Formula 1 meant being “like a robot” for Vergne

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In the round-up: Former Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne explains why he didn’t feel he could be himself in in Formula 1.

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This week’s poll asks whether the 2020 F1 calendar is too long – or whether there should be even more F1 races. Craig isn’t convinced by the argument for adding more rounds:

In 2003, there were sixteen races. Then in 2004, the trend of hyper-inflating the calendar slowly began. Personally, I’ve always felt sixteen races should be the upper limit. Although it’s great for us fans having more races, it takes its toll on the teams personnel. Each race added to the calendar means less time for them to see their families at home. It really isn’t fair on them.

And anyway, most of these new markets that F1 supposedly needs to branch out too, never really embrace it. Ticket sales were barren in Turkey and India once the novelty wore off. And Malaysia suffered the same fate; although the decline there was admittedly slower. A large chunk of ticket revenue for Singapore actually comes from foreigners wanting to witness the novelty of a night race first person, rather than actual Singaporeans. The same goes for Abu Dhabi, and interest never really took off at all in Korea. Really, I have no doubt the Vietnam race is going to bomb as well, and it will be off the calendar in a few years.
Craig Simons

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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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  • 44 comments on “Formula 1 meant being “like a robot” for Vergne”

      1. The one caveat I’d add to the COTD is that most of the population of the UAE are expats…so saying “The same goes for Abu Dhabi” isn’t quite accurate. The last data I saw suggested that only 20% of the population is Emirati, and I’ve seen some numbers which suggest that figure is as low as 16%

        When I lived there I attended the race and a few times I took my wife and a some colleagues and friends along. But I would venture that very few of the non GCC nationals in the crowd are tourists coming into the UAE specifically for the race. They majority are people who live there and are taking the chance to watch the race and the concerts that go along with it.

        1. The majority are semi-slaves from South Asia who live in shantytowns and are hidden as much as possible from the wealthy locals and foreigners.

    1. Re Cotd:
      “And Malaysia suffered the same fate; although the decline there was admittedly slower”.

      The passion for Motorsport among locals in Malaysia is high. Just look at MotoGP, Sepang pretty much sells out every year. Average people in Malaysia would have loved to attend F1 races more regularly, but by local standards, the tickets far too expensive (even though they are some of the cheapest on the calendar, for the average person, it was a step too far). A lot of the grandstand tickets in the early days were bought by corporations, I’ve been to the race a fair few times on these “free” tickets as well. But as the years went on, corporate interest waned as well.

      MotoGP was more affordable to the common man…fans voted with their wallets in this case unfortunately.

    2. JEV need to come off this constant bagging of F1. He knows, as we all do, that given the chance to jump into a half decent F1 car (**cough**Alpha Tauri**cough), he’d leave be at Dr Marko’s front door even before Alejandro Agag can say Formula E.

      1. I don’t think so. I think you’d need to offer him a car that can actually win something before he’d knock on that door. Why would he abandon being a champion in FE to make up the numbers in F1?

        1. Because Formula E is for the F1 rejects

          1. He publicly stated he wasn’t interested in a Toro Rosso seat when one was available and he was probably being considered. And he’s right. F1 is a sport with 6 participants; the rest are only there to fill the grid. Much better to actually compete in FE or Indy.

      2. All Fórmula E drivers spent theire entire life trying to get to F1 then got kicked out and suddenly F1 sucks and FE Is great. haha!

        1. Well FE didn’t exist yet when they were spending their life trying to get to F1. And all of them would still prefer to drive for a top F1 team, of course. But as FE grows, more and more drivers will prefer it over a seat in F1.5 .

          1. @krommenaas, we shall have to wait and see whether Formula E can sustain itself, as it could be said that Formula E has walked into the same issue that some have criticised Formula 1 for – a dependency on manufacturer support and erosion of support for independents.

            Agag’s vision for Formula E does seem to be very strongly geared around having a very high level of manufacturer support, or even being pretty much exclusively geared towards manufacturers. In the past, he has talked about how, at least for the short to medium term, the series is depending on manufacturers being prepared to put more money in to the series than they earn back.

            The series has only just started breaking even, having spent the first five years operating at a loss, and Agag has indicated that the teams are not going to be receiving any prize funds until he’s recouped that initial outlay – right now, the holding company has net liabilities in excess of €150 million.

            To some extent, Agag has accepted the comment that Chase Carey made about Formula E being a “business-to-business proposition, as opposed to a sport” – i.e. that it is relying more heavily on businesses wanting to be associated with environmentalism than as a sporting event, even if he contends that the series is now moving away from that. If there is anything that potentially dents that manufacturer interest in the short to medium term, then the financial basis of the series is potentially shaky.

            Over time, will the series still be able to retain its unique selling points and be able to sell itself to manufacturers as a “green series”? The series is somewhat depending on the future of motoring being electric and thus being at the forefront of manufacturer’s interest – whilst current industry momentum may be towards the battery electric vehicle, interest has been increasing in hydrogen fuelled cars.

            If, as some companies such as BMW have predicted, hydrogen becomes competitive on price by the mid to late 2020s, industry focus could start shifting towards that. If there is that longer term shift towards hydrogen, will Formula E be able to maintain its current momentum, or will it start to fade out if hydrogen achieves greater mass market appeal instead?

    3. Cristiano Ferreira
      28th January 2020, 0:38

      Well, achieving different levels in the same sport also means you have to adapt yourself to the routine that the said sport requires. Not only for sports but to life itself.

      Students in Kindergarten have one routine while the others in the college have another one entirely different.

      No wonder JEV couldn’t find himself in F1, maybe because he is not F1 material after all, so he belongs in a subpar series like FE. So far, so good to him. He is an F1 reject, so he just have to accept that and stop moaning about life in F1.

      Everytime he mentions that life in FE is better than F1 sounds just like he is fooling himself, trying to believe that, then in reality he just wished that he was there (in F1 instead of FE)

      1. Verner does exactly what losers do

    4. Not content with being “like a robot”, Vergne became an actual robot in FE.

      1. @peartree And the picture to go with that (reverse caption competition).

    5. When I was much younger, I was rejected from a prestigious university, and then spent years convincing myself that I wouldn’t have taken the place even if I were offered it. I wouldn’t have been a good fit, it would have restricted my personality, there’s more to life than just being in what people regard as the ‘best’ institution, etc. It was all a sham, I know that now, and frankly I knew it then. Jean-Eric is embarrassing himself with these kinds of comments the way I used to embarrass myself as a bitter 18 year old. It’s transparent and ugly.

      For the record, I think jev was/is/should have been a top class driver, pretty even with Riccardo on balance, but was just unlucky. Still, I wish he wasn’t so obviously pained at the fact the cards didn’t fall his way, it’s a real shame.

      1. Hull Uni isn’t that great anyway

      2. He really wasn’t as good as RIC, when studied closely the big gap between them was evident.

    6. Man. Rough treatment of JEV. Can he not be something less than a totally legit and obvious F1 talent AND someone who has some interesting things to say about the back half of the grid and what it means to those driver‘a autonomy and freedom?

      I don’t personally rate him super highly BUT driving style and preference Is factor in success and I see very little crapping on WEC drivers because they didn’t make it in F1 on this site.

      …it’s just that F1 isn’t threatened by WEC whereas we can see the future isn’t combustion and FE may have stolen a march. Let’s get it together and evolve and not take it out on JEV. F1 can stay the pinnacle IF we don’t stake the pinnacle to the ground as ‘this sort of power plant’ and ’this sort of chassis’. Winners evolve.

      1. Great comment, and a +1 from me.

        Regarding JEV, I have no trouble believing that the F1 culture didn’t suit him. It may have been more palatable had he been right at the sharp end, but that doesn’t invalidate his comments. And sure, were F1 to *match* the FE culture, I imagine he’d seriously consider F1 as well as FE for future drives, but likewise, *that* doesn’t invalidate his comments.

        In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing how the F1/FE story (for want of a better word) pans out over the coming decade.

      2. F1 can stay the pinnacle IF we don’t stake the pinnacle to the ground as ‘this sort of power plant’ and ’this sort of chassis’. Winners evolve.

        Well said!

    7. I’m pretty sure Toro Rosso told JEV there was no room for him with Sainz Jr and Verstappen as drivers and no one wanted to sign him before he said “whatever.” Also it sure seems like he wanted to stay in this interview.

    8. GtisBetter (@)
      28th January 2020, 6:13

      I think Vergne describes the life of any profession athlete at the highest level.

      1. Yeah, my take on reading that is basically “I don’t have the will (and/or drive) to do everything possible to be at the optimum possible performance level I can be at anymore, so I’m moving down to something which doesn’t require that level of commitment to be maintained”.

        That’s obviously very narrowed down on all the nuances of the situation, but in his mind he’d rather enjoy his life as a whole rather than be an F1 driver. Fair play to him, it must have been a tough decision to make given all the work he’d obviously had to put in up to that point.

    9. I still wish JEV would’ve received the RB-drive for 2015 instead of Kvyat, and wasn’t happy when his F1-career ultimately came to an end (temporarily at least, but more likely forever given how long he’s been away now). Complaining about the life in F1 compared to how it’s been for him in FE is rather pointless in the longer-term, though.

      I agree with the COTD concerning the 2nd paragraph.

    10. John Richards (@legardforpresident)
      28th January 2020, 8:39

      F1 Reject Starter Pack: Get kicked out of F1>Join FE>Win in FE>Realise that half the field is a bunch of has beens>Trash F1 to make your win in FE more relevant>Claim F1 isn’t relevant in today’s day and age.

      1. Nyck De Vries is a has been?

        1. NDV is a never has been, a preject

          1. Has been’s and never was’s

      2. John, the FE field is the second best in Motorsport after F1. Inform yourself

        1. I’d rate the top of IndyCar higher

          1. F1, FE, WEC, Indycar

        2. John Richards (@legardforpresident)
          29th January 2020, 9:07

          Stop playing yourself. What’s your proof? Are FE paying you? No. So stop being so thin skinned.

    11. I think the comments about JEV here are, honestly, bizarre. The man was hospitalised at least twice during his final year in F1 trying to starve himself down to Kvyat’s weight, then was publicly thrown under the bus by the programme he was trying to succeed in for it. His friend died, he was held to his contract until every other seat was gone to prevent him going elsewhere and he was humiliated repeatedly in the press. If he came away from that saying what a lovely opportunity it all was and that he felt it was all normal and fine there’d be something extremely wrong.

      I guess, if you are only focussed on F1, you didn’t see him after. JEV accepting he’s allowed to critique F1, the most absolute verboten thing for a driver to do – especially if they’ve ever been in it – is progress. And more drivers should feel able to, it would help the sport.

      For JEV to reflect on what happened to him in Formula One and ultimately say it wasn’t worth it, that F1 is not the be all and end all of motorsport, is good for F1. F1 is not above reproach and drivers should be able to talk honestly about their experiences in it – why should it get a glowing review by default? What kind of weird idolatry would that be?

      JEV would not go back to F1 and anyone who thinks he would does not know him.

      1. I think it’s because most people on here would do practically anything to be an F1 driver, yet JEV has consistently badmouthed not just his personal experience but the sport in general.

        We shouldn’t feel sorry for him because someone kept him to his contract, I’m sure he was paid more in a week than I was in a year during that time whilst also getting to drive an F1 car. If I sign a contract I stick to it, why are sports stars so different?

        Absolutely F1 should be held up to scrutiny and thankfully they have made steps to remove the need for drivers to starve themselves, but from my perspective at least, JEV has continually bad mouthed the sport one too many times to be taken seriously… a sport that one could even view as a stepping stone to his career in Formula E. He should be more grateful imho.

        1. @john-h that’s an absolutely ludicrous position. JEV consistently talks about this because no one else will. It is not easy or casual for him to talk about these things and anyone who thinks it is is hopelessly, stupidly worshipping F1 instead of engaging with the very real problems in the sport.

          1. I’m afraid I disagree @hazelsouthwell and can’t remember any of my comments before being described as ludicrous!

            There were many drivers raising their concern due to weight loss issues in F1 which has led to the minimum driver weight ballast.

            No one here is saying F1 should be worshipped, they are asking for things to celebrated when good and criticised when bad. Since Bernie left there has been a much healthier attitude it seems to me for listening to drivers and freedom of expression of opinion.

            My issue with JEV is the consistent criticism of F1, biting the hand that fed; something many on here have picked up on. I like him a lot and did so in F1, but wish sometimes he would be a little appreciative of his time as well as being critical.

      2. @hazelsouthwell, I think that the reason why many have reacted harshly is because, whilst it is fair to “reproach” F1, as you put it, there is a sense that Vergne isn’t interested in offering constructive criticism. Instead, it comes across as bitterness for the sake of being bitter – that he is using F1 merely as a punchbag to take out his personal frustrations, and that the venting comes across as angry ranting from somebody wanting to rage against what he perceives to be injustices against him.

        There have been times when some have felt that some of his comments have been somewhat snobbish as well, as if being a Formula E driver allows him to look down on others with the sort of contempt that he complained F1 has towards other series.

        If I recall well, there was a time when he was boasting about Formula E drivers having high salaries that came across as rather mean spirited and arrogant – particularly since it seems that only a few drivers in Formula E get the sort of salaries he was talking about, and that there seems to be a rather marked gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” in that series.

        1. I don’t see how anyone could watch JEV talk about it, seeing how honestly difficult it is for him to do so, and come to the conclusion it’s “bitterness” – there’s a major empathy gap to the drivers that reinforces the most absurd, damaging machismo of the sport.

          It was Lucas who was talking about FE having good salaries.

      3. Cristiano Ferreira
        28th January 2020, 23:01

        So @hazelsouthwell what do you have to say about Leclerc? He too had his difficulties with F1 too (Jules Bianchi) and to a lesser extent the death of his father (not f1 related) but nonetheless it was 2 losses that he suffered in a short time period, yet he rised as one of the best drivers of the last 2 seasons.

        You may try to understand Vegne but all that this guy do is talk nonsense about a series that once meant everything for him. He lies to himself each time he mentions how FE is good and F1 is evil (not in that sort of way but you get it). Reffer to Alan’s commentary above to see what i’m talking about.

        He would return to F1 in a blink of an eye if he was offered a seat at any of the 3 top teams @hazelsouthwell dont fool yourself believing he wouldn’t.

        I know that you cover that subpar series that FE is and i do hope that also don’t disctract you from some facts.

        1. I’d say Leclerc still has a job and hasn’t been repeatedly crucified in the press by Helmut Marko. When JEV was hospitalised, Marko’s response was to imply he was on drugs.

          Oh wow, you have an old Autosport article, what great facts as opposed to the journalist who is in my sub-par paddock every race and speaks to JEV. The one in the documentary the quotes above are from. Very good, you have truly owned me.

          Sorry that you persist in being so blinkered by a series with serious issues that you cannot imagine addressing them or thinking about them critically.

          1. Cristiano Ferreira
            29th January 2020, 13:07

            Well @hazelsouthwell sorry to break it to you, but you must be really naive to blindly believe everything that JEV tells you. Do you really think he was going to pass an offer from any of the top teams if he was called to race for them?

            And F1 has problems like every series does, but at least its a racing series where most of the best drivers in the world race in some of the best tracks in the world.

            Once your sub-par series and paddock stops racing at shopping malls and having stupid things like fanboost and a bunch of rejects, has beens or unsuccessful drivers in the grid, then we can talk. Until then, have fun covering your super mall bumper cars series that most of us dont care about.

            1. Your fixation on F1 does not reflect everyone’s. A lot of us choose to leave it and yes, drivers can be tempted by an offer and still choose not to take it.

              Sorry to hear you can’t enjoy Formula E, sounds like a sad situation.

    12. Cristiano Ferreira
      29th January 2020, 13:41


      Ok, i can say the same about your fixation on whatever JEV says to you in interviews. And yes, i don’t enjoy FE but what’s to be sad about? I can be happier watching something that does not involve below average drivers, bumper cars, fanboost and parking lot races.

      WEC, Indy, Rally Dakar, F2 and F3 comes to my mind… so yeah, i’m not in a sad situation.

      Peace and have a good day.

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