Vergne critical of Marko role in Red Bull exit

Dr Helmut Marko (AUT) Red Bull Motorsport Consultant with Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso. 24.08.2013. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 11, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa
© XPB 

Since his three years in Formula 1, Jean-Eric Vergne has gone on to stellar success in other championships with back-to-back titles in the all-electric FIA ABB Formula E series.

But it's clear that even after all this time, F1 remains unfinished business for the 31-year-old Frenchman - and that the way that he was dismissed by the Red Bull driver programme is still a particular sore spot.

Vergne had been driving for the Toro Rosso junior team, initially partnered in 2012 with Daniel Ricciardo and then subsequently Daniil Kvyat, while hoping for an opening to emerge at Red Bull.

But mid-way through the 2014 season he was told by the team's motorsport consultant Dr Helmut Marko that there was to be no such promotion and that he was being replaced at the end of the season.

“I got a call in the summer that I would be replaced by a younger driver," he told the latest Beyond the Grid podcast this week. "I knew it was Max Verstappen.

“I was like, that’s the game you know, there is no place in Red Bull," he said. “After three years, there was no space available and Helmut Marko told me it is over at the end of the year.

“I had never talked to any other F1 teams before, because I was in the Red Bull family. Maybe that was a mistake I made. It was like I was at Toro Rosso to go one day to Red Bull Racing."

At the time the two Red Bull seats were taken by Sebastian Vettel and by Ricciardo who had replaced Mark Webber. But with four-time world champion Vettel having his worst season to date there were rumours swirling he might head to Ferrari in 2015.

“During this frank conversation with Helmut, I said what if Vettel leaves? He told me Vettel would not leave, and I said but what if?" he recalled. “And he said you’d be the next one to go to Red Bull."

However when Vettel's departure was subsequently confirmed, Vergne felt that Marko was unwilling to lose face by going back on his earlier decision to release him.

Instead, he turned the less experienced Kvyat to fill the gap at Red Bull with Carlos Sainz brought in at Toro Rosso to pair up with Verstappen in an all-rookie line-up.

"We found out on the Saturday or the Friday that Vettel was going to Ferrari," he explained. "Red Bull wanted to respond straight away and they announced Kyvat in the morning without talking to anyone.

“Since it was announced mid-year that I would be out of Toro Rosso, it would have looked very bad if - when Vettel decided to leave for Ferrari - he had called me back to go to Red Bull," he said. "“It was a tough moment.

"He wanted an experienced driver together with Max [at Toro Rosso] but once again Red Bull could not say we are going to keep [me]," he said. "There was another driver coming with Carlos Sainz so they put him in the car."

Vergne pointed out that history could have been very different if Marko hadn't made the announcement about Vergne's departure as early in the season as he did.

“It was nice for him to tell me so early in the season," he told the podcast. "But at the same time it was probably my biggest problem, that he told me so early in the season.

“I wish Helmut would have done it as it did with many other drivers and wait until the last race of the season to tell them.

"If he had waited, with the Grands Prix I had done before Japan [when Vettel announced his departure] I was in a much stronger position to go to Red Bull Racing than Kvyat.”

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