Exclusive Jean-Eric Vergne Q&A: I know Im still small fry 31 Aug 2012
It is not easy for young drivers, who have won a lot of races in lower series, to suddenly discover that they have to start from the bottom of the ladder again now they have joined the Formula One circus. Feeling like an underdog again must take its toll. Toro Rossos Jean-Eric Vergne has certainly found life tough in his debut season but, with the backing of Red Bull behind him, the young Frenchman is staying positive
Q: Jean-Eric, it was a tough day with very little running. What was your impression?
Jean-Eric Vergne: Well, funnily enough the car always performs very well on the extreme wet tyres as you could see in first practice. In the afternoon there was simply too much rain to proceed. But as dry conditions are predicted for the next two days it will be interesting to see if we can carry this into Saturday and Sunday. Of course that is what I hope.
Q: Your mentors at Red Bull seem to be satisfied with your performance so far. What feedback do you get from them?
JEV: Really, I dont get much. I get more when Im doing things wrong. But that is not really a problem because at the end of a race weekend I am usually able to say if I did good job or not. And if Ive done a good job I still have to say that I have not done a fantastic job, so I know that there is room to improve. Of course when Ive made a mistake I notice that as well so there is no need for much feedback. I am pretty well able to judge the situation for myself.
Q: But as a rookie wouldnt more feedback help you to develop?
JEV: I have been with Red Bull the last five years so I am used to the procedure. Ive won a race in the past in a lower category but unfortunately in F1 it hasnt happened so far. Back then I didnt need anyone telling me that Id done a good job. I didnt need people applauding me. And the same goes for now in Formula One. But on the other hand if Red Bull didnt think that I was capable I wouldnt be here. That is the only feedback that I really wanted.
Q: How satisfied are you with the team? Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko said lately that the car is letting you and Daniel Ricciardo down a bit
JEV: To be honest it is a bit difficult. I know that I am improving myself but when you look at the results it does not show. Thats a bit frustrating. I was almost in Q3 in Australia and I performed well in Malaysia so we all had the impression that I was on a good upward curve. But as I have just said the results do not show that. The car is not really moving forward. It is not where we would like it to be but as a team you work together. So I dont have anything more to say than that it is a bit frustrating. From my side I can only do my best over a race weekend and hopefully the car will follow.
Q: If the car was more stable where do you think you could have scored better results?
JEV: Definitely in Monaco! I was running seventh and started from P18. The performance in the race was amazing. I kept the Force Indias behind me and was nearly as quick as the guys who later made it onto the podium. But the fact was that I had the oldest tyres in the field and a drop of water finished them immediately. That was a big shame and a big opportunity missed.
Q: After six months in Formula One racing what has been your biggest lesson?
JEV: I think in the last few races Ive learnt massively about the car. I think you learn most in very difficult situations. It is there where I need to understand why things are going one way. It is there where you learn. I also must say that I have improved in qualifying. Racing itself was never very complicated for me.
Q: But in the end it must feel better knowing that it is the car - not you - which is letting the side down
JEV: Probably yes. But I am not free of fault either. Just take Australia when I was in the gravel twice and lost good positions.
Q: To make it into Formula One racing you need a lot of talent and determination, but you need something else to make a splash in this sport once youve arrived. Do you think youve got it?
JEV: Every driver thinks he has that! (laughs) We all have a big ego - thats why we are all here. But lets be serious. Every driver here has the talent and the determination. What makes the difference is how you work, compared to the others. Its the little nuances that make the difference. First I am trying to learn what is necessary for the bigger picture, about the team, the car, the environment and the tyres. The more I know about all these issues the more I will be able to identify the nuances and what will then make the difference. Hopefully! (laughs)
Q: How is the rivalry between you and Ricciardo? A Red Bull cockpit is a pretty good carrot
JEV: Ha, there are a lot of carrots in a drivers life. If you are in a lower category the carrot is to make it into F1. When you are in F1 but in a small team the carrot is to move to a bigger team. And in a big team the carrot is the championship. And that has nothing to do with the rivalry with your team mate. Our relationship is fine. Sometimes he has been quicker in qualifying but I am catching up. All in all we work well together.
Q: Is the life of a Formula One driver like you imagined it would be?
JEV: I am honest with myself. I am still small fry! (laughs) Everybody recognizes Michael Schumacher and nobody recognizes me. Maybe I am a bit more well known in France but outside that - no. I dont go out a lot. I spend more time working and being in the factory. So my glamour factor is pretty close to zero right now. My lavish life will come later! (laughs)
Q: Spa is special. Its said to separate the men from the boys. What do you expect from this weekend?
JEV: This here is my best track of the year so I expect a very good weekend. I have always had good results here. I won three races in a row here in Formula Three. I cant wait for Sunday to see how this circuit treats me now Im in F1!
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