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Jean-Eric Vergne




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Jean-Eric Vergne


Pontoise, France

Official website:


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.

While much was expected of Jean-Eric in 2012 the youngster was not really 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 he had 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.

As it happened this was Jean-Eric's first retirement, though he had only scored one points finish to date. He would not score points again until Spa, where he finished 8th, repeating the feat in Korea and again in Brazil.

Jean-Eric finished the season in 17th in the Drivers' Championship with 16 points, the total comprised of four eighth place finishes. Despite not scoring points as frequently as Ricciardo, he finished the season ahead of the Australian.

Looking ahead, the one bright note was that having lured James Key from Sauber, the Englishman would hopefully lift the team - he certainly seemed to make an impression in the final stages of 2012. However, there were times during 2013 when it was difficult to remember those heady days when Toro Rosso and Red Bull were joined at the hip, the days when the Faenza car was essentially the Red Bull model, albeit with a different livery. In 2013, as Red Bull cruised towards its fourth title the chasm between the sister teams was never greater.

Having retained Jean-Eric (and Ricciardo), the team got off to a poor start in Melbourne where the Frenchman finished 12th and Ricciardo retired following an exhaust problem. In Malaysia, Jean-Eric opened his 2013 points account whilst his teammate suffered another exhaust issue.

It was round about the time of Monaco, following months of speculation and denial, that Mark Webber finally confirmed that he would be quitting F1 at season end and heading to Sports Cars with Porsche. Suddenly, the situation at Toro Rosso took on a whole new urgency as Jean-Eric and Ricciardo found themselves under serious consideration as his replacement.

Jean-Eric was quick to react, finishing eighth in Monaco and then taking a convincing fifth in Canada - his team's best result since Brazil 2008. However, it was clear that Toro Rosso had a problem. Though Williams and Sauber had issues of their own, the Faenza team was losing ground to Force India and showing no sign of making it up. Indeed, to date, in fact over the course of the entire season, not once did both drivers finish a race in the points.

Sadly, Canada was as good as it got for Jean-Eric, the Frenchman going the remainder of the season - a further twelve races - without adding to his tally. Other than finishing outside the points, the Frenchman suffered a number of retirements including tyre damage, hydraulics and transmission.

At Monza it was confirmed that Ricciardo would be replacing countryman Webber at Red Bull in 2014, the news, unsurprisingly, doing little to encourage Jean-Eric.

Retained by Toro Rosso for 2014, he was joined by surprise signing Daniil Kvyat, who, though only 19, won the 2013 GP3 title in his rookie season having previously finished runner up in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series. While some said the deal was all about money, others argued the youngster is the real deal and would put even more pressure on Jean-Eric.

Meanwhile, in a move which saw the Faenza team move back that little bit closer to its sister outfit in Milton Keynes, in 2014 it would use the same Renault power units.

As was the case with all Renault runners, pre-season testing didn't bode well. Nonetheless, the season got off to a strong start in Melbourne with Jean-Eric and Kvyat qualifying 6th and 8th and subsequently finishing the race 8th and 9th.

Other than the British Grand Prix, this was the last time both drivers finished in the points together, Jean-Eric scoring points in seven races in total and his teammate in five.

Indeed, such was the poor reliability of the entire package, it was rare to get both drivers home far less in the points, both suffering five retirements with issues including the power unit, exhaust, brakes, drivetrain and electrics.

Jean-Eric achieved the team's best result of the year in Singapore, when he brought the car home in sixth, an effort which helped the Faenza outfit secure seventh in the final standings.

Whilst the popular Frenchman usually had the better performance on race day, he lost out on Saturdays, his rookie teammate beating him 12-7 over the course of the season.

However, where Jean-Eric appeared to lose out most of all was in the 'here I am' department, the Frenchman never really stepping out of the shadows and thereby remaining almost anonymous.

In mid-August, before Jean-Eric's sterling drive to sixth in Singapore, the team announced that it had signed 16-year-old Max Verstappen for 2015 alongside Kvyat, with no mention of the Frenchman. However, he was given hope when it was subsequently confirmed that Sebastian Vettel was to leave Red Bull (for Ferrari) and that Kvyat, in just his second season in F1, was to step up to partner Ricciardo.

As we awaited news of who would get the Toro Rosso seat, Jean-Eric took to Twitter to reveal that it wasn't him, the drive subsequently going to Carlos Sainz Jr. All of which prompts the obvious question; why, despite giving a good account of himself has the Frenchman twice been overlooked whilst his teammate was promoted.

With no other serious F1 prospects on the horizon, Jean-Eric headed to Uruguay to join Andretti Autosport in the third round of the Formula E series. Taking pole, he led the race only to be eliminated by a broken suspension two laps from the end as he fought back after being passed by Sebastian Buemi.

On December 19, Ferrari, in the midst of a massive overhaul, and having signed Esteban Gutierrez as test and reserve driver, announced that Jean-Eric was to join the team in the role of test driver to work on car development in the simulator.

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