x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Jean-Eric Vergne has to be 'on the top'

The Red Bull tester driver is aware he is in the best car and the world championship team, second-placed Bianchi also tested Ferrari's front wing.

Jean-Eric Vergne, test driver for Red Bull, said his win yesterday was ‘nothing special’.
Jean-Eric Vergne, test driver for Red Bull, said his win yesterday was ‘nothing special’.

ABU DHABI // Jean-Eric Vergne clocked the fastest lap at yesterday's first day of Young Driver Testing and then, without arrogance, said it was "nothing special".

The Frenchman, who is testing for Red Bull Racing, clocked a fastest lap of one minute 40.011 seconds, almost one second quicker than second placed Jules Bianchi in a Ferrari. The 21 year old, however, remained modest and chose to instead speak of the pressure that is on his shoulders.

"To be honest, I have to be on the top," Vergne said after completing 83 laps in the Red Bull RB7. "I am in the best car and I am in the world championship team, so everybody expects me to be on top. It's nothing special.

"Of course, I am quite happy, but I just hope one day I can see my name on the top alongside names such as [Fernando] Alonso, [Michael] Schumacher and [Sebastian] Vettel. Hopefully, I can get a drive in the races and try to make that happen."

Vergne is part of the same Red Bull driver development programme that discovered Vettel, the world champion, and Hispania Racing Team's Daniel Ricciardo.

He tested with Toro Rosso earlier this season and there is already talk he may find himself graduating to Formula One as early as next season.

When asked how he rated his chances of lining the grid in Australia's season-opening race on March 18, he said: "It's between zero and 100 per cent."

"I don't really question it myself," he added. "I have a really big opportunity to drive for Red Bull Racing these three days and that is what I am focused on. I will try to do my best and then we will see what happens."

Bianchi spent most of the morning session testing front wing aerodynamics for his Ferrari team as the Italian manufacturers attempt to discover what is creating strong vibrations inside the cockpit.

"From a driving point of view, it was not particularly fun to do, however it was very important for the team and is part of the job of being a test driver," said the Frenchman, who managed 85 laps throughout the day.

"In the afternoon, we made adjustments to the car to adapt it to my driving style and so I was able to push a bit."

Robert Wickens, the Canadian who beat Vergne to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series title earlier this year, finished third fastest in a Renault, more than two seconds off the pace.

"I'm glad I was able to drive in a car that put me towards the top of the grid," Wickens said. "I was hoping to be in the top three today and to be third is really good. Obviously you can always find ways to improve, but I'm sure that will come."

While Vergne and Bianchi will continue testing with their teams, Wickens will be replaced tomorrow by Estonia's Kevin Korjus as Renault look to examine several young drivers ahead of next season.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae


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