Jean-Eric Vergne believes his new Toro Rosso deal proves the team has faith that he can deliver much more than he has in his Formula 1 rookie season so far.
Frenchman Vergne carried great momentum into F1 after winning the 2010 British Formula 3 crown and then coming close to the '11 Formula Renault 3.5 title. But his rookie F1 season has been mixed. Three eighth places are the highlights of a year in which Vergne has also been eliminated in Q1 in eight of his 18 grands prix and been given a 10-place penalty for a dangerous move on Heikki Kovalainen in Valencia.
Although the team has not been shy about abruptly ditching drivers in the past, firing Scott Speed and Sebastien Bourdais midseason in 2007 and '09, respectively, and dropping both Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari at the end of last year, Vergne is sure his new contract is an endorsement of his long-term potential.
"It shows that the team trust us and our capacity – and especially mine – to still grow and to improve," he said. "My trend during the season is like this and I still have the feeling I can improve a lot, and the team knows it. That shows how confident we can be for next year.
"It is a boost, and now we can really focus on the last races of the season and try to do our best."
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner emphasized in Abu Dhabi that Vergne and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, also re-signed for 2013, still had a shot at emulating Sebastian Vettel's move from Toro Rosso to the senior team if they impressed next year. But Vergne said he was not taking the prospect of a Red Bull seat seriously yet.
"Everything is possible. It would be a dream to drive for Red Bull one day, that's for sure," he said. "But we're still in 2012 and there is a full season [at Toro Rosso] next year. So to be honest I'm not really thinking about 2014."