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Biography

SEASON INFORMATION
15/08/2013

 

Biography

 
Jean-Eric Vergne began his karting career in 2001, aged 11, and within three years was runner-up in the French Rotax Max championship. In 2005, he finished runner-up in the ICA class European Championship, while in 2006 he was seventh in the premier KF1 World Championship.

In 2007, Jean-Eric moved up to single-seater racing entering the French Formula Renault Campus series which he won at the first attempt, taking ten podium places from thirteen races. He subsequently became a member of the Red Bull Junior Team.

In 2008, he competed in both the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and the Formula Renault 2.0 West European Cup for SG Formula. He finished sixth in the Eurocup standings, scoring positions in fourteen races, including a podium in the final race of the season at Barcelona, while in the West European Cup, he took fourth place with three podium places.

In both series, he finished as the highest placed rookie driver, and in addition, he also won the French Formula Renault 2.0 title, which was awarded to the best French driver in the West European Cup standings.

For 2009, Jean-Eric remained in both championships with SG Formula, finishing second in the Eurocup and also in the West European Cup.

2010 saw Jean-Eric move to the British Formula Three Championship in which he drove for Carlin. Twelve victories from the first twenty-four races, including three wins out of three at Spa, was enough to give him the title with six races remaining and marked the third consecutive year that a Red Bull Junior Team driver had won the title with Carlin - following Jaime Alguersuari in 2008 and Daniel Ricciardo in 2009.

During the season, Vergne also contested the two main non-championship Formula Three races, the Masters of Formula 3 at Zandvoort, where he finished fourth, and the Macau Grand Prix where he finished seventh. In both events he was the highest placed finisher from the British series.

In May 2010, Vergne was signed by Tech 1 Racing to contest the opening GP3 Series round in Barcelona. He was replaced by countryman Jim Pla for the next round in Turkey as it clashed with the British Formula Three event at Hockenheim, but returned for the following round in Valencia. However, in early July it was announced that Daniel Juncadella would take Vergne's seat for the remainder of the season.

Along with his Formula Three campaign, Vergne had been due to compete in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series for SG Formula. However, the team pulled out a week before the first race leaving Vergne to concentrate on his Formula Three programme.

In July 2010, it was announced that Vergne would replace Brendon Hartley at Tech 1 Racing for the final three events of the season after the New Zealander was released by the Red Bull Junior Team. Incredibly, he finished eighth in the championship despite only taking part in the final six races. He took four podium places, including his first series win at Silverstone after original race winner Esteban Guerrieri was disqualified for a technical infringement.

It was also in 2010 that Jean-Eric had his first outing in a Formula One car, driving a Red Bull RB5 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. In September it was announced that he would drive for Toro Rosso in the post-season young driver test for Toro Rosso, with the Faenza team later confirming that he would drive the STR5 for both days of the test.

On the first day of the test he set the seventh fastest time while on the second he finished ninth fastest just 0.030 seconds behind the Williams of GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado. As well as suffering an engine-related issue which limited his running, the Frenchman also had to leave the test early to travel to Macau for the Formula Three race.

Vergne graduated to the series full-time in 2011, switching from Tech 1 Racing to Carlin. After winning the second race at Monza, he was given a time penalty and demoted to third place after he was adjudged to have cut a chicane. However, after an appeal by his team, the Italian Motorsports Commission (CSAI) quashed the penalty and reinstated the win to the Frenchman and his team.

Going into the final round of the season in Barcelona, Vergne was in second position overall, just two points behind teammate Robert Wickens, having taken five race victories including a double win at the Hungaroring. In the final race of the season, the two drivers collided on the opening lap, sending Wickens into retirement. Although Vergne was able to continue, he was later taken out of the race by Fairuz Fauzy, thereby handing the title to his Canadian team-mate by just nine points.

Over the course of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, it was announced that Jean-Eric would take part in a number of Friday practice sessions for Toro Rosso, with the team later confirming that he would take part in three of the final four race weekends, beginning with Korea. However, he didn't take part in practice at the Indian Grand Prix in order to allow Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari maximum track time at the new circuit.

In Abu Dhabi, Jean-Eric was eleventh fastest in free practice, less than 0.3 seconds off the pace of Alguersuari.

In November, the French youngster drove the title-winning RB7 at the young driver test in Abu Dhabi, setting the fastest lap time on all three days. Weeks later he was named as Daniel Ricciardo's teammate when Toro Rosso revealed an all new driver line-up for the 2012 F1 season. It is telling that having suffered one of its worst seasons in F1, the Faenza team, which is not known for its patience and understanding, opted to retain both of its drivers for 2013. One can only assume that this was an admission of guilt from the team, that it failed to provide Jean-Eric and Daniel with a decent car.

Eighth placed Williams scored almost three times as many points as Toro Rosso, while the only teams to score less were the three newbies - all of which failed to open their accounts.

While much was expected of Vergne the youngster was not given the opportunity to shine. That said, based on what we did see, and taking into account the equipment at his disposal, there was little to write home about. And let's not forget, it was at Minardi, in a much worse car, that Alonso showed his mettle.

In the first half of the season the Frenchman appeared slightly out of his depth, certainly in qualifying, but this improved as the season developed.

Though not as consistent as his teammate, when he finished he fared better than Ricciardo, the Frenchman claiming four eighth places, thereby contributing sixteen of the team's total (26).

At Valencia Jean-Eric turned into Heikki Kovalainen from outside the racing line during an overtake, consequently damaging both cars severely and scattering enough debris on the track that the safety car had to be deployed. The stewards subsequently ruled that the accident had been avoidable and that the Frenchman was responsible. He received a 10-position double-penalty (two lots of 5) to his grid result at Silverstone along with a 25,000 euro fine.

Looking ahead, the one bright note is that having lured James Key from Sauber, the Englishman will hopefully lift the team - he certainly seemed to make an impression in the final stages of 2012.

On the other hand, as Red Bull goes from strength to strength, it remains to be seen how long Dieter Mateschitz will continue to bankroll the Faenza squad. However, Jean-Eric has to do his part to improve the situation, as we have said before, the team isn't known for its patience.

Statistics - at the end of 2012 Season

Drivers' Titles: 0
Seasons in F1: 1
Grand Prix: 20
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0

Best result in 2012: 8th (4 times)
Best qualifying 2012: 11th (Australia)
Worst qualifying 2012: 20th (Canada)

2012: Out-qualified Daniel Ricciardo 4 times
2012: Out-qualified by Daniel Ricciardo 16 times

2012: Completed 1048 out of 1192 laps (87.9%)
2012: Finished 16 times from 20 starts (80%)

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