Vergne: Red Bull rejection a big disappointment

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Jean-Eric Vergne has conceded that missing out on the Red Bull seat for 2014 came as a big blow, but he is pleased that the speculation has finally come to an end following Monday’s announcement that Daniel Ricciardo would be claiming the position.

After Mark Webber confirmed in June that he would be retiring at the end of the season, Vergne was initially shortlisted alongside Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen as a possible replacement for the Australian. However, Christian Horner confirmed a few weeks later that Vergne was no longer a consideration, and the Frenchman has admitted that this came as a great disappointment.

“Naturally, it’s a big disappointment for me personally,” Vergne explained. “It would be foolish to claim it isn’t and I don’t think anyone would really believe me if I did.

“However, I can honestly say I’m happy for Daniel. Not crazy happy obviously, but I’ve said previously that if he gets the seat it will be a good thing because it confirms the value of Red Bull’s Junior Team. It makes total sense.”

However, Vergne is adamant that there is very little to choose between himself and Ricciardo, conceding that his inferior qualifying form may have been decisive in Red Bull’s decision.

“The fact is, he has a bit more experience and he’s done a better job in qualifying. However, deep inside I know that we have always been really evenly matched and that’s the positive I take from it. I had more points than him last year, I have more points at the moment this year and I know in my heart that I can still do better, that I can improve.

“It makes me want to raise my game because I know that he didn’t beat me over the past season and a half and that, in reality, there is very little to choose between us in terms of ability.”

Vergne has been assured of his place at Toro Rosso despite missing out on the seat, although he will have to consider his future within the Red Bull setup following this setback.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.