Jean-Eric Vergne insists he will become Toro Rosso’s ‘number 1’ driver next year as current teammate Daniel Ricciardo departs for Red Bull.
Frenchman Vergne admits he is disappointed to have missed out on the high-profile move to replace Mark Webber, but confirmation he is staying put at Toro Rosso is also “a very good thing for me,” he told L’Equipe.
“The choice is quite logical, because Daniel is a Red Bull (backed) driver and because he has a bit more experience than me,” he told the French daily.
“He was better than me in certain aspects that are important to them, such as qualifying, but the race is something else — we are extremely close,” said Vergne, 23.
Even Ricciardo’s new teammate, the reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, agrees with Vergne’s assessment.
“I do not see a big difference between them,” the German is quoted by Brazil’s Totalrace.
“They have had similar results this season, even though we do have a better view from inside the team.
“Daniel was a little more consistent, but both have the same speed,” said Vettel.
Vergne thinks success for Ricciardo will therefore reflect well on himself, and sees staying at Toro Rosso as an advantage.
“I’m going to learn a lot as the number 1 Toro Rosso driver,” he said, “and will try to pull the team up.
“There are many more things in the positive column for next year. We’ll probably have a better car, we have our new technical director James Key, and the Renault engine will bring us a lot.
“I think if I had the choice to go somewhere else, I would stay at Toro Rosso.”
As for Vettel, the German insists his task in 2014 will be no different even though he will have a different teammate for the first time in five years.
“I’m sure he (Ricciardo) will try his best to beat me, but nothing changes,” said Vettel.
“It will be an Australian trying to make my life difficult,” he smiled.
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