Ferrari has announced that Jean-Éric Vergne has been appointed as the team’s new official test driver, principally focusing on the new car’s development work in the simulator.
The Frenchman raced for Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2014, finishing in thirteenth place in the Drivers’ Championship standings, but was not retained by the Italian team after a drawn-out decision over its 2015 driver line-up. The team had originally announced Vergne’s departure earlier in the year when it confirmed Max Verstappen would replace him alongside the incumbent Daniil Kvyat, but when Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel confirmed a shock switch to Ferrari, Kvyat was rapidly promoted in the German’s place.
That gave Vergne a stay of execution, and he delivered some inspired performances in the back end of the season, which ultimately proved insufficient to him being retained after the team later announced Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion Carlos Sainz Jr would complete its driving roster.
Vergne landed a one-off drive with the Andretti Autosport Formula E Team at last weekend’s ePrix in Uruguay, sensationally putting the car on pole and looking on course to challenging for victory until a suspension failure put him out of the race with three laps to go.
He will join Sauber refugee Esteban Gutiérrez – along with long-time test drivers Marc Gené and Davide Rigon – in Ferrari’s back-up line-up in providing support to Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen. Ferrari Academy driver Raffaele Marciello will remain in the GP2 Series for another season.
“I feel very honoured to be joining the Ferrari family and becoming a part of the most prestigious team in the history of Formula 1,” Vergne said of his signing.
“The objective is a unanimous one and that is to help the team get back to the top step of the podium. Having had two years working in the simulator for a top F1 team and three years racing with Toro Rosso, my experience will add to the great efforts that are currently being made in order to get the team back to its winning ways.”
The team also used the opportunity of confirming Vergne’s signing to announce the departure of test driver Pedro de la Rosa, whom many expect to shortly be announced in McLaren’s test driver line-up.
Image via F1Zone