Jean-Eric Vergne will remain at Toro Rosso into 2014, says Franz Tost
Boss "confident" Frenchman will stay on for third year at junior squad
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 26/07/13 6:16pm
Vergne's position has been cast in doubt following Red Bull's decision to overlook the Frenchman in favour of current team-mate Daniel Ricciardo as a candidate to replace the retiring Mark Webber.
In recent weeks the young Frenchman has also been linked with a surprise switch to Lotus given there is also uncertainty over Total-backed compatriot Romain Grosjean's future there.
Nevertheless, with Red Bull Christian Horner assuring reporters at the Hungaroring that Vergne had been omitted from their short list only because he lacked experience, Tost is adamant Vergne will be retained for at least another season at Toro Rosso.
"I am confident that Jean-Eric Vergne will drive next year for Toro Rosso," Tost announced. "We must not forget that Jean-Eric came in late to Formula 1 and the reason why Red Bull Racing are thinking about driving with Daniel Ricciardo next year is simply because he is more experienced.
"He showed a very good performance in the first-half of the season but Jean-Eric is quite close to him and it's not that Jean-Eric is out of the team. He is, as far as I am thinking, next year with Toro Rosso."
Toro Rosso's decision will not be straightforward, however, with the team used by parent outfit Red Bull to groom their next generation of drivers.
It was widely speculated at last week's Young Driver Test that rising star Antonio Felix da Costa had impressed sufficiently to secure a seat at Toro Rosso for 2014 and with teenager Carlos Sainz junior also displaying an unexpectedly competitive turn of speed at Silverstone it is not as if the team - ultimately governed by Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner of both Toro Rosso and Red Bull - are short of options for the future.
"The young drivers from Red Bull were surprisingly fast," acknowledged Tost.
"They are high skilled and will have a successful future. It [Toro Rosso's 2014 line-up] is not decided yet but we must not forget that Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull bought Minardi [Toro Rosso's previous incarnation] to give young drivers from the Red Bull driver programme a chance to come into Formula 1 and Toro Rosso is the team to educate young drivers."
And with Ricciardo's potential promotion to the parent team effectively serving as an endorsement of the work Toro Rosso have done with their current driver configuration over the last two years, Todt admits that Ricciardo's successor would most likely be another up-and-coming starlet.
"We will discuss together with Red Bull whether there is a driver from the Red Bull young driver pool. If this is not the case then we will look outside, but currently there are some skilled drivers amongst the Red Bull driver pool," he added.