Jean-Éric Vergne: 'I hate losing far more than I like winning'

Jean-Éric Vergne: 'I hate losing far more than I like winning'

30-09-2023 16:53 Last update: 16:54

Ludo van Denderen

Almost certainly, with Stoffel Vandoorne and Jean-Éric Vergne, DS Penske has the strongest line-up in Formula E. Despite two world champions within their ranks, the 2023 season ended in a major deception. Ahead of the test days at the end of October, the two former F1 drivers' main hope is that things will be a lot better in 2024. "My motivation is greater than ever," he said.

Jean-Éric Vergne - a former Red Bull protégé and racing three seasons for Toro Rosso - is a delightful interlocutor for journalists. The Frenchman is averse to PR talk and always says what he thinks. For example, after the 2023 concluding ePrix' in London, the 33-year-old veteran grumbled about 'a humiliation', referring to a crash and a day later a 22nd (and final) place in race two. They are words that stick, words a team does not like to hear from one of its drivers.

Vergne struggled at DS Penske

A few months later, Vergne stresses that at the time he was referring purely to that weekend in London. Still, the Frenchman did have a bitter taste after the season. He did finish in fifth place in the championship, with a single win (in India). Otherwise, it was mainly thanks to his consistency that Vergne still finished relatively high in the championship. Proof that steadily racking up points can go a long way, but three podium finishes in 16 races does not fit the status of a two-time Formula E champion and the ambitions of DS Penske. The team led by Jay Penske was simply not fast enough.

"Of course, I cannot say that I was happy with last season, especially after winning two championships and quite a few victories and podiums in Formula E," Vergne said during a media interview with, among others, GPblog. "To be struggling like we have been is definitely not pleasant. It's what it is. I think we have a huge amount of work."

'DS Penske the underdog'

One drawback for Formula E teams is that only a limited number of parts can be modified in the mid-season. Nothing can be changed to the concept of the Gen3 car, for example. The 'software', however, can. Fortunately for Vergne, this can certainly make a difference. "Are we going to be able to fix all the issues that we found? I cannot tell you that. I think only the results will be able to show the answer to that question. Motivation is higher than ever. You were asking how do I find the motivation or what motivates me. As you may know, I hate losing far more than I like winning. I just don't want to lose anymore."

"I think we have to be realistic. We have tough competition. They didn't go on holiday and do nothing. We can expect that the top teams will be even stronger next season. We have to double the amount of work that we have to produce if we want to catch them and beat them. It's not going to be easy. It's clear that we are the underdogs this year, but it's not a bad situation as long as we can improve and we can win," Vergne said.

Vandoorne 'never wants to go through this again'

Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne switched from the disbanded Mercedes team to DS Penske after the 2022 season, wearing the start number one as a permanent reminder of his just-won Formula E world title. Instead of a serious chance of prolonging that championship, a fourth-place finish was the 'highlight' of his season. Only finishing 11th, the former McLaren F1 driver said:

"Last season was very tough and not something I want to live again. In those moments when things are tough, it's easy to point fingers at each other. But that's not what we're here for. We're here to progress and to move forward," Vandoorne said. "I think it's important to have that continuity. For me, it was the first year in the team. I think it's important to build on that relationship. I've now established a good relationship with everyone, with the engineers and all the new people in the team. I think we're going to grow from here."