Ex-Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne has opened up about his time in Formula 1, saying he “was not smiling” during his three-year stint on the grid prior to his switch to Formula E.

Vergne rose through Red Bull’s junior ranks before landing a seat with Toro Rosso back in 2012, but was dropped after three seasons, initially to make way for the arrival of Max Verstappen.

Vergne had also been promised a move up to Red Bull’s senior team in the event of Sebastian Vettel’s departure, only for the team to promote Daniil Kvyat for 2015 instead.

Speaking in Formula E’s Access All Areas video, Vergne explained how he never felt truly happy during his time in F1, admitting that comments about his negative demeanour were true.

“When I was young, I was energetic, I was winning a lot of races and championships. I arrived in Red Bull, and the first year was very difficult,” Vergne said.

“I think my head was really big. I was thinking I was the king, I was going to kill everyone and beat everyone. Obviously the first year was really tough on me. People were seeing me as a negative person, never happy - which I was actually - and it took me too long to understand that you should be smiling.

“I think for three years, I was not smiling, and then I got this thing of the French guy being moody, which I was.

“So then when I received the call, they told me goodbye, it was very difficult. I remember it was in the summer, I was with my family, and it was like a bomb coming on me, all your dreams coming away.”

Vergne moved into Formula E just three weeks after his F1 exit, signing initially with Andretti before spending his second season with Virgin.

The Frenchman conceded it took him until his third year in the category – when he joined Techeetah – to find his feet and regain his confidence, before going on to become a two-time Formula E champion with the team.

“When I left F1, I had no more cash, no more money,” Vergne said. “I was stupid with my money, I spent it all, and I was not earning a lot of money. People think you’re a Formula 1 driver, it was not a lot, but I felt like I was a millionaire and I spent it all.

“I think it was a good time for me to reset everything in my life. It took me at least two years to get back to normal. I wouldn’t say normal life, but normal mentality. My first two years of Formula E, I was really negative mood, and I think attracted a lot of bad things around.

“This is when everything started to be good with me again. I lost all my confidence, but since no-one really expected anything from me, I was about to work with the team really hard.”

Vergne claimed his maiden Formula E title with Techeetah in 2018 before becoming the series' first multiple champion one year later, with the team also clinching its first championship.

 

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