Jean-Eric Vergne concedes that Daniel Ricciardo had the mental edge over him last year, but he feels he has proved himself this year.
The Frenchman’s Formula 1 future remains in doubt after Toro Rosso decided to sign 17-year-old Max Verstappen for the 2015 campaign. He may still be given a lifeline, though, after Daniil Kvyat was promoted to Red Bull following Sebastian Vettel’s departure.
However, just last year he was in the running for a Red Bull race seat, but the Milton Keynes squad decided to go with Ricciardo.
Vergne, though, feels he has improved since then.
“I think the reason they picked up Daniel was because he was probably more ready mentally and he was probably doing less mistakes,” he told Sky Sports F1. “This is all in the same set-up, you know, it was all in the head, and I improved myself this winter. I got a lot stronger: my performance in qualifying, which was weak last year, got a lot better as well, so I think I became a much better, complete driver.
“The only problem is that there is no place in Red Bull; so if there was a free seat, they would probably consider for me to go there. I don’t want to say that – I don’t want to advance myself that much – but all I know is that they need to promote young drivers, they take me out and I don’t fit anywhere because there is simply no place in the Red Bull programme.”
Vergne’s chances of being back in favour at STR appear to be hampered by the fact that Toro Rosso have a policy of keeping drivers for only three years before they have to make way youngsters.
The 24-year-old says he is open to switching to motorsport categories.
“You have be ambitious or otherwise you go nowhere in life. So of course I am,” he said. “But I’m realistic. I know I’m not going to talk to Mercedes and say, ‘Please, I want a seat for next year’. You need to prove yourself, win races. I mean, it’s how Formula 1 works: big teams, they want superstars because it’s good for marketing and because they are good drivers and it’s good for the image.
“But if you want to become a superstar for the big teams to want you, you need to be in a big team to win races. But how do you do that if you’re not a superstar? You know what I mean.”