Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne looks ahead to the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, which marks the mid-point of the 2012 Formula One season.
It’s hard to believe, but this coming weekend in Germany will be the tenth race. I know this because last week I went to Faenza for the team’s annual mid-season (and midsummer) "red" party. I went last year when I was reserve driver and it was good fun, so I definitely wanted to head back to the factory again. It’s always nice to meet up with the guys from the team in a non-work environment and just hang out and have fun. And we definitely did that!
For me, it doesn’t feel like we’ve completed ten races. I know a lot of the guys in the team are looking forward to the break that comes in about 10 days’ time after the Hungarian Grand Prix. Everyone has been completely flat out since we started testing back in February, but for the drivers the break is a necessary evil. If we had our way we’d keep racing right on through.
Inevitably, reaching the middle of the season means you get asked lots of questions about progress and pressure and how the team is shaping up. In terms of progress, I think I’ve done well. In fact, we’ve all done well as a team. We don’t have the car we’d like yet but that doesn’t mean we haven’t all worked hard to get where we want to be. I’ve learned a lot since the start of the season and the best is definitely still to come. The moment you stop learning, that’s the moment you should stop doing what you’re doing.
"For the drivers the break is a necessary evil – if we had our way we’d keep racing right on through"
There’s also a lot of talk about the pressure facing both me and Daniel – pressure to perform, to beat each other, to prove that we can step up to the next level when the time comes. It's completely normal. If a driver doesn’t feel the pressure to perform from his team then they’re not showing much ambition and he’s either unbelievably superior to every other driver or a complete flop.
There's the pressure from within as well. Me and Daniel have to be at the top of our game all the time because there’s a lot invested in us and also because everyone within Toro Rosso expects us to deliver to the best of our ability, all the time.
So far, we’re doing that as much as we can. It’s always hard to measure when the car isn’t quite there, but if anyone is looking for evidence, it’s there in how hard we race each other every grand prix weekend. Daniel is a really good driver and the competition between us is intense. If he pushes hard I’ll push back harder and that’s a good way to move the team forward.
I’ve always done well under pressure. I respond to it well and it’s never been a problem for me. My attitude is that if you let that kind of thing get to you then you’re already finished. You have to keep digging deep and you have to rise to the challenge.
So that’s where I think I am at mid-season – so far, so good. We've done some good things, but it’s clear that we still have a lot of work to do. That starts in Hockenheim this weekend. It’s going to sound like a cliché, as I think I said I was looking forward to racing the tracks at Montreal and Silverstone too, but I’m going to say the same about Hockenheim.
With the first two, I was looking forward to the challenge of the high-speed sections and the particular atmosphere at each track. But with Hockenheim it’s about returning to a place where I enjoyed one the best race weekends of my career.
When I raced there in British F3 in 2010, I had one of those weekends when everything just comes together. In both races I got pole, fastest lap and victory – by over 20 seconds, I think. It was a fantastic feeling. The following year was my first in Formula Renault 3.5 and the round in Hockenheim was my first in the car. I finished 11th and then fifth, which wasn’t too bad either.
It’s a circuit that I have some good memories of and I hope I can add a few more this weekend.
The second half of the season starts here and I'm aiming to make it a good one. No pressure then!