Ex-Formula 1 driver Jean-Éric Vergne feels that it took a long time to get the series out of his system, but that Le Mans has quelled his ‘selfish’ streak, changing him into a better endurance driver.
The Frenchman is racing in the #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing LMP2 machine, and says he has finally acclimatised to the more team-focused environment of prototype racing.
“I’m in a state of mind now here in endurance racing where I push myself to the maximum and help my teammates as much as possible,” he told Motorsport.com. “I know that some drivers coming from F1 do not have the best reputation when they come to endurance as [they are seen to be] selfish and only thinking about themselves.”
“Here at Le Mans I am putting this into practice because I know I have to learn every aspect. I have changed from that driver and I am a changed driver.”
Vergne puts his initial missteps in the category down to the different psyche of a Formula 1 driver, having been fully focused on getting back into the top level of single-seaters after his released from Scuderia Toro Rosso. He had been given an opportunity to try out for a seat at the Toyota GAZOO Racing LMP1 programme at Paul Ricard in 2015, and acknowledged his perspective at the time hindered his opportunities in closed cockpit racing.
“Maybe I was one of those selfish guys [in the past], but of course in F1 this is how you have to be in your environment to prove yourself.”
“Now I know that I have to carve a new reputation entirely when you come to Le Mans and WEC. I was in a mindset, yes, where I came straight from F1 and had not changed or adapted. Now I 100 percent have changed.”
One key influence in shifting his mindset has been Julian Jakobi, who became involved in managing his career in the same year as the unsuccessful test outing with Toyota. Jakobi is known as one of the most prolific managers in racing circles, having handled both Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, among others.
“Julian’s advice and experience has been vital. My state of mind now as a driver is drastically opposite to what I was two years ago and healthier.”
“I stepped back, looked at things and knew I had to change my approach and to prove myself in endurance racing, so I am in a good position now for my future career.”