2011 Season Preview – Toro Rosso

Team Name : Scuderia Toro Rosso

Location : Faenza, Italy

Team Principal : Franz Tost

Technical Director : Giorgio Ascanelli

Drivers : Sebastian Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari

Chassis : STR6

Engine : Ferrari

First Season : 2006

Races Entered : 89

Pole Positions : 1

Race wins : 1

Points scored in 2010 : 13

World Championships : 0

The erstwhile Minardi team became Squadra Toro Rosso in 2006 after Red Bull bought the team from Paul Stoddart. Since then they’ve had a roller-coaster ride in terms of success although they’re yet to truly graduate to the midfield battle. Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed raced for the team in its first season but since then four other drivers have driven for the team, including current World Champion Sebastian Vettel.

The team moved up the championship ladder rather well in the first three years, culminating in a deeply impressive 6th place in 2008, ahead of the more fancied big brother Red Bull Racing. It must be noted that, both Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso bought their chassis from Red Bull Technology, and even though the teams used different engines, and had different development programs, one could be forgiven for thinking it was an unfair advantage. F1 rules demand that each team own the intellectual property to the design of their cars and after much deliberation the FIA decided that teams must design their own chassis from 2010 onwards.

This decision, coupled with Sebastian Vettel’s departure to the senior Red Bull team has seen Toro Rosso’s performance graph plummet steeply. From 6th in 2008 they went to dead last in 2009 and were able to beat only the three new teams in 2010. While part of that can be explained by the fact that the team was not used to building a competitive chassis on its own, and will probably get better in the years to come, it still is a gigantic gap to its sister team.

Strangely the drop in performance also coincides with Gerhard Berger leaving the team – and I suspect Franz Tost’s inability to take the squad forwards and Dietrich Mateschitz losing interest in his lesser team contributed to the slide. The team has been more or less a young driver testing platform for Red Bull, and the chop-and-change driver selection policy means the development of the car will never be linear.

Of the current drivers, Sebastian Buemi has been disappointing of late, and with Daniel Ricciardo waiting in the wings, it’s only a matter of time until we see a driver change. Alguersuari has shown promise – his performance has improved noticeably over the past year and he ought to be retained.

This year’s STR6 has caused a flutter while testing – with it’s radical twin-floor concept and impressive pace, Toro Rosso could surprise a lot of people in 2011. Considering this is the same team that honed the 2008 challenger to the point where it won a race on merit, a good baseline car will make the midfield fight a lot more complicated. What the team really needs though, is an experienced driver to guide the technical team in the design of the car – and more importantly, a stable driver line-up. Given a mix of experience and youth in its driver selection, a well designed chassis at the start and good reliability, this team has what it takes to beat the big boys. Until then, it’s Q2 on saturday and lower midfield on sunday. I really can’t see that changing in 2011.


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