Former Toro Rosso racer Jean-Eric Vergne is quick to acknowledge Red Bull's help on his ascent to Formula One, but the Frenchman says it also was his ‘biggest obstacle’ once his career in the the top flight hit a snag.
Vergne made 58 race starts for Red Bull’s junior F1 team between 2012 and 2014 but was left out in the cold when he was overlooked for a seat at the senior team.
The 26-year-old has found refuge in Formula E since December 2014, driving for Andretti and DS Virgin before joining new Chinese outfit Techeetah.
Asked about the biggest challenge he has faced in his racing journey in a fan Q&A for safeisfast.com, Vergne replied:
“It’s quite funny because my biggest obstacle was Red Bull, because I had no manager when I left F1. It’s good when things are going well with Red Bull, but when they aren’t, you have nowhere to go, but I was lucky and managed to sort myself out in the end. Red Bull got me into F1, but they also stopped me being there in the end.”
Looking back at how he got started in single-seaters, the Frenchman is grateful for the support he received from both Red Bull and the French motor sport federation.
“It was always very complicated. Luckily my family never had to spend much money, but still I knew in karting that to move up to Formula Renault 2.0 it was going to cost at least €500,000 [£426,000] to be with a good team. You can go cheaper but you wont win the championship, and that was always the objective.
“I chose not to go into Formula 2.0 and instead I did the French Formula Campus, which is now French FIA F4. I got help from the French motor sport federation (Fédération Française du Sport Automobile) to do it and I won the series. It was a good season with lots of wins, and that gave me the chance to do the Red Bull driver shootout, where 20 drivers were tested.
“I was the best driver along with Daniel Ricciardo, and from then on Red Bull always backed me, so I only ever had to find a few sponsors. I was really lucky with Red Bull because they managed my career and always put me in a good championship and in a good team.”
JEV has also served as Ferrari's test and development driver since 2015. His future with the Scuderia has become uncertain though, following Antonio Giovinazzi's appointment as third driver.