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.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.