now, we mustn’t get carried away. Remember all those fools that thought Lewis would be a multi WDC winner, where are they now. Oh yes, ‘bigging’ up Seb!

    Yes, JEV has impressed and yes he has all the right qualities. But is he really a winner?

    As for Kimi, no chance of him moving to RB no matter what ‘the paddock’ says! Well, no chance as long as Vettel remains, good friendship notwithstanding. Both see themselves as winners! And winners don’t work well together in a team, for and on behalf of the team.

    That’s a RB pre-requisite!

    1. Stephen Taylor says:

      If he does ever decide to move it will be back at team whose name begins with M and ends in n

  7. mhilgtx says:

    Yes bravo for JEV and Torro Rosso in general the last few races have been good to them.

    You say it was on merit because there were not changeable conditions and this confuses me. On the broadcast for qualifying they kept saying that in changeable conditions it evens out the cars and was more about the driver. So if it takes skill to do well in changeable conditions how is that not succeeding on merit?

    1. Bradley says:

      I think he means on the car’s merit – ie, Toro Rosso should have decent pace in future races as well.

  8. AMSG says:

    I feel some hearts will be brocken yet again come season end. The current TR drivers at least….

  9. Alexander Supertramp says:

    “almost 30 points/race average”. Mercedes took 3rd and 5th, that’s ‘just’ 25 points. RB’s average is a great argument to state that they still have the best car- even if numbers don’t give the full picture.

  10. what would have been schumacher’s record if there had been points all the way down to 10th place? it’s not really a fair comparison is it?

    1. Seán Craddock says:

      24, he retired either side of the record

    2. Nick says:

      What would not be a fair comparison is comparing Ferrari who invest mind boggling amounts of money in F1 to resource restricted Lotus.

    3. Tyemz says:

      It may seem an unfair comparison but maybe not if you consider that MS’ record was set during the Ferrari domination years where he ‘d qualify on the front row then disappear into the distance. Kimi’s feat becomes more remarkable when you consider that he used to qualify lower down the grid and then battle the likes of you know who; Perez, Maldonado and maybe his own teammate, who could wreck a race before you realised it.

    4. Antti says:

      It would’ve been 24 races, as he had retirements at both ends of the streak.

  11. A bit off topic: The overhead shots from the helicopter appeared to have a lot of empty seats, as have other races this year — how is attendance holding up from an historical perspective. Seems that F-1 attendance is experiencing a drop in interest as are many motorsports events. Any chance of one of your great articles on this piece of the perspective?

    NBC Sports Channel her in the U.S. has glitzed up the the set, messed with the presentation so no live practice was shown and put Hobbs and Machett in suits with Diffey continuing to scream his head off for no good reason while emphasizing the gossip factor, so I can understand at least part of the apparent decline here in the U.S.

    Now we really have to rely on James for the well balanced infomation. Thank you!

  12. All revved-up says:

    Leaving aside Red Bull, Mercedes and Alonso, Vergne “won” the best of the rest race comfortably.

    He got past Bottas without tripping up, unlike Sutil.

    Mysteriously, he outraced Kimi in a Lotus (yet to find out exactly what caused Lotus poor performance – seems to be more than just a long brake pedal).

    Most significantly he outclassed the McLarens and Force Indias. This probably doesn’t mean that from now on Torro Rosso is a strong contender for 5th in the constructors. But it would be fun to see TR fighting it out for 5th..

    1. Antti says:

      Kimi was in fuel saving mode for most of the race, and had the brake issue you mentioned.

  13. VettelFan says:

    “the team’s best result since Sebastian Vettel’s win in Italy 2008.”

    I thought Vettel finished fourth in 2008 Braziilian GP?

    1. mkl says:

      And 5th in Singapore. I guess it was supposed to mean “since the season when Vettel won in Italy”, but it’s one of those phrases that loses its accuracy once more and more people start repeating it.

  14. Dan says:

    Needs to string together a few more good results rather than just one imo. I think by Singapore the writing will be on the wall.

  15. Mitchel says:

    Very sad news about the marshall. Are those cranes supposed to be driven forwards with the car obscuring the driver’s view?

    That’s a horrible arrangement- there should be some engineering focus on improving this. Too late now, of course. It does make me wonder about the sport’s priorities sometimes.

    1. cromodora says:

      Hope his family is compensated by some form of insurance.

      Are Canadian marshalls paid for their time?

  16. hippyneil says:

    Two questions.
    One, if RB have a young driver programme then what is it’s point if you are not going to put someone from that programme in your main team alongside Vettel?
    Two, How would Kimi have reacted in the “Multi 21″ situation if he was in Webber’s position?

    Also, good stuff from the TR boys this year. Not like our favorite “crash kids” trying to over-impress.

  17. Louis says:

    I’m so glad for Vergne, he has performed very well in back to back races. It’ll be a very interesting fight between the two Toro Rosso drivers for the rest of the season.

    BTW – Vergne finished 8th in Monaco.

  18. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    Hulkenberg should be considered by every team looking for a driver for 2014, including Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus and maybe McLaren if it is the case.

    But he is also doing some little mistakes now.

    1. James Allen says:

      Do you think that may be because he’s trying to wring a performance from a poor car eg top ten on grid in Canada?

      1. Anil says:

        Yup. If kimi goes to Red Bull, Lotus should get hold of Hulkenburg. He deserves a top drive!

      2. Cedgy says:

        Agreed! Hulkenberg deserves a top drive! Question is: will Lotus still be a top team in 2014?

      3. All revved-up says:

        Spot on Cedgy.

        Imagine if Hulk moved to Lotus, and Lotus did a McLaren 2013. We will all be thinking is Hulk really the problem, or is he really that unlucky.

        For example, to me, McLaren’s poor performance exposes Button. The moment Hamilton leaves, McLaren drops. Is that just a co-incidence or is there more to it?

        If we look at Rosberg’s Canada performance relative to Hamilton, it reminds me of Button vs Hamilton. But then Rosberg has fairly beaten Hamilton on more than one occasion. F1 just raises so many delicious discussion points.

        So if Hulk joins Lotus as Kimi is jumping ship to Red Bull – is the Hulk joining another sinking ship?

        Those who really know the answers to these questions can make money by betting the odds! In which case they would most likely keep the truth to themselves and spread false messages to improve the betting odds!!

      4. Joel says:

        It may be so. However, this also shows he is not ready for a top team. His situation makes it even more important to stay level-headed and pick up an odd-point here & there which is very valuable considering the underperforming car.

  19. Seán Craddock says:

    Vettel finished 4th in the 2008 Brazilian GP driving a Torro Rosso, so it’s their best result since then. He overtook Hamilton for 5th with 3 laps to go, a move that we thought would prevent Lewis from winning the Championship. Of course we all know what happened after that

    1. Seán Craddock says:

      Actually looking back, is this Toro Rosso’s best ever performance in dry conditions?

      1. Martin says:

        Without checking all the results, it depends how you define things. Vergne was lapped – possibly 90 seconds behind the winning car, so on that scale not the best performance, but it was a great result for (half of) the team.

      2. Seán Craddock says:

        Sorry, I meant to say best ever result

      3. mkl says:

        Vettel took 4th in China in 2007, 5th in Monaco and Belgium in 2008 (but all three races were wet), but also a 5th in Singapore in 2008, which was dry.

      4. Bart says:

        Nah, Vettel was 5th in Singapore, 10 seconds off the win.

      5. Martin says:

        No need to apologise, and my comment wasn’t that clever anyway – the time gap reflects the real performance of the car. Ricciardo’s gap to the winner in China while less, was influenced by tyre degradation, so time by itself isn’t fair comparison.

        Vettel had a 5th placed finish in Singapore, which was a dry race, and 5th in Monaco which ended dry. Both were mixed up results, so there’s an argument they weren’t as strong as Vergne in Canada. Vettel’s 6th in Valencia in 2008 would be a stronger result as it was only 52 seconds behind Massa.

  20. Rob Newman says:

    Jev did a very good job this weekend. But is his performance consistence? Can he hold his concentration if he makes a mistake during the race? That is where Kimi comes. He has been the more consistent driver currently available and he will be the best option for RBR.

    Webber is good but not many people in the team like his attitude of criticising the team openly – just like Barrichello used to do.

    1. Joe S says:

      If Webber gets some dislike, Di Resta must get pure resentment from some at Force India.

    2. C Lin says:

      Kimi is a no brainer option for RedBull.
      Kimi also probably won’t stay long in F1. After 2 years, Vergne would be ripe for the taking to join RedBull.

    3. tozzie says:

      Rubens was the ultimate fall guy, until he fell into Brawn and became a crybaby.

    4. DC says:

      How do you know that the people at RBR don’t like Webber’s attitude? Do you have inside information that the rest of us don’t?

    5. Tank says:

      After some of the team’s performances this season, what else was Webber supposed to do? It would have been strange to give them praise for stuffing up royally…

      Plus Rubens didn’t often criticise the team: I know that the one case people point to is after Nurburgring 2009, but given the subsequent slump in the Brawn team’s form I’m inclined to think that he was right!

  21. Laurence H says:

    I like JEV. I’ve always liked French drivers and he looks magnificently French.

    1. Cedgy says:

      JEV is hot! As opposed to his team mate

  22. Matthew Cheshire says:

    Kimi to Red Bull makes sense- but what happens to Lotus? Grosjean looks like he’s heading for the door, or at best staying as a real “wild card”- definitely not a number one.

    Two spots at Lotus- JEV, Ricciardo? Webber’s chance to be a number 1??

    If Torro Rosso is delivering drivers into non-existent seats at Red Bull, where do they go? The scrap heap again like the last two?

  23. Bart says:

    “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.”

    Correction; the team’s best result since Vettel in Brazil 2008.

  24. tozzie says:

    Good for Vergne, it’s one place than Ricciardo’s China 7th, let’s write about it!!!

  25. TGS says:

    I have an unrelated question James. Why did Webber not challenge Hamilton if he had the pace to get the fastest lap of the race? Does front wing damage mean you can’t consistently be quick over a number of laps but can post a quick time if you put the effort in? Cheers.

  26. Bello.1 says:

    Please! If kimi and Ricciardo, didn’t have issues with there cars,let alone sutil doing a 180 this bloke would of been swallowed up. And don’t even bring up Monaco there he was blessed by others crashing out at the dying stages….Dan has made passes on this bloke countless times,How many passes has he made on Dan? more then happy for someone to bring up how many times Dan has out qualified him. Dan has raw speed….and once Dan gets his car 100% Jev will be mince meat!

  27. Tom in adelaide says:

    Vergne seems to have a good head on his shoulders. His reaction to getting taken out by Schumey last year said a lot about him. I think he’d be the perfect #2 in a red car.

  28. I think epecting a win in a Torro Rosso is a bit much, but a strong top 3 quali result and podium is prob a good bencmark.

    I don’t think either driver has done enough yet to warrant a pick over Kimi, but they are prob good enough (compared to other options) should Kimi choose not to switch teams. Of course Di Resta, Sutil, Hukenberg and even Massa would prob all do the job as well

  29. Timmay says:

    1st decent thing he has done in 2.5 years of trying LoL – nuff said, move on, nothing to see here…

  30. Notna says:

    James, does anyone at RBR truly believe that they can have a total rookie morph into a battle hardened and race seasoned future champion in a span of two short racing years?

    Granted that Vettel is a clear outlier, one can easily forget that RBR was a win-less but clearly maturing midfield team prior to when Vettel joined them back in ’09.

    1. Bart says:

      “James, does anyone at RBR truly believe that they can have a total rookie morph into a battle hardened and race seasoned future champion in a span of two short racing years?”

      RBR want someone like Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso or Raikkonen, who adapted to that situation very well, in other words.

      1. James Allen says:

        That’s what I would do

        Remember RBR was a team on the up when VET joined, whereas now they are the team to beat and have higher stakes

        Points = money in F1

  31. Tyres says:

    Points tell it all and Vergne has more than Ricciardo, enough said.
    Also on the red bull seat issue what about Di-Resta? really feel like he is maturing and he is a young fast driver who would be ideal in a big team!

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