27 July 2013
Hungarian Grand Prix: Tost expecting Vergne to stay, team-mate TBC
Jean-Eric Vergne would be welcome back at Toro Rosso in 2014, according to team boss Franz Tost, but no decision has yet been made on a potential team-mate.
While Christian Horner's reasoning that Red Bull's replacement for Mark Webber would be either Daniel Ricciardo or Kimi Raikkonen was not wholly accepted by Jean-Eric Vergne, it appears to be good news for Toro Rosso in 2014.
Horner dismissed Vergne's candidacy for the seat alongside Sebastian Vettel by pointing to Ricciardo's six months of additional F1 experience – something that Vergne suggested would be wiped out by the advent of a 'new' F1 in 2014 – but STR boss Franz Tost seems more than happy to continue employing the Frenchman for another season.
“I'm convinced that Jean-Eric Vergne will race next year for Toro Rosso,” the Austrian claimed, “We must not forget that Jean-Eric came later into F1 [than Ricciardo] and why Red Bull Racing is thinking about racing with Daniel next year is simply because he is more experienced. He showed very good performance in the first half of the season, but Jean-Eric Vergne is quite close to him. It's not that Jean-Eric is out of the team. As far as I'm thinking, next year he is with Toro Rosso.”
Although RBR has yet to make an official announcement regarding its line-up for 2014, the belief in the paddock is that Ricciardo is the frontrunner, and Tost appears content that Toro Rosso will have served its purpose in providing talent for the sister team for only the second time in its relationship since Red Bull acquired Minardi.
“We will see,” he said, “It's not decided yet from Red Bull, but we must not forget Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull bought Minardi in those days to give young drivers from the Red Bull driver pool a chance to come into F1. Toro Rosso is the team to educate young drivers and I see it as positive because it shows that a) drivers are skilled and b) that the team has done so far a good job – and therefore if they choose Daniel I am quite happy with this decision.”
In terms of a potential replacement for the Australian, assuming that Vergne remains in situ, Red Bull is not short of candidates, with Antonio Felix da Costa leading the way. The Portuguese tested with the senior team at Silverstone during last week's Young Driver test, with Carlos Sainz Jr, Daniil Kvyat and Johnny Cecotto getting track time in the STR machine. Tost, however, would not be drawn on a potential short-list.
“We will see,” he said again, “We will discuss it together with Red Bull. If there is a driver from the Red Bull driver pool, of course we will take him. And, if this is not the case, then we will look outside.
“Currently, I think there are some skilled drivers within the Red Bull driver pool. We had two very good days with Ricciardo and with Sainz in the car. [On] the third day, we struggled a little bit because we had a hydraulic problem and therefore we lost two hours, but I must say also Kvyat did a good job and, generally speaking, the young drivers from Red Bull were surprisingly fast. I think they were high-skilled and will have a successful future.”
Vergne, meanwhile, insists that, while being disappointed at being overlooked by Horner and Red Bull, he would be happy to continue at Toro Rosso, thus avoiding the fate that befell Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi, who were dumped by the junior team when Tost and Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko decided that they were not world champions in waiting.
"To be honest, I would be really happy to stay with Toro Rosso next year,” he told ESPN at the Hungaroring, “Of course, it would be a dream to go and drive for Red Bull Racing, but I really believe in the team and especially the people working in the team.
"They are putting a lot of effort in to next year's car and I really believe that we can have a good season next year and that the car will be much better than the one that we have now. Everybody will restart from zero, so we have all of our chances to be a better team...."
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