#25 – Jean-Eric Vergne – France – 11 Races, 11 Points, Best Finish: 8th (Australia, Canada), Championship Position: 13th
#26 – Daniil Kvyat – Russia – 11 Races, 6 Points, Best Finish: 9th (Australia, Britain), Championship Position: 15th
The Toro Rosso team aligned themselves with their Red Bull Racing parent team by switching to Renault power for 2014, but remain amid the midfield battle due to the superior power of the four Mercedes-powered teams.
Both Jean-Eric Vergne and rookie Daniil Kvyat have shown flashes of speed this year, but too often in 2014 the car has let them down. The team have only seen their drivers both see the chequered flag together four times out of the eleven races.
Young Russian Kvyat was drafted into the team to replace Red Bull bound Daniel Ricciardo, and joined the club of drivers to have secured points on debut, having finished ninth in Australia. In fact the 2013 GP3 Series champion scored points in three of the first four races, but since then has only scored points once more at Silverstone.
He has retired four times, but none of them through driver-error. Kvyat’s qualifying has been impressive in his rookie year too. He secured his best starting position of seventh in Austria, and has made the final part of qualifying five times.
Team-mate Vergne knows that he has to perform in 2014 or he risks losing his Toro Rosso drive, especially with the likes of Red Bull junior drivers Carlos Sainz Jr and Pierre Gasly lining up to come in. Even sixteen-year-old Dutchman Max Verstappen has been rumoured to become a Toro Rosso driver sooner rather than later, and that is only going to add pressure to the Frenchman that currently holds the seat.
Vergne has had a quietly impressive season, punctuated by the retirements of which he has had five, four of which were through mechanical issues. The fifth one was not his fault either, as the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado crashed into him in Bahrain and caused his car to be too badly damaged to drive safely.
The Frenchman has finished in the points on four occasions, with a best finish of eighth in both Australia and Canada. He was also running in the points in Monaco before retiring with an exhaust issue. He was outstanding in the early damp stages of the Hungarian Grand Prix, running in second place ahead of an impressive chain of drivers including Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, before falling down the order once the track was dry.
It is clear that seventh is probably the highest the team are going to achieve in the constructors championship, having fallen 80 points behind sixth placed McLaren, but they appear to be under no threat from behind. They have the potential to snatch the odd point here and there but seem to be lacking the pace to secure regular points. A podium finish seems a long way away.
Kvyat has already proved to everyone that he belongs in Formula 1, and that it is possible to step up directly from GP3 into F1. He has not been blitzed by, nor has blitzed Vergne at all, but the Frenchman remains under pressure to retain his drive not only with the team but also in the sport. He has eight races to prove his worth to Franz Tost, Helmut Marko and the rest of the Red Bull bosses he deserves an unprecedented fourth season in the team.