New Ferrari test driver Jean-Eric Vergne has targeted a drive with Ferrari in 2016 which when you get to the nitty-gritty means he wants Kimi Raikkonen's seat. Barring some disaster on a 'Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2007' scale Sebastian Vettel won't be leaving Maranello for a long time yet, so Kimi's job is the only realistic one on offer. And after a poor 2014, the Finn's position must be in some doubt once this campaign is over.
At the start of the year, the 24-year-old said the testing role with the Scuderia was a good way of keeping in touch with the paddock (where you can be quickly forgotten once you've gone) and would be more useful than a season chugging around at the back of the field in a Caterham.
Vergne was speaking after his first day in his new role with the 16-time world champions and it's nothing less than you would expect. He's ambitious, has the talent and is still feeling raw after being unceremoniously dumped by Toro Rosso. The manner in which drivers can be discarded by that team is not to everyone's taste but those who go through Red Bull's driver programme know that its junior team exists solely to nurture new young talent. Sink or swim.
He quickly found a way of keeping busy over winter though when he signed up for the new FIA Formula E Championship. On his first race weekend at the Punta del Este ePrix in Uruguay he showed how quickly he got to grips with the new Formula by putting his electric Andretti car on pole and coming close to victory before being forced to settle for third. His second and final race in Argentina netted him eighth spot before Ferrari came calling to give him his F1 lifeline.
As Vergne remarked, he is still young and has the opportunity to resurrect his F1 career although with teenagers such as Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniel Kvyat snapping at older drivers' heels, he may find time is not completely on his side. But to replace Raikkonen is not beyond the realms of possibility and Ferrari clearly have some faith in his talent. What's more, Vergne is now in situ in Maranello and helping to develop the cars, a not insignificant role particularly as the team is desperate to return to winning ways after a long period in the wilderness.
The Frenchman made a rapid rise through the single-seater junior ranks, taking the British formula 3 title along the way as well as two Formula Renault runner-up places. What made these successes stand out was that they came in either his first or second seasons, demonstrating how quickly he learnt the disciplines. In his three years at Toro Rosso he improved his position in the drivers' championship every season and beat his team-mate in two of those years.
That included 2014 when the new regulations came into force that shook up the F1 grid. Vergne again showed his adaptability, finishing in the points seven times, including a superb sixth in the Singapore Grand Prix where he ran a superb race and overtook Nico Hulkenberg, Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas in the closing stages in spite of two time penalties.
Raikkonen, who it has been rumoured may give up his seat at the end of this year, has not been renowned for his development input. When it came to a race weekend, he was generally on the button but even that came into question more and more in recent seasons. He ended 2014 12th overall, his lowest F1 world championship position in a 12-year career and just one place ahead of Vergne albeit with more than double the number of points. His second stint at Ferrari has not been a success by any stretch of the imagination and once his contract ends, his position should be filled and the best-placed candidate for that is Vergne.Suggest a correction