Exclusive Jean-Eric Vergne Q&A: Im no rookie 25 Apr 2012
Being the youngest guy on the grid has one huge benefit - you should have many more years of racing ahead of you. But that hasnt stopped Toro Rosso newcomer Jean-Eric Vergne mixing it with the big boys. Four rounds into 2012 and he is already ahead of the likes of Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa in the standings. Admittedly, the last two rounds havent gone exactly to plan for the 22-year-old Frenchman, but hes convinced his F1 career is on track
Q: You have four races under your belt and four points to your name. Are you satisfied?
Jean-Eric Vergne: Ha, well, yes and no. Yes, because I think its quite good, and no, because I think it could have been better. Of course I could use the excuse of being a rookie, but I dont want to because Ive made some mistakes that should not have happened to a driver, no matter what your status. I actually dont believe so much in that rookie status thing. I am a fully-fledged driver.
Q: You scored an eighth place in Malaysia. Did that boost your confidence, knowing that you got there despite the extremely difficult conditions?
JEV: It was a really difficult race. And staying out on the intermediates when other drivers already went off the track on full wets was very tricky. So from that point of view it was a good race and the pace was also there until the end. Malaysia has shown that we can bag points when others falter. (laughs)
Q: Franz Tost, Toro Rossos team principal, has said that he wants drivers who can think out of the box and who are innovative. Was your drive in Malaysia what he is looking for in a rookie?
JEV: Yes, probably - staying on intermediates in those conditions was definitely out of the box thinking. Maybe only the word rookie can explain that - maybe my inexperience made me do that. (laughs) But rookie or not, I would do it again no matter how many years I have under my belt.
Q: Whats it like racing with the big boys?
JEV: It is a bit different. But in the end its just cars and tracks and engineers - like in every race series. It has bigger dimensions but the job is the same. There is someone in front of you and you want to pass them. Its that simple. Sure, the complexity of the cars is much greater than, for example, a GP2 car and also there is a bit more mystery behind it. One weekend you are really fast and the next weekend you are nowhere - with the same car, the same crew - and you are looking desperately for answers why. Other series are much smoother.
Q: How is your learning curve progressing? What is the hardest thing to adapt to?
JEV: It is a combination of many things - tyres, first and foremost, then aero. You have to understand how qualifying works, how race strategies are set up. Many things. I have to say that I have adapted to these things pretty well. I also have to say that I like the qualifying format and that there is only one race (the big one on Sunday), not like in GP2 with a race on Saturday and one on Sunday.
Q: So far you are holding up pretty well against your team mate who has a bit more Formula One experience, at least in terms of results. Is that simply down to luck or are you faster?
JEV: I dont consider myself more of a rookie - and not faster. Some people will tell you that we are in a fight for the Red Bull cockpit, but I dont see that right now. I am racing for Toro Rosso and I want to help make the car a points contender. I have no interest finishing in P15 ahead of him. Id rather finish in P4 behind him if that meant I had a quicker car. Did I just say finish behind him? No, I dont think that I would like this! (laughs) Only the part about fighting at the front is true. Forget about the rest
Q: What do you believe is your biggest asset?
JEV: The people working with me have to answer this. What I can say is that I try to do things right and then people can judge.
Q: You started from the pits in China. Did that decision help you in the race?
JEV: It was not only starting from the pits, it was starting a few seconds behind the last guy - that is not very funny when you are hungry for positions. But we made the decision - to go into the race with a car different to the one we used in qualifying - within the team so that we can learn from it for the future. So I took that race more as a test. And we had some positives. I was able to do the second-fastest lap in the race, which shows that the pace is there, and that was very promising.
Q: In Malaysia, in hot conditions, you started from P18 and ended up eighth. Was that something you had hoped would also happen in China?
JEV: Well, I dont think that we can make a rule out of it saying that our cars work better in warm conditions. But if you ask me if the chances of a good result were bigger in Bahrain than in China I would say definitely, yes, because starting from the pits never really helps! But lets be serious. We understood what the problem was in China, so we should be better off in the future, even if we could not translate that into good results in Bahrain. We have 16 more races to go and with the tests coming up next week the bits and pieces that were not so perfect last weekend should fall into place better from Barcelona onwards. A least that is the plan..
Q: Could the fact that you never really used last years tyres actually give you an advantage over your more experienced rivals, given how tricky to manage this seasons tyres are proving?
JEV: Probably. I never experienced anything else so for me these tyres are the standard. What is the biggest difference for me is that previously I was always fighting for wins and now I am fighting for P10, which is a sharp break from my experience of the past few years! Nowadays, if I could finish fifth the team and I would be super happy, whereas last year finishing in P5 would have been really disappointing. Thats how life goes!
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