Jean-Eric VergneJean-Eric Vergne endured a tough outing in Monaco this weekend, in round seven of the Formula Renault 3.5 season. The Red Bull Junior had a tough qualifying session on Saturday which compromised his weekend, and was handed a 10 second penalty in this afternoon’s race which put him out of the points for the first time this season. Despite his bad luck, Vergne retains the championship lead from team mate Robert Wickens.

Vergne made the most of Thursday’s practice session to familiarise himself with the Monaco circuit on his first visit to the Principality. Just minutes after finishing practice 14th, the Frenchman was in a helicopter on his way to Nice airport in order to get a flight back to the UK where he was due to help Red Bull Racing with simulator work for the Monaco F1 Grand Prix.

Having returned safely to Monaco on Friday night, Vergne took part in Saturday’s qualifying session. In order to reduce the issue of traffic around the twisting circuit, the FR3.5 drivers were split into two groups for qualifying. With the qualifying groups made up by odd or even numbered cars based on championship positions, championship leader Vergne took to the track in Group A which qualified first. Vergne qualified sixth in his group, but in the unusual Monaco qualifying system which alternates grid positions between the two groups, that put him 11th on the grid.

Starting from 11th, Vergne had his work cut out ahead of round seven today. At the start, Vergne found himself boxed in and forced to the inside at the first corner. The Carlin driver was forced to cut the first corner slightly in order to avoid a collision. Vergne gradually made his way through the field as the race progressed, moving up to eighth at the mid way point.

Vergne’s fortunes were about to take a turn for the worse as his team informed him of a ten second penalty for cutting the first corner. The problem was compounded soon after when the safety car came out on track bunching up the field. A second safety car period just a few laps later closed up the field once again, with the pack running almost nose to tail.

With his penalty applied after the race, Vergne was classified 14th and out of the points for the first time this season.

Q. How did you first experience of Monaco go?

A. Its not really a weekend I want to remember to be honest. I just missed out on a last lap in qualifying and that really compromised my whole weekend. If you don’t qualify at the front you know you going you’re going to have a tough race.

Q. Was it a distraction going back to the UK in between practice and qualifying?

A. I don’t think it had a negative effect really. Because of the unusual schedule in Monaco we effectively had a day off on Friday, so I didn’t miss anything by going back to the UK. It’s a privilege to be able to help Red Bull Racing, so it’s not an opportunity that I would ever want to turn down anyway.

Q. How important is qualifying in Monaco?

A. Its extremely important. Qualifying is always key to your weekend, but in Monaco, which is so tight and narrow, it’s essential that you have a good qualifying session. I don’t think there were any overtaking manoeuvres in the Formula Renault 3.5 race today that didn’t result in an accident.

Q. What positives can you take away from this weekend?

A. Its been a tough weekend of sure, but at the end of the day I’m still leading the championship. This is the first weekend so far that I haven’t scored points, so hopefully we have got all our bad luck out of the way this weekend. I’m just focusing on the next race.