Jean-Eric Vergne has set his sights on partnering Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull in 2014.
Following the “Multi 21” scandal at the Malaysian Grand Prix, Mark Webber’s days with the team appear to be numbered, and it is unlikely that Red Bull will opt to renew his contract which expires at the end of the season. This has sparked much debate as to who will replace the Australian driver, and although Vergne is keen on taking the seat, the Frenchman admits he needs to improve his performances.
“I am in Toro Rosso at the moment. I deserve my place and I have to prove it to everyone by getting results,” Vergne told Totalrace.
“If my performances are good, I’ll get a spot at Red Bull.”
Toro Rosso has acted as a ‘sister team’ to Red Bull since its inception in 2006, with Sebastian Vettel spending eighteen months in Faenza. However, the triple champion is the only driver to have made the step up, whilst Scott Speed, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Sebastian Bourdais, Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi have all been dropped by Toro Rosso.
Many expected Vergne and teammate Daniel Ricciardo to meet a similar fate after a disappointing 2012 season, but they were give a second year by the team. Vergne has admitted that he must excel not only to be in the running for the seat at Red Bull, but also in order to remain with Toro Rosso.
“Otherwise, they [Toro Rosso] will replace me and I’ll lose my place.”
Vergne opened Toro Rosso’s 2013 account last time out in Malaysia, finishing 10th to score one point. If he can build on this performance, he could yet beat the likes of Nico Hulkenberg and Antonio Felix da Costa for the second seat at Red Bull in 2014.
Jalek Swoll and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna teammate Malcolm Stewart sustained injury in separate crashes late last week. Stewart missed Anaheim 2 and Swoll will not mount up for the 250 East season opener in Houston on February 4.
“Spent all of yesterday in the ER and today getting surgery so haven’t been able to make an update post,” Swoll posted on Instagram. “Spiral fractured my humorous yesterday and was lucky enough to get into surgery today. Absolutely heartbroken that I couldn’t show all the hard work me, [Mike Brown], [Aldon Baker], and [Joel Perez] were working on truly felt like this year was going to a big one with massive improvements we made but I guess it just wasn’t my time.”
The team announced on Instagram that Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken bone in his arm, sustained in a practice crash on Friday. After missing the division opener, no further timeline has been given for his return.
Swoll made eight starts in the 250 West division last season with a best finish of fifth. In 2021, he scored his first SuperMotocross win in the outdoor Pro Motocross season at High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania.
Stewart missed Anaheim 2 due to a practice injury. Likewise, the team did not announce a timetable for Stewart’s return.
He showed a lot of speed in the first two rounds before accidents eliminated him from contention in both rounds. He finished 16th at Anaheim 1 and 15th in San Diego, putting him in a points’ deficit that was already going to be difficult to overcome.
Stewart entered the 2023 season with a ton of confidence and believed all he needed was to stack his chips the right way to get this year’s championship.
Husqvarna is now represented by RJ Hampshire in the 250 West division and Christian Craig in 450s.
Hampshire had a rough weekend in Anaheim 2 and finished 11th in the overall standings after scoring a last place result in Race 2 with a bike sidelined by crash damage and a 13th in Race 3 after another fall.
Craig has not yet scored a top-10 on his 450 with a best of 11th at San Diego and Anaheim 2.
The news of these two injuries comes on the heels of the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team losing three of their four 250 riders.
Last week, Pro Circuit Kawasaki announced Seth Hammaker would miss the season opener with a wrist injury. Almost immediately, it was announced Jo Shimoda would also miss the 250 East opener with a shoulder injury.
Chris Blose will serve as a replacement rider in the 250 East division with Carson Mumford scheduled to replace the injured Austin Forkner in the West.