Former Toro Rosso racer and current Ferrari test driver Jean-Eric Vergne believes he is in with a chance of racing for the new Haas F1 team next year, despite signing to race for DS Virgin in FIA Formula E.
Vergne’s main competition is fellow Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez, who has a strong commercial package from Mexico behind him, and the US-based team’s top target, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.
“There are three of us, for two seats,” Vergne told Motorsport.com. “Let's say there is a rather good chance for me to end up with Haas. Then, as far as Formula E is concerned, that's too early to talk about it.
“If F1 comes, there will be two clashes. It's way too early to say how that will go. I hope to have that kind of problem to sort out, that would be a good one to have!
“But today, I am focused on Formula E, and very much as well on my work with Ferrari, which of course pays off to land in the Haas team.”
Team boss Gene Haas has told Motorsport.com that he has two other drivers also under consideration, besides those mentioned.
Haas will enter F1 with a technical allegiance with Ferrari, and Vergne believes his strong ties with the legendary Italian constructor – and knowledge accrued in his Toro Rosso years – will enhance his chances of a race role.
“I think this is an advantage,” he said. “Also, because I have worked with a very big team at Red Bull, at a time they were winning absolutely everything. I was a reserve driver and a simulator driver. I learnt a huge lot with them.
“Then came three years with Toro Rosso, where I proved a lot behind the steering wheel. I can't ignore my performances compared to [Daniel] Ricciardo: I beat him in year one. Year two, it was really tight, and today he wins Grands Prix.
“At Ferrari, I keep learning about a new philosophy, in the biggest team of all time! That's a new work philosophy and I keep on learning a lot about the car's technicalities.
“Of course, that plays an important role when it comes to Haas. Getting out of the F1 grid but staying in such a team as Ferrari and working all weekends on the simulator – knowing all the set-up changes, everything that goes on and following it first hand from the factory… plus I’m racing [in Formula E] – that sure doesn't take anything away!"
Interview by Guillaume Navarro