Jean-Eric Vergne had to leave Formula 1 when the talents Max Verstappen in Carlos Sainz came to Toro Rosso. “I sank to the bottom and had to stay calm to get back together!” Said Vergne. For the Frenchman, there was no more room in the Red Bull family. After his departure, a test followed at Toyota for the LMP1. However, that did not lead to a siege. The driver now recounts how he finally made his way to a spot in one of Peugeot’s LMH cars for the FIA World Endurance Championship.
When I left F1 I did a test for Toyota, Vergne told Autosport in England. I think when I did the test, in my head, so mentally, I was not strong. I just wasn’t in the right place at the right time. So it didn’t happen, Toyota didn’t hire me. I didn’t have a seat. I still had Formula E, but personally it was just as important to do Le Mans, it was always a dream of mine.
I asked my manager to call absolutely everyone in LMP2. I wanted to stay in prototypes, I didn’t want to go to GTs, because I think it’s hard to get back into prototypes after that. He told me: Look, it’s not the best team, it’s not the best seat, but we have a chance to ride at Manor. I said OK, great.
It was difficult, the team had no money, it was not working at all. We had an amateur teammate who was having fun, but in terms of lap times he was extremely far from it, so I knew there was no chance of getting a result. Mostly, I didn’t get paid for it, I had to pay for everything myself, like hotels, travel, flights, but saw it as an investment.
That year, I think it was in Fuji, I met Roman Rusinov. We had dinner and I did a test for his G-Drive team at the end of the year. It went very well. I learned a lot in this team. It was an investment. It was not easy to think that I was out of F1 and that Toyota did not want me. I sank to the bottom and had to stay calm to get back together. Although the Frenchman has yet to achieve success at Le Mans, he thinks so its performance nevertheless stands out at Peugeot. For example, he was deprived of a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2018, due to an adjustment in the fuel supply. Additionally, there was an outage in 2019 due to an electrical issue, so the wins missed the pilot.
I think Peugeot and anyone looking at the performance can see the difference in the average stint, the qualifying laps, they can analyze how it goes, continues Vergne. I am always placed with the best drivers in LMP2. Last year the performance was very good, I felt good in the car. I am more and more confident, I also like to drive Le Mans and all the other circuits of the ELMS to WEC.
Jean-Eric Vergne’s ‘Journey To The Top’, his journey to two ABB Formula E titles:
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