Formula One 2013: Toro Rosso team report

toro_rossoTeam: Toro Rosso Ferrari (26 points, ninth 2012 constructor’s championship)

2012 Drivers: Jean-Eric Vergne (16 points, 17th in 2012 driver’s championship), Daniel Ricciardo (10 points, 18th in championship)

2013 Drivers: Jean-Eric Vergne (Car Number 18) and Daniel Ricciardo (19)

New Car: The STR8 is the first car designed by a new technical team poached from McLaren and Williams, and now under the direction of James Key, poached from Sauber last year (and so arguably responsible for one of the best cars of 2012).

Can Toro Rosso — Red Bull Juniors — join it all up? Well, it needs to. Ninth in last year’s championship and 17th and 18th for the drivers is effectively last. The only teams Toro Rosso beat were Caterham, Marussia and HRT (RIP).

Key’s come up with a new car and a new concept, last year’s car having been an evolution of a largely-spent 2011 idea. It’s very modish, undercut sidepods and a pinched little bum wrapped around an iddy-biddy gearbox casing. The idea is that there’s plenty of scope there to keep developing, only it’s hard to imagine the team opting to do so if the car starts the season off-the pace. Better to surely to have all those fresh brains thinking about 2014, surely?

What Toro Rosso says about its 2012 season: “Yes, I know if you put it in to Google Translate it says “Red Bull”, but…”

What Sunday Afternoon Club says about 2012: What’s the point of Toro Rosso if it’s just making up the numbers? I mean, did the drivers’ stock rise or fall in your eyes last year? Both came in to F1 with formula three championships, senior wins and some impressive lap times in the new driver tests. So, remembering what Vettel did in 2008 in a TR, we were looking for some magic yet we got it only once, in Bahrain where Ricciardo qualified sixth. Otherwise geeky-cool Ricciardo and smokey-cool Vergne just kind of disappeared. Ricciardo was a better qualifier, Vergne a better racer, neither the full nine yards. So we all scratched our heads and wondered whether they were any good in the first place? We can only assume Messers Horner and Newey and others on the Red Bull Seniors Selection Committee did the same. At least Mark Webber must be happy.

What Toro Rosso has to do to impress the Sunday Afternoon Club this year: If all that sounds a little negative, then let’s get it straight: we’d like to see TR and DR and JEV succeed this year. Maybe it’s the whole Italian thing and the Ferrari-engine. Maybe it’s the memory of Monza 2008 and that extraordinary win for Vettel. Or maybe we just like the idea of a Junior Team where there’s one hell of a prize on offer. Kind of like a giant F1 X Factor, only with a real prize for real talent.

If you pay any attention to testing… Okay, testing-schmesting, but Vergne (19th in the last four-day test in Barcelona) can’t have been happy to be keeping the Caterhams and the Marussias company again, as he did so often in 2012. Still, he was faster than Ricciardo (21st). Daniel will be very aware come Saturday that six cars will be eliminated in Q1 this year; two Marussias, two Caterhams, and…

Who are Toro Rosso really racing this year? We think the midfield group could well lose Mercedes to the leaders this year, so it’s Williams, Sauber and Force India that Toro Rosso are up against. Of that lot, we think Sauber are the lowest hanging. Ironic that, as any turn-around in TR’s fortune will be down to the engineer of Sauber’s success in 2012, James Key.

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