Toro Rosso teammates Vergne & Ricciardo no longer friends

Jean-Eric Vergne says he is no longer friends with his Toro Rosso teammate.

Until they were paired together at the second Red Bull team, Frenchman Vergne and Australian Daniel Ricciardo were friends. They had been signed to the energy drink company’s notoriously tough driver development programme on the same day, thereafter working together in Formula Renault. But now in the high-stakes world of F1, and fighting for a place at the world championship team, the friendship has ended.

“I don’t know if it’s because we are in F1 or he (Ricciardo) thinks he has definitely beaten me that we cannot have any relationship, but, no, we don’t see each other away from the track and we are not friends,” Vergne is quoted by the Melbourne newspaper The Age. Vergne insisted, however, that their working relationship is intact.

“I don’t care about going on holiday with my teammate. I have my friends and I don’t need any more,” he added.

Ricciardo, who is almost a year older than Vergne, confirmed that the close friendship of the past is over.

“We’ve never come to blows or anything like that,” he said. “There’s never been a moment which has separated the friendship — it’s just grown apart with competition. I imagine we’re probably like most other teammates. I think it’s how it should be.

“I think when you’re a direct rival with someone, you want to have your own space.

“I think it would be sort of hard to have a true friendship because, at the end of the day, we’re fighting for maybe one spot and there can’t be any conservative approach about it,” added 23-year-old Ricciardo.


Toro Rosso duo in running for Webber’s seat

Jean-Eric Vergne has revealed he is still in the running to move up to Red Bull’s championship-winning team in 2014.

The Frenchman, who last year debuted for the energy drink company’s junior squad Toro Rosso, said he and continuing teammate Daniel Ricciardo are potential candidates in the event Mark Webber does not stay beyond his contract this year.

“If we do a good job, maybe one of us will go to Red Bull, provided there is a free space,” he is quoted by France’s L’Equipe.

“It would be great, but it’s only in the corner of our minds,” added the 22-year-old.

Needing to impress in 2013, a lot is therefore riding on Toro Rosso’s new STR8.

“Without going into detail,” Vergne is quoted by the French news agency AFP, “there were many things missing with the car of last year.

“It was difficult to drive and mechanically they could not resolve it.

“If you listen to the other teams, all the drivers think they have the best car, that they are the best and they will win all the races. So I won’t go there,” he smiled.


Vergne: New deal shows team believes in my ability

Jean-Eric Vergne thinks his paymasters still believe he has what it takes to perform in F1.

The 22-year-old Frenchman’s debut season with the Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso has been mixed. On the one hand, he has out-scored his slightly more experienced teammate Daniel Ricciardo, but on the other he was ousted from the initial ‘Q1’ qualifying segment on no fewer than 8 occasions so far.

Still, Toro Rosso has signed him up for 2013.

“It gives me a good boost,” Vergne is quoted by France’s L’Equipe. “It also demonstrates that the team believes in my ability to become even stronger. That is what I feel at the end of this season; I feel I can do much better, and the team as well. I’m confident for next year.”

Team boss Franz Tost said it was “always” the intention to field Vergne alongside Ricciardo for at least two full seasons.

“It takes time to settle into Formula One, to get to know all the tracks, to get to know the whole team,” he told F1’s official website recently. “Remember, these are all very young guys who have to swallow a lot of new things in a very short time to even get started. That is why you have to give them two years.”

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner recently suggested Vergne and Ricciardo are still candidates to replace Mark Webber in 2014.

Vergne: “Anything can happen. But we are in 2012 and there is another full season with Toro Rosso ahead. I am not even thinking about 2014.”


Toro Rosso keeps same drivers for 2013

Toro Rosso is sticking with its current drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, for the 2013 season.

Australian Ricciardo, and 22-year-old Frenchman Vergne who is a year younger, moved into the Faenza based team’s race seats when Toro Rosso ousted Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi at the end of last season.

“Both drivers have done a good job this season,” said team boss Franz Tost.

Toro Rosso usually selects its drivers from team owner Red Bull’s junior programme. In 2012, the youngsters are Carlos Sainz Jr, Russian Daniil Kvyat, Alex Albon, Callan O’Keeffe, German Stefan Wackerbauer and Portugal’s Antonio Felix da Costa.


Vergne still feeling stiff after Monza crash

Jean-Eric Vergne has revealed he is still feeling stiff after his crash at the Italian Grand Prix.

The French rookie’s Toro Rosso veered of control at the end of the Autodromo’s long front straight during the recent Italian grand prix. Vergne’s car launched over a kerb and landed with a thud, and he immediately complained on the radio about a sore back. He was taken to the medical centre with pain in his back and head, but declared: “I am fine.”

And now in a post-race blog, the 22-year-old has revealed he also sustained “a few bruises” and a sore neck.

“I do feel pretty stiff across my back and neck but I think that will go away over the next day or so and I’ll get on with what is going to be a pretty busy schedule until Singapore,” said Vergne.

Toro Rosso said the crash was caused by a suspension failure.


Vergne fine after pain of Italian GP flier

Jean-Eric Vergne is unhurt after Sunday’s incident at Monza.

Toro Rosso is investigating why the French rookie’s Ferrari-powered car suddenly veered out of control at the end of Monza’s front straight during the Italian grand prix.

The high-speed incident launched Vergne’s car over a kerb, “And I count myself lucky that the car did not flip over”, he said.

He did, however, land with a bump, and immediately complained on the radio of a sore back.

“I was taken from the accident to the medical centre,” explained the 22-year-old, “but apart from a bit of pain in my back and my head, I am fine.”


Vergne insists even Vettel struggled at Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne has backed himself to improve after a difficult start to his F1 career.

Almost half a season since Toro Rosso dumped its established lineup of Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, the perception is that French rookie Vergne has failed to match up against his only-slightly-more-experienced new teammate Daniel Ricciardo. The 22-year-old doesn’t see it quite like that.

“Overall it’s been quite positive even though the results don’t show it,” he is quoted by RMC Sport. “I’ve learned a lot.”

Vergne said the biggest stumbling block has been the performance of Toro Rosso’s 2012 car, and so it is in that area that the tensions lie.

“It’s not easy, there is tension,” he acknowledged. “Everyone is under pressure. When the car is better, it (the situation) will be better. But I have good people around me and they’re all there to help.”

He acknowledged that Australian Ricciardo has been better mainly in qualifying, “But I think I have improved with every race”.

“I am pushing to progress and it’s the same thing with the car. Maybe it will happen at the same time and the results will come then.”

When Vergne was told there has been particular criticism of him – even from within the Red Bull-owned camp – he sounded surprised.

“I haven’t heard that much. And I only listen to criticism from people who are close to me because it helps you to move in the right direction,” he insisted. “I am patient, and confident that by continuing to work, the results will come. When I have a good car, everything will be easier.”

Vergne denied he is racing against a deadline before suffering the same fate as Buemi, Alguersuari and other discarded Red Bull youngsters who went before him.

“Everyone needs time to adapt,” he insisted. “They tell me that Vettel had a disastrous first season with them, and after that, it started to work well,” Vergne smiled. As my technical director (Giorgio Ascanelli) says: you don’t eat a cow in one bite!”


Vergne sure things will get better for him soon

Jean-Eric Vergne has struggled in 2012 since entering the sport as a rookie. Given that Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi were ousted at Toro Rosso at the end of last season, there are rumours that Vergne may suffer the same fate sooner rather than later. However the French F1 driver is confident that things will soon get better for him.

“One of the things you have to learn in Formula One is the very heavy workload; there are many things to learn and understand,” he told Spain’s El Confidencial. “The tyres, for example, are difficult to understand. The results have not yet come but I am progressing step by step with each grand prix — things will get better,” said Vergne.

He said it has surprised him how different formula one is compared with motor racing’s formative categories.

“Each category is a step higher, but this (F1) is unlike anything,” said Vergne. “I have never felt like a rookie anywhere else, but in F1 you are fighting against guys who have been there for 10 or even 15 years, of course making it more complicated. You can not achieve the same technical knowledge in other categories.”

The big risk, however, is that Toro Rosso’s apparently backwards step in 2012 could ultimately be blamed on its drivers.

“This year there have been changes in the area of the exhausts,” Vergne explained. “Some teams have already developed their systems but we are the last. Right now it’s not working well for us but we’re working on it, and when we solve it we will be there again,” he insisted.

Vergne said Red Bull has not imposed certain goals or deadlines for his first season on the grid.

“There are no goals except trying to learn as much as possible and to do some good things in the car. And, yes, maybe Daniel (Ricciardo) has some more experience and I have to work harder to catch him, but it should not be a problem,” he said.


Vergne to pay own fine after European GP crash

Jean-Eric Vergne will have to dig into his own pockets after Valencia.

The rookie Frenchman was given a ten-position grid drop for Silverstone after oddly jinking before crashing into Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen on Sunday and then speeding back to the pits with a disintegrating Toro Rosso. The incident caused the race director to call a safety car period, whilst stewards ruled that a EUR 25,000 fine was also in order for Vergne due to “the serious nature” of the indiscretion.

“What he did was not acceptable and it was his fault,” former Toro Rosso team co-owner Gerhard Berger told Austrian Servus TV on Wednesday.

Christian Horner, the boss of Red Bull’s senior team, said it is likely 22-year-old Vergne will have to pay the fine himself.

“If it’s the driver’s fault, he has to pay the money,” the Briton, who works closely with Vergne’s boss Dr Helmut Marko, said. “But if, for example, a driver is too fast in the pitlane because his limiter is not working properly, then probably the team will pay the fine.

“Jean-Eric will probably have to reach into his own pockets for this one,” added Horner.

The French publication Business Book GP 2012 lists Vergne’s estimated 2012 salary at EUR 400,000.


Vergne handed double penalty for Kovalainen incident

Jean-Eric Vergne has been given a double penalty for his crash with Heikki Kovalainen during the European Grand Prix.

The Toro Rosso driver was found to have caused an avoidable accident when the two cars came together on lap 12. Both cars suffered punctures as a result of the accident – Kovalainen was able to carry on; however although Vergne made it back to the pits, the damage to his car was too great and he was forced to retire.

The stewards have given Vergne a ten-place grid slot penalty for the British Grand Prix as well as 25,000 euro fine.

“In view of the serious nature of the incident the Stewards have decided under Article 18.1 to apply two penalties,” said the stewards in a statement.

Article 18.1 of the sporting rules says, “The stewards may inflict the penalties specifically set out in these Sporting Regulations in addition to or instead of any other penalties available to them under the Code.”