Jean-Eric Vergne to make F1 debut in Korea practice

2011 Korean Grand Prix

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Jean-Eric Vergne participated in the young drivers' test last year

Toro Rosso will give Jean-Eric Vergne his first run at an F1 race weekend on Friday.

The 21-year-old Frenchman, who finished runner-up in this year’s Formula Renault 3.5 championship, will take over Jaime Alguersuari’s car for the first practice session.

The team also confirmed he will drive in two further practice sessions this year.

He will take Sebastien Buemi’s place in the car at Abu Dhabi. At Interlagos he will drive the car of whichever driver has the least points.

He will not drive in practice for the Indian Grand Prix as the team wish to give maximum practice time to both their regular drivers on the new circuit.

Vergne drove for Toro Rosso in the young drivers’ test session last year.

2011 Korean Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    58 comments on “Jean-Eric Vergne to make F1 debut in Korea practice”

    1. I am a little surprised they decided to let him drive at Korea. It is not like the team or regular drivers have a bucket load of experience at the track.
      We really need either Buemi or Alguersuari to stand up a claim an advantage over the other, so feel they are both talented and deserve to be in F1 but tough decisions need to be made. They are both still extremely young, a fact that is often overlooked.because they re now both considered reasonably experienced

      1. @Silverkeg I think its part about pushing Alguersuari and Buemi along as well as giving him enough experience to see if he is likely to be worth investing in like they just did with Ricciardo at HRT.

        Guess he is in for the 3rd driver role next year at STR, I don’t think they would repeat the HRT deal quite yet, as Ricciardo has been test driver for over a year as well before being put there.

      2. Yea @silverkeg I made that point the other day about them being so evenly matched. It’s annoying!

    2. What are the odds against Scuderia Toro Rosso dumping both their drivers for 2012 in favour of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne?

      1. It’s hard to say. But there’s talk that Toro Rosso will gradually be bought out by the IPIC consortium. If they’re being bought out in one go, it makes sense to keep either Alguersuari or Buemi or both for the sake of continuity. But if the buy-out is an extended one, then it makes more sense to drop both quickly, again for the continuity.

      2. I seriously think the the owners need to wonder if the team should continue to run as a program for young drivers to go to before being put into RedBull. It was fine when they were a customer team, but with the emergance of Vettel (long term driver, potentially), is there a need for it now? They could have a go at trying to be the best team possible (raising their value)

    3. I think Vergne and Ricciardo are going to drive for Toro Rosso in 2012. The signs are quite clear. Alguersuari and Buemi will have to make way, it would be illogical to keep them for the 4th consecutive season if neither of them is seriously considered to be a potential Red Bull driver in 2013. As I understand, Alguersuari brings some money to the team but that probably won’t guarantee the race seat for him anyway.

      1. Jaime is a popular DJ and he can invest on that, I’ll feel sorry for Buemi, “The Last Sebatian” of STR. (Other Sebatians being, Vettel and Bourdais)

        1. I think there was an article about CEPSA (I think tahts the name of the spanish sponsor) not been relatd to Jaime´s sit…

          But it wouldn´t be the first time that he will be linked with money and Toro Rosso, I remember reading an interview with Brendon Hartley saying that Jaime got the sit because his family has some money…

    4. I feel sorry for the guy who ACTUALLY won the FR3.5 Title this year. The guy who came second to him is now driving a F1 car, like all Red Bull Development drivers, it doesn’t matter if you get beaten by someone at least if you do well you get to drive a F1 car. Feels like wasted talent to me, like with Ricciardo, wasn’t he 4th or something in the WSR when he got moved to HRT? So the 3 guys who are doing better then him miss out and Ricciardo drives around getting all the praise and being the next big thing. Vettel and Di Resta come to mind.

      I get annoyed with the Red Bull Driver Programme sometimes as i feel that its “dumbing” The field, they seem get one young driver per country and then get them into the big league to open advisement opportunitys.

      This is my Opinion, its not fact, i know allot of people wont agree with me but im entitled to say what i think, to a degree..

      1. @harvs Well Virgin gave Robert Wickens a run a couple of weeks ago so he’s got a connection.

        I’d be inclined to look at this the other way and say it’s a pity not all teams run schemes like Red Bull’s which would increase the chances of the best young talent getting picked up.

        1. +1 Keith.

          Red Bull is not there “selling seats”. Some teams don’t have strong development programs and end up bullying talented young drivers who are not assigned to any reliable development program.

        2. A straight-line aero test is not comparable to running in free practice. Virgin clearly have no intention of ever putting Wickens in the car during free practice, otherwise it would have been announced by now.

          Wickens is cursed with a lack of sponsorship.

        3. @keithcollantine I agree, more teams should be doing more to cultivate the future talent. It’s a shame that Wickens & Rossi have gotten far less running than Ricciardo, especially considering that getting a couple North American drivers back in the sport would be good for everyone. Then there are all the top GP2 drivers as well… It would be great if there were some kind of mandatory young driver running on Thursdays or something.

      2. Ricciardo was a very close runner up in his rookie season in FR3.5. This season he finished 5th in the championship… not bad considering he didn’t start 4 (or 5?) of the 17 races.

        I get your point though. It’s entirely possible that there’s some amazing talent that’s not getting the opportunity to blossom in F1, but I think that’s been the case as long as F1 has existed.

        In fact, I’d suggest that it’s in Red Bull’s interest to seek out the best of the best, and that they’re creating more opportunities for drivers with talent that there were in the pre-RB era.

        Having said that, you are indeed entitled to have an opinion and say what you think :)

        1. The driver Vergne lost to was once a Red Bull junior driver.

          They clearly do not seek out the best. If they did, Wickens would still be with them.

          1. They also take character sometime in to account.

            I remember a lot of interviews from Toro Rosso´s team principal saying that both Liuzi and Speed had bad actitude. Specially Speed.

            From Liuzi, I remember Marko saying on an interview that he has speed but is not willing to work for the team…

            1. Yea, a driver that spends his freetime coaching young drivers must have terrible character.

      3. I feel sorry for the guy who ACTUALLY won the FR3.5 Title this year. The guy who came second to him is now driving a F1 car, like all Red Bull Development drivers, it doesn’t matter if you get beaten by someone at least if you do well you get to drive a F1 car.

        Canadian driver Robert Wickens won the FR3.5 title this season. He’s a test-driver for Virgin (he drove for Manor in GP3 last year), and will likely feature in their line-up at the young driver tests.

        1. And he won a test with Renault since he won the championship.

      4. @harvs Ricciardo didn’t drive in a few rounds, plus his car seems slightly slower than the car that Vergne and Wickens drove. The champinoship was very close, the two were very similar this year and it’s not like Vergne gets a friday drive being much worse than Wickens. Plus, as others said, Wickens will drive in the young drivers’ test and he has a chance at getting a seat next year.

    5. What about 2010 FR3.5 winner Mikhail Aleshin, who’s now spent a season in GP2 not so high up in the championship standings. Ricciardo who came second then went on to test for Toro Rosso then a drive at shopping trolley specialists HRT.

      Either way, I don’t think winning a junior championship automatically qualifies you get a drive in F1, lets not forget Red Bulls driver development program would have invested lots in Ricciardo from a young age, therefore it’s unlikely they’d drop him in favour of another driver.

      1. @beneverard Aleshin spent about four years in Formula Renault 3.5 and for that only narrowly beat Ricciardo to the title. Ricciardo and Vergne’s progress has been much more rapid.

        1. I remember hearing a rumour that Aleshin was lining up for a Hispania seat this season, but Oksana Kossachenko – Vitaly Petrov’s manager – pulled a few strings and discouraged Aleshin’s sponsors from funding the drive, in order to keep Petrov as Russia’s pre-eminent Formula 1 driver.

          1. Well, Aleshin does seem to have had sponsorship problems this year – not even having enough money to fund a full GP2 season

      2. Not really relevant to the story, but I have a goldfish named after Mikhail Aleshin.

        1. does he have an accent?

    6. At Interlagos he will drive the car of whichever driver has the least points.


      1. My thougths exactly

      2. Nothing like a bit of pressure!

      3. Lol! I like Buemi more than Alguersuari, but I think neither is good enough. If both were sacked in favour of Ricciardo and Vergne, It’d be fine, but if Alguersuari was chosen over Buemi I’d not be happy as they’ve been evenly matched.
        Vergne deserves F1.

    7. I’m a big fan of Vergne. He seriously impressed me not only in British Formula 3, but the way he was able to move from the British series to 3.5 and adapt immediately. Within a race, he was practically at Ricciardo’s pace.

      Fortunately in 2011 he was in the team which was easily the fastest. Wickens impressed me with his championship drive, and it’s about 50:50 between the two of them. Robert seemed to hold his own better under pressure than Jean-Eric.

      As for the Aleshin comment, Mikhail wasn’t nearly the fastest driver in 2010. That he won the title was nothing short of a miracle for a driver that, without fortune on his side, would have finished in 3rd at the best.

      And to @Harvs , you’ve obviously just looked at the numbers, to make an assumption, without looking at the facts. Ricciardo was not the fastest 3.5 driver in 2011 in his ISR car. Unfortunately for him, Carlin just had something else this year and he was left picking up what they left behind them. Just because the 3.5 series gives all drivers the same vehicle doesn’t mean that the teams perform the same. Sergio Canamasas struggled to get into the top 18 in 2010, but in 2011 he secured a pole, a fastest lap and was a consistent points scorer. Was this down to him making an immense improvement over the break, or down to his team being more capable in 2011? I’ll leave that one up to you.

    8. Why not for a race or two give Jean a chance to drive for HRT for Luizzi.

      1. that would be kinda like a third red bull team lol

    9. I think that the progression in F1 for Red Bull seems to be the following:
      – Toro Rosso practice sessions.
      – HRT race seat.
      – Toro Rosso race seat
      – Red Bull race seat.

      If this is the case, then the person stunting the careers of the younger drivers such as Buemi, Alguersuari, Ricciardo and Vergne is Mark Webber.

      Yes – he is a solid driver, but, in my opinion, he has proved that he simply does not have the pace any more. Totally outclassed by Vettel and his starts have been terrible.

      If he had stepped aside, accepting defeat, for next year, then (for example’s sake), we could move Alguersuari to Red Bull to join Vettel and Ricciardo up the ladder to Toro Rosso, leaving the HRT free for Vergne.

      Of course, I don’t blame Webber for this, if someone offered me a Red Bull drive I know I’d take it even if I knew I wasn’t good enough!

      Also, for what it’s worth, I don’t think Alguersuari or Buemi is good enough for a Red Bull seat – i’m just saying, in theory, Webber should not have been resigned with the queue behind him.

      1. Same goes for the other seat warmers BAR and MSC, why not throw in anyone not on their team mates pace – HAM and MAS. That should be the new rule, whichever team member has fewer points at the end of the season has to be relegated to karts to sharpen up a bit. ;).

        1. It wasn’t intended to be a huge dig at Webber (he is too slow though!). I’m just saying that if Red Bull are serious about developing young talent, they shouldn’t have a “seat warmer” occupying the prize drive.

          I think that Barrichello and Trulli have now had their time, but Schumacher deserves another season as he has improved significantly since last year.

          1. I disagree. In my opinion you couldn’t have a better number 2 driver at red bull. Sure, you’re a right about him being a bit off the pace this year compared to Vettel, but it’s about the bigger picture. Do Red Bull want someone up there challenging for wins alongside Vettel? We saw what happened last year (turkey) and to be honest I think RBR are quite happy with Mark being slightly off the pace. I’ll admit he’s not had the best year, but he has been consistent. He rarely crashes, and doesn’t make any stupid mistakes and he’s always going to be there or there about.

            It’s the same situation at Ferrari, we saw what happened when Hamilton and Alonso were paired together. All hell broke loose, and that’s why I feel Massa’s seat is safe for at least a few years to come. They don’t want someone up their creating friction with Fernando and causing conflict between the two drivers.

            I think in both cases, both drivers know that they’re are now the number 2 drivers and as long as they both keep that role, neither team is going to replace them.

            1. I don’t think Webbers and especially Massas seats are as safe as you say. It is true that both teams want a number two driver that doesn’t challenge the number one driver, but they also need that number two driver to finish right behind the number one driver to score points for the constructor championship. And Massa is really failing to do that with less than half the points Alonso has (although he had his share of bad luck in his defense).

      2. @ben-n I agree that it seems there is now a bit of a pool of young up and coming drivers who have no seats to fit into both at Red Bull’s program and otherwise (has it ever been different though?).

        But I disagree that Webber is blocking them from going further. I honestly cannot see either Buemi nor Alguersuari stepping in for Webber and doing as fine a job from the go, if they are able to do so at all. Nor do I think Ricciardo and even less Vergne is quite ready to do that.
        Red Bull needs two strong drivers, and it showed how last year they profited from Webber being there when Vettel did not deliver. Now that Vettel delivered consistently, he is still key in securing the constructors title for them.

        1. I agree with you regarding the constructors championship – but you mention that Webber is there when Vettel doesn’t deliver, which was true last year, but not this year.

          Vettel has won all but six GP’s this year. Where has Webber been when Vettel couldn’t win. For example, how can you justify one car being on pole when the other only manages 6th on the grid (Japan).

          I know this sounds harsh but i’m demonstrating the extremes to make my point. What would the harm be in putting Alguersuari in the Red Bull – the worst that could happen is that he too takes 6th on the grid. I’m sure he’d make better starts than Webber too!

          As I said, this isn’t supposed to be a dig but it’s beginning to come across as one! Sorry!

          1. @ben-n Oh, but Webber has been there whenever Vettel did not deliver.
            Just those moments have only come during FP sessions and the occasional qualifying this year :-)

            Seriously, when you look at how up and down Alguersuari has been in the past 2 years, I can understand why RBR have not been able to decide on what to do with their STR drivers. And don’t forget how the few more serious glitches (mainly KERS) at Red Bull this year have largely hit Webber rather then Vettel (Australia, …), that makes big difference in points standings as well.
            It might be worth a gable, but I think Mateschitz would only take such a gamble if he felt it really worth it. So who knows maybe we will have Vergne at Red Bull if he impresses!

            1. I can only point you to last year where Vettel was hit by mechanical problems no less than 3 times whilst leading (it may even be more) and still beat Webber to the Championship.

              I simply don’t think Webber is good enough – he had his chance last year when good fortune smiled on him. Vettel now has the measure of him completely.

              I see what you’re saying about Alguersuari, and, as I mentioned above, I don’t see that him or Buemi are WDC material, but for arguements sake, I think one should have been replacing Webber next year.

              You make some very valid arguements though, and I appreciate the debate! My rant isn’t directed at you! :)

            2. @ben-n Hey, this convesation is exactly what F1F is great for, discussing thins F1, right ;-)

            3. What I didnt mean to say was that WEB was a seat warmer, far from it. Excuse my poor English, I’m from Australia ;) As youve perhaps noted I am WEBs biggest supporter and IMHO has displayed far better race skills than the more favoured drivers often mentioned here in glowing terms. To say that he’s not as good as VET is pretty much obvious but then nobody in the field has been for a while.

    10. Between Vergne, Pic and Grosjean (not forgetting Bianchi), I really hope that a French driver will push through to the top ranks in the next couple of years, it’s been a long long time (Bourdais killed all the hopes thrusted in him). If having chauvinistic comment on TF1 is the price to pay to have a better coverage (and the return of free to air qualifications), I’m really hoping they do get a shot (plus, I really like Grosjean and Pic who I first saw racing in Monaco this week end, and both were absolutely great). Vergne I only sax to races with him and he was overshadowed by Ricciardo in both. But I read he is quite good (and very young at that, so there is time)

    11. I wish I was a Red Bull development driver

      1. you’re not the only one..

    12. I actually think Buemi should get the Red Bull seast 2013 and should stay on. Ricciardo could replace Alguersuari, who simply lacks continuity. Buemi is very talented and would be at least as good as Mark Webber at the job.

      1. I don´t think he will get it… For all that matter neither of the actual Toro Rosso drivers look that good.

        Maybe Mark is having troube this season but he´s been getting better (this coming from a no fan of him) and I think he is the better choice for the team right now…

    13. Alguersuari didn t lack continuity… Between Canada and Singapore GPs only 8 drivers (Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes) scored more points in race then him… The massive slump in terms of pace in Singapore and Japan looks very strange and it doesn t make sense at all… He fixed his problems with setup and tyre degradation and they suddenly return, while Buemi s performance wasn t affected at all? I hope his mysterious problems have nothing to do with him being honest after Monza GP… He questioned the sense of Red Bull resigning Webber and said, if he would be 0,5 seconds of his teammate, he would be out… And in Singapore and Suzuka he was really off the pace worsening massively from Friday to Sunday battling with wrong suspension setup (Sin) and lot of understeer (Suz)… Just a random? I am really curious about Korea…

    14. This should be interesting to watch. At least he’s in a reasonably competitive car so we can draw conclusions (albeit probably inconclusive, given it’s practice!). A shame we won’t see his pace vs. Ricciardo.

    15. I think Red Bull should put some new drivers in Vettel’s seat instead, it’s not like he needs the practice.

    16. This is interesting news. While everyone can conspire about whether Jaime or Seb will be dropped first (or both simultaneously), I wonder how Éric Boullier will interpret/use this given his mad desire to get a Frenchman back in F1.

    17. If I were Red Bull, I would use Toro Rosso to find the truly exceptional drivers. The Vettel’s that can pull off wins in a car that shouldn’t be capable, a driver that can consistently impress. In the end these are the kind of drivers you want on your Formula One team, all others should be given a fair amount of time and then sent into a different series. BUE and ALG are both terrific drivers but F1 should be for the absolute best.

    18. Again another problem that Formula One needs to change. Time to end the rule against testing during the season. Instead a team has to dilute its regular drivers on track time, thus making them even more ineffective and give seat time to an unknown untested upcomer. The rule isn’t what is best for Formula One and NEEDS ATTENTION. The solution is simple.

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