Jean-Eric Vergne says he feels he has learned a lot from his debut season in F1, even though he admits that his results on track could have been better.
The French rookie was part of a new-look Toro Rosso line-up for 2012 alongside Daniel Ricciardo and scored points on four occasions – crossing the line eighth in Malaysia, Belgium, Korea and Brazil.
Having outscored Ricciardo in the standings, Vergne ended his debut season 17th in the points and he insisted that the campaign had been a success in terms of building his knowledge base for the 2013 season – when he will once again race for the Red Bull-backed team.
“It was nice to sign off the season with another four points,” he said, reflecting on the season finale last weekend. “I wasn't too excited about the result immediately after the race, as you always want more and I do think seventh was possible, but with a bit of time to reflect on the result, it was nice for both me and the team to finish the last race in the points. It feels like positive way to end 2012.
“I had four eighth places during the year and scored 16 points. For my first year in Formula One, and given that we didn't have the best car in the world, I don't feel too bad about that record. For sure, it could have been better and I certainly expect better of myself next year, but all in all I'd mark it down as a successful first season.
“Ultimately, I think this year was all about learning and the points are not the most significant thing. The important thing for me is that I think I have learned a hell of a lot about Formula One this year.
First, there's obviously the whole process of driving the car, learning how to work properly with the team and learning how to race in F1, all of that has been a massive learning curve and at times it has been pretty hard, especially when the results weren't coming and we seemed to be going backwards.
“But that's where the second lesson comes into play. At the end of my first season I think I've learned a lot about being a Formula One driver out of the car as well as in it. Driving the car is obviously the sharp end of what we do and the most crucial part of the job, but it wouldn't work if, as a driver, you didn't learn how to work with your engineers, if you didn't learn how to process all the information you get given and help everyone in the team arrive at the best solution for the circumstances you're in.
“There's always an element of that in every series but in Formula One it's so much more involved and so much more intense and you have to raise your game and manage that well. I think I did quite well this year in those terms but I'll hopefully come back even better next year.”
Vergne added that he was now planning to relax over the winter before coming back stronger next season.
“All I want now over the winter is to put all I've learned together and arrive back next year with, hopefully, a better car, more experience, more skill and hopefully I'll have an even better experience next year,” he said. “For now, though, that's it for this season. I don't know what I'm going to get up to over the next month or so, there's nothing really planned yet. I know I have two or three weeks scheduled for training in January in the mountains, but as for the rest, well, I want to go somewhere hot and sunny and maybe get away from Formula One for a little while – not for too long, just long enough to recharge the batteries and come back next year ready to do it all again.”