Jean-Eric Vergne and Toro Rosso confirmed their split after three seasons on Nov. 26, and the 24-year-old Frenchman wasted little time declaring his interest on where he’d like to race in 2015.
“I would be really interest in racing in America in IndyCar; I think it’s a great championship,” he told RACER. “I’m working with a manager who works with a few drivers in America, Julian Jakobi, and at the moment, it seems like it is quite hard to go to a top team right away, but I am very interested to see what type of seats are available.”
Although JEV’s tenure at Toro Rosso did not produce the desired promotion to Red Bull Racing, he leaves the team after recording his best season to date, scoring points on seven occasions and a career best 6th-place finish in China on the way to 13th in the standings – one spot behind Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Fighting for the crumbs left behind by F1’s dominant teams, as JEV explains, holds minimal interest going forward. Racing on equal footing, as the Verizon IndyCar Series offers to a greater degree, has motivated the 2010 British Formula 3 champion.
“Toro Rosso isn’t really a team where you can stay for a long time, even if you beat your teammates. If I look at what [Daniel] Ricciardo is doing this year and what I’m doing this year, I’m confident I can do the same as him. I’m not really bitter to leave Toro Rosso, I have some other options in Formula 1, but I want to get back into a series where I can win races and win championships. My target is to go for the IndyCar championship my first year,” he said.
With open seats at the championship-winning Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport outfits, another at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and one at KV Racing, which is led by former Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Bourdais, JEV would appear to have some decent options to pursue.
The discipline of oval racing can be mastered, as many ex-F1 drivers have shown, but the time required to reach a high level of competence varies on the individual. With the majority of IndyCar races held on road and street courses, JEV believes he could deliver for a team at most rounds while getting up to speed on ovals.
“I don’t pretend I would win everything, or have an easy time on the ovals; it’s a lot to learn coming from Europe, but many European drivers have become quite good on ovals with some experience, and with so many road courses and street races, I know I can be very effective,” he noted.
Verge’s also confident he would be an asset as Chevy- and Honda-powered IndyCar teams develop brand-new aero kits that will debut at Round 2 in St. Petersburg next season.
“Testing new aerodynamic pieces, suspension components and everything else is something we do every weekend in Formula 1,” he said. “This is something I enjoy very much; development is very big for the success of the team, the success of the manufacturer, and this is an area I have with a lot of experience.”
Provided he can find the right team and environment, JEV says a move to IndyCar could reignite his career.
“There aren’t so many teams to go to that I can win a championship right away, but this doesn’t stop me from looking and talking to team owners to see if we can do something together,” he added. “I have always loved racing in America, and I have always been very interested in IndyCar. The timing is very good right now to make this happen.”