Jean-Eric Vergne has confirmed he will not return to Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2015, thus opening the door for the team to bring in one of Red Bull’s up-and-coming drivers.
Vergne has beaten Toro Rosso to the bunch by announcing his departure first.
“Despite a good season & 22 pts, I’ll not drive anymore for Toro Rosso in 2015. Thanks for those years. Let’s go for another big challenge,” Vergne wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning.
This means it’s likely a dead heat between Carlos Sainz Jr., the World Series by Renault champ, and Alex Lynn, the GP3 champ, for the open seat alongside fellow rookie and soon-to-be-youngest driver in Formula One history, 17-year-old Max Verstappen.
Less likely are Pierre Gasly, another Red Bull junior who has also been in the frame and Antonio Felix da Costa, who was passed over for Daniil Kvyat last year.
Vergne leaves the team after three seasons, where in both 2012 and 2014 he outscored his teammate. But while the Frenchman did good work he never got the call-up to Red Bull as both his teammates, Kvyat this year and Daniel Ricciardo a year ago, did.
In terms of what’s next for Vergne, with only the McLaren race seats open, he is unlikely to feature on the grid itself. A reserve role could be possible, or a switch to sports cars or even IndyCar if he’s interested.