Like Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen and his own team mate Daniel Ricciardo,Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne is purportedly in the running for the Red Bull seat Mark Webber will vacate at the end of the season. Speaking exclusively to Formula1.com, Vergne discusses the possibility of stepping into the big league and reviews his season to date…
Q: Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has hinted that it will be a three-horse race for the seat - the two Toro Rosso drivers and Kimi Raikkonen. What would you advise Red Bull do?
Jean-Eric Vergne: I would of course advise them to take me!
Q: Based on what reasons?
JEV: Because I have done the job everybody was expecting. I am quick and I am a racer that can win championships. I think I have shown in many races what I can do as my progression is steeply running north. Since last year I have improved massively. I feel I am improving at every race.
Q: Would you say that the option to move to Red Bull Racing has opened up too early…at least too early in the season?
JEV: I don’t mind at all the point in time. In Formula One you have to prove yourself very quickly. That is what you have to understand immediately once you’ve made it into an F1 cockpit. But to be honest I am not thinking too much about this possible Red Bull Racing option. I don’t want to lose my focus. I am with Toro Rosso at the moment and want to do a good job with them.
Q: But if the call from Red Bull Racing comes, you of course would be ready…
JEV: Of course.
Q: If a decision falls in favour of Raikkonen it is a completely different matter. But between you and Daniel it will be a decision based on the belief that one will have a steeper performance curve in the future than the other. What does that mean for the remaining races - a flat-out war?
JEV: War is probably too much but of course you always want to beat your team mate, so from this point of view nothing will change.
Q: But it’s not about points. The reward would be a Red Bull cockpit. Doesn’t that change everything?
JEV: Thinking like this is the best way to fall.
Q: But for one it could mean a seat at Red Bull and for the other it may be the highway, if Toro Rosso stick to their policy of keeping youngsters two seasons?
JEV: These are questions I don’t ask myself. I am racing for Toro Rosso at the moment and we are doing the job people want to see in the team. And next year there is a new car. I don’t know. At the moment I only focus on every single race and don’t want to ask myself more questions.
Q: Every good result must hurt the other’s chance of moving to Red Bull. How do you cope with that?
JEV: I don’t care. He (Ricciardo) can have good result. My tyre exploded in Silverstone otherwise I would have had a good result myself. It doesn’t change my life. It doesn’t change my career. Everybody knows it and the people in the team know what I could have done. So that’s it. I am racing for myself and not anyone else.
Q: So no difficult situation at all?
JEV: No, because I don’t think about it. Of course I would love to race for Red Bull Racing as they have the best car and as a driver you always want to be in the best car. But I am not thinking about next year. I am thinking about the here and now and it is there where I want to do the best job possible. And then let’s see what happens. Something always good has happened to me by thinking in this way so I will stick to it.
Q: The car has made a huge leap forward compared to last season. Would you say that you have got the optimum out of your chances so far?
JEV: Sure a good car helps. It always makes more of an impression to be at the front of the standings, even if the standings is something of a double-edged matter. You can do a fantastic race with a not-so-fast car and end up in P15. You do the same race with a front-running car and you end up on the podium. That’s the reality.
Q: Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost is a very good mentor to his young drivers. Is he talking to you about the current situation of possible career changes?
JEV: He speaks a lot with me. We have a really good relationship. He would like to keep me should it not work with the Red Bull cockpit - and I would like to stay, as Toro Rosso is a team that is improving massively.
Q: What happened to you today in qualifying? Daniel made it to P6 and you ended in P16?
JEV: We have tried something with the tyres on my car and not on his. We split the two cars to be on the safe side with at least one car.
Q: What will that mean for the race? Will you keep today’s changes?
JEV: No, because what we’ve tried today on my car you can only do in qualifying so for the race I expect to have a good performance. So I am not stressed about the qualifying and not stressed about the race performance tomorrow.
Q: Is the Nurburgring a track that can bring out the best in you?
JEV: Ha! It is a track that I don’t mind. It is neither a fantastic track for me, nor a really bad track. I simply don’t mind it.