So last week, ex-Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne was all signed up with Andretti Autosport’s FIA Formula E program, which, coupled with his public declaration that he was seeking an IndyCar ride led me (and I’m sure others) to think he could be considered for Andretti’s currently vacant fourth IndyCar seat.
Then comes today’s news, “out of the bleu” as my MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith called it, that “JEV” is turning red instead.
The Frenchman has signed with Scuderia Ferrari as a test and development driver, and will replace Pedro de la Rosa as part of Ferrari’s reserve arsenal. He’ll primarily do simulator work.
Vergne is the second driver from the 2014 grid to have landed with Ferrari even in spite of not having a race seat. Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez – and sponsor Telmex – both signed with Ferrari earlier this week.
“The objective is a unanimous one and that is to help the Scuderia get back to the top step of the podium,” Vergne said in a team release. “Having had two years working in the simulator for a top F1 team and three years racing with Toro Rosso, my experience will add to the great efforts that are currently being made in order to get the team back to its winning ways. I look forward to fulfilling my dream in becoming a member of Scuderia Ferrari and having the tifosi behind me every step of the way.”
Potentially, either driver could be in the frame for a Ferrari-powered race seat with the new Haas F1 Team in 2016, if either is looking longer-term.
On the whole, though, Ferrari now suddenly has a glut of drivers in its stable.
Sebastian Vettel takes up residence alongside Kimi Raikkonen as one of the two race drivers. Gutierrez and Vergne are on the bench as reserve and test/development drivers, respectively.
Then, as our NBC Sports Group F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton notes, Ferrari Academy drivers Raffaele Marciello and Antonio Fuoco, longer-term but talented young prospects, fall even further down the depth chart.
Lastly I can’t help but think of Jules Bianchi at this moment. Bianchi was Ferrari’s star prospect in waiting but as he’s recovering in France from his severe injuries occurred at Suzuka; now, he’s in a fight for his life, rather than a race seat.