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Mat Coch writes:
In a season in which he started as Red Bull's next big thing, Jean-Eric Vergne's Formula One debut has been brutal. Constantly out-qualified by (slightly) more experienced teammate Daniel Ricciardo, the Frenchman has also been prone to mid-race mistakes.
However with half the year gone the 22-year-old is looking to turn a corner. "Inevitably, reaching the middle of the season means you get asked lots of questions about progress and pressure and how the team is shaping up," Vergne writes in his blog.
"I've learned a lot since the start of the season and the best is definitely still to come. The moment you stop learning, that's the moment you should stop doing what you're doing."
One of those lessons Vergne must master is the art of race-craft, eliminating the mistakes if he is to impress Red Bull driver boss Helmut Marko.
Although the senior team has been confirmed for 2013 it is widely expected that when either Mark Webber or Sebastian Vettel move on that the squad will promote from within. The pressure is therefore on, given Marko has a track record of readily dumping drivers he doesn't think are up to scratch.
"There's also a lot of talk about the pressure facing both me and Daniel - pressure to perform, to beat each other, to prove that we can step up to the next level when the time comes," says Vergne. "It's completely normal. If a driver doesn't feel the pressure to perform from his team then they're not showing much ambition and he's either unbelievably superior to every other driver or a complete flop.
"There's the pressure from within as well. Me and Daniel have to be at the top of our game all the time because there's a lot invested in us and also because everyone within Toro Rosso expects us to deliver to the best of our ability, all the time."
It's an indication of the pressure Red Bull puts its drivers under that Vergne is focussed on beating Ricciardo more than anyone else. "Daniel is a really good driver and the competition between us is intense. If he pushes hard I'll push back harder," he states.
"I've always done well under pressure. I respond to it well and it's never been a problem for me. My attitude is that if you let that kind of thing get to you then you're already finished. You have to keep digging deep and you have to rise to the challenge."
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