Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne has been hit with a 10-place grid penalty for the Japanese Grand Prix after the team was forced to change the internal combustion engine on his car following qualifying at Suzuka today.
The Frenchman has endured a difficult weekend in Japan, being hit with four separate problems across the course of practice on Friday and Saturday. However, he managed to rally in qualifying to finish 11th ahead of teammate Daniil Kvyat, but will start down in 21st position because of his penalty.
“I’m really satisfied with my qualifying today, especially considering how the weekend had gone so far for me,” Vergne said. “I didn’t drive FP1, I had two technical issues in FP2 which shortened my running time, I could complete only three laps in FP3 this morning.
“However, the team was able to set up the car in time for qualifying and I managed to do my job well this afternoon on a difficult track like Suzuka. It’s an extremely good job from the whole team, something to be pleased about. The race is tomorrow and anything can happen, even starting from the back of the grid.”
Teams are only allowed to use five ICE units across the course of the 2014 season, as per the new regulations for this year. Vergne is not the first driver to fall foul of this penalty, with teammate Daniil Kvyat dropping down the grid at Monza. Pastor Maldonado has met a similar fate this weekend, meaning that he will start behind Vergne in 22nd place on Sunday.
In a crazy day for the 2015 F1 driver market, Vergne appears to have been marginalised once again. Sebastian Vettel’s decision to leave Red Bull appeared to open up a seat at the team that rejected Vergne last season, only for it to elect to promote Kvyat after just once season of racing – a season in which Vergne has outscored Kvyat, too.
Vettel may have sparked a shake-up of the driver market, but Vergne’s outlook is just as bleak as it was before.