Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne hopes to unlock his qualifying potential this weekend
After four pretty tough flyaways we’re back in Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix and if there’s one lesson I’ve taken away from the opening races of the season it's how crucial it is to get the maximum out of yourself and the car in qualifying.
I feel that I’ve done well in the races, the pace has been good and I’ve raced consistently well but those races have been compromised by qualifying, where I’ve not yet been able to perform to the best of my abilities.
That’s been my focus since Bahrain, really. Trying to understand where the problems lie and trying to resolve them. I don’t think I took it too easy at the start of the season, imagining qualifying would be not be tricky or that you don’t have to work hard. Formula One is definitely more difficult than that but maybe I didn’t realise just how hard you have to work. So now I’ve changed my point of view and we will see.
To be honest, I think it is just a matter of time. I never expected to come into Formula One and be immediately quicker than Daniel, who has more experience under his belt than I do. He struggled a bit last year with the same problem I think and definitely had a tough time early on with Vitantonio Liuzzi but it changed eventually and I think it will be the same for me, It’s about taking your time, finding the right balance between qualifying and the race, making the most of the opportunity in qualifying and delivering the lap when you need to.
'Qualifying is qualifying, and you have to make the time in one lap and get the best out of the car'
Ultimately, the process is the same in any series, no matter what the rules are. Qualifying is qualifying, and you have to make the time in one lap and get the best out of the car. It was this way in Formula 3 and in Formula Renault 3.5. The basics are the same but it’s true that Formula One is step up in other areas. There are more things to manage and mentally and physically it is a different proposition to other formulae. This is my focus now – improving myself in dealing with those. Then the qualifying performance will come I’m sure.
I have no worries about being able to do it in the future and likewise the team isn’t worried either. We know we have good pace in the car and now it’s just about being able to take the car further up the grid. If I can get a better start then we’re sure to have good races.
Away from the immediate concerns in Barcelona, it was great to see recently that the French Grand Prix might be coming back to the F1 calendar in the future. I would love to drive in a French Grand Prix. People have been talking about the race being at Paul Ricard, which is a circuit that I like. After all I won there in Formula Renault 3.5 last year.
However, whether it is there or at Magny Cours is not so important. It would just be good to have the race on the calendar. There is huge support for the sport in the country, so it is a good idea. We also have three French drivers in the sport and one was on the podium in Bahrain, so it will get more popular again. Ten or 15 years ago France had seven or eight drivers in Formula One and the country has a huge tradition with Formula One so it would be fantastic to see it back.
That, though, is the future. Back in the present I have this race weekend to focus on and I have to look at it positively. I think we have the car, we have the pace and now it’s just about putting all of it together throughout the weekend. If I can start closer to the front then I think the possibilities are very good indeed.
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