Team: Toro Rosso
Birth date: 25/04/1990
First F1 race: Australian Grand Prix, 2012
2012 points: 16
2012 best finish: 8
2012 championship position: 17
Red Bull’s talent production scheme is frighteningly effective: Jean-Eric Vergne is yet another young driver cutting his teeth in his second season of Formula 1, despite only just teetering into his twenties.
Successful French drivers have been thin on the ground since Oliver Panis last topped the podium 16 years ago. Vergne’s in the ideal position in Red Bull feeder team Toro Rosso to amend that in the future, but there are plenty other contenders for that valued second spot alongside Sebastian Vettel when Mark Webber retires. Vergne still has a lot to improve upon.
His biggest weakness is his one-lap speed; comparing him with teammate Daniel Ricciardo shows he was often significantly behind him in qualifying times, and without a strong grid position opportunities to prove his driving skill on race day were limited.
His career high of eight last year is the exception. Beginning 16th on the grid in the Korean Grand Prix, Vergne tore through the midfield to finish above his teammate and Lewis Hamilton, providing a glimpse of his potential.
The battle between Toro Rosso’s two young drivers this season will be the intriguing side note to the 2013 season. Vergne has been groomed by Red Bull since he was 17, but there will be no dewy-eyed sympathy for the Frenchman if he doesn’t repay that investment this year.
2013 predictions: “I am much more confident about the new car than I was before the test and it gives me a good feeling from behind the wheel.”
Did you know? Jean-Eric Vergne got his first taste of driving aged 4, racing round his dad’s karting track.