The long wait for the announcement suited Ricciardo and the Austrian outfit. Whilst no contract had been signed, the media pinpointed Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen as supposedly likely rivals for the coveted race seat diverting attention away from their main man. All the talk post-announcement has been focused on his ability to withstand the pressures championship contention will bring.
But what about Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso’s other driver?
He is a racer I view in high esteem though, I am aware, some disagree. He is quiet and often out of the headlines. He has not caused a major incident nor faced the stewards on a regular basis and his drive in Canada was reminiscent of his performances in Formula Renault 3.5, where he finished as runner up in 2011. Admittedly, this championship bestows less pressure on its drivers and his place at Toro Rosso was almost guaranteed, but they were brilliant performances.
Alongside his team mate, Canadian ‘Future Star’, Robert Wickens, he dominated the team battle with Carlin – dominance we are just not witnessing in the World Series by Renault this year. It did get me thinking, is Ricciardo the right team mate to showcase his talent?
Daniel Ricciardo is a man Jean-Eric Vergne knows very well; they signed for the Red Bull Junior Programme on the same day and have been major rivals ever since. Perhaps Ricciardo was just too familiar to Vergne? What I think he needs is a new start in the form of a competitive and relatively unfamiliar team mate.
Unfortunately for the Frenchman, this will not come in the form of Ricciardo’s most likely successor. From Antonio Felix da Costa, I have heard nothing but Formula 1. Endless talk in the paddock, pit lane and beyond, all seem to say one thing: Felix da Costa is Toro Rosso bound in 2014 despite now dropping out of realistic championship contention in the Formula 1 feeder series.
So does this mean that Jean-Eric Vergne should leave Toro Rosso and the precarious situation that is the Red Bull system? No, probably not. His connections to Renault are weak and not enough alone to secure him a seat. There is no room for a second chance in any other team and I see Vergne’s career going the same way as Sebastien Buemi’s if he is not careful.
On a rather strange side note, I did once have a dream that he signed for Caterham but they have their own crop of future talent to keep them busy. Silly me.
I saw something special in Jean-Eric Vergne in 2011, which has been replicated at races like Montreal this year and on other occasions. Vergne leads the championship battle ahead of his Australian team mate, by one point, and finished ahead last year by similarly narrow margins. Championships have been won by one point, so do not discount the importance of this.
I will not take anything away from Daniel Ricciardo and his opportunity. By all means, congratulate him on his new seat, I know my own mother certainly is, but just consider Vergne and the uncertain future he faces.
If Ricciardo fails to step up, Vergne will be the team’s back up but until Sebastian Vettel makes a statement of intent about leaving Red Bull, Ricciardo may well be a compliant and relatively safe, second driver.
Vergne will most likely defy the Toro Rosso average and remain with them for third consecutive year however, his time is limited so I suspect only luck will prevent Carlos Sainz Jr from ousting him from Formula 1 altogether. Sadly.
A marriage of both Ricciardo and Vergne’s greatest strengths would create one incredible driver potentially capable of dethroning Vettel. Ricciardo’s qualifying combined with Vergne’s race performances would be joyous to watch.
For now, it seems, one driver is benefiting the most from the crazy, and unpredictable, Red Bull circus.
If you haven’t already, read JEV’s latest Toro Rosso blog, here, as he reacts to the news. Insightful reading.