The French driver started out as a test pilot with Toro Rosso in 2011, was promoted to the race seat the following season and has been competing for the team ever since. But over the course of his three years on the grid, he has yet to score a single podium finish or emerge from the back of the field. And in a tweet on his personal account, he's now revealed that he won't be staying with the team next season.
Despite a good season & 22 pts, I'll not drive anymore for Toro Rosso in 2015. Thanks for those years. Let's go for another big challenge.- Jean-Eric Vergne (@JeanEricVergne) November 26, 2014
Toro Rosso has already confirmed that newcomer Max Verstappen will take one of its race seats next season, but with the promotion of Daniil Kvyat to join fellow STR graduate Daniel Ricciardo and replace Vettel on the A-squad, the prevailing wisdom had the team keeping Vergne in place to lend some consistency and experience to its lineup. But the Toro Rosso has always existed as an avenue to bring new talent up through Red Bull's extensive driver training program and into F1.
The expectation at this point is that Toro Rosso will give Carlos Sainz, Jr. the vacant seat. If that name sounds familiar, that's because he's son of the former World Rally Championship star and an accomplished aspiring formula driver in his own right, winning the Formula Renault 3.5 Series title this year and performing admirably in the GP3 series, skipping over the GP2 ranks that have given F1 much of its new talent since its formulation a decade ago.
Just where Vergne will end up next remains to be seen. His career has focused entirely on getting into F1, but his record reveals he's failed to deliver better than sixth-place finishes at the 2013 Canadian and 2014 Singapore grands prix. Still, having made it into the world's top racing series in the first place and competed for three straight seasons, his talents will likely find him landing a seat in another high-profile racing series in short order.