The race to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull next season may appear to be a straight fight between Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen, but Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne believes that he is still in the running.
Vergne was originally shortlisted by Red Bull for the seat, but team principal Christian Horner stated earlier this week that the French driver was no longer a serious consideration. Furthermore, Daniel Ricciardo tested the Red Bull RB9 car at Silverstone earlier this week as an ‘open audition’, yet Vergne is still sure that he is under consideration.
Speaking to Autosport, Vergne said: “I still believe in my chances. There is of course a chance. I would love to drive for Red Bull.”
However, Vergne was quick to underline that his focus was on Toro Rosso and 2013, not next season.
“I don’t want to think about anything for next year, any chance that I could go to Red Bull Racing whatsoever. You lose focus, and you lose some energy, so I want to keep it all for this year with Toro Rosso.”
Vergne’s comments suggest that he is not giving up hope, although Horner’s suggestion of a two-horse race may leave the French driver disappointed when a decision is made. With Ricciardo’s qualifying form outclassing that of Vergne, Red Bull do seem to leaning towards the Australian driver, although his test at Silverstone earlier this week was not trouble-free following a mistake that saw him beach the car in the gravel just seven laps into the session.
Carlos Sainz Jr.
Teams: Scuderia Toro Rosso (1-16), Renault (17-20)
Car No.: 33
Best Finish: P4 (Singapore)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Championship Position: 9th
Carlos Sainz Jr. has always been compared to Max Verstappen given their relative rise and stint together at Toro Rosso, but the Spaniard began to forge his own impressive path through 2017, securing himself a works drive with Renault in the process.
Alongside the struggling Daniil Kvyat for much of the season, Sainz led Toro Rosso’s charge, scoring 48 of its 53 points with a string of impressive drives. His headline moment came in Singapore when he matched Verstappen’s best result in Toro Rosso colors by finishing fourth, capitalizing on the start-line crash and the wet weather with a strong display.
Sainz’s displays led to a call from Renault, who announced just two days before his star display in Singapore he would be joining up for 2018 on loan from Red Bull. However, the deal was accelerated after a deal was brokered to secure Jolyon Palmer’s departure, allowing Sainz to join up from the United States GP onwards.
Sainz made an immediate impression, completing a perfect race en route to seventh on debut for Renault to secure six points that would prove crucial in the final constructors’ championship standings as the French team beat Toro Rosso to P6 in the standings at the last race of the year.
Red Bull retains an option on Sainz’s future beyond 2018, making him a candidate for a seat with its senior team should Daniel Ricciardo opt to leave. Failing that, Renault could offer Sainz the platform he needs to continue his rapid rise in F1 and establish himself at the front of the pack for many years to come.
Season High: Finishing fourth in Singapore after dodging the start-line drama.
Season Low: Crashing out in his final Toro Rosso appearance on the first lap at Suzuka.