2006 Team Review - Toro Rosso 08 Nov 2006
Born out of Minardi, Toro Rosso set the standard for the back markers in 2006. Co-owned by Red Bull and veteran Formula One driver Gerhard Berger, the Italian-based squad started the season as Red Bull Racings poor relation but ended it almost on par with their higher-ranking sister team.
After bolstering Minardis previous set-up, Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost signed two exciting young talents to take care of the driving. Vitantonio Liuzzi, who had made four race appearances for Red Bull in 2005, and GP2 star Scott Speed, who had won Red Bulls American driver search in 2001, were both graduates of the Austrian energy drink companys Junior Team. With an average age of just 23, it was a bold line-up.
Toro Rosso arrived in Bahrain amid a blaze of publicity, with their quick - if inexperienced - drivers and a gaggle of Formula Unas girls in tow. Controversially, in a year when V10s were outlawed in favour of V8s, the team had the FIAs special permission to run a rev-limited Cosworth V10 - a hang-up from their days as the modest Minardi team. Many - not least nearest rivals Midland - argued that the V10 represented an unfair advantage for the now cash-rich Toro Rosso squad, though no official protests were ever lodged.
It soon became clear that the advantage of the V10 was negligible and in the end the performance of Toro Rossos young drivers and the agility of the STR1 chassis caused more concerns for the teams rear-of-the-grid rivals. Respectable qualifying times saw a Toro Rosso in P12 on three occasions during the first seven events and, while race results proved more elusive, Speed and Liuzzis mature drives saw a Toro Rosso make occasional inroads into the midfield.
Despite the positive results, reservations about the young line-up rematerialized from time to time - not least in Australia when Speeds carelessness cost the team a debut point. After finishing an impressive eighth, Speed was deemed to have ignored yellow flags while overtaking David Coulthard and received a 25-second penalty, which pushed him down to ninth and led to a widely publicised run-in with his Red Bull stable mate. It would instead fall to Liuzzi to break Toro Rossos championship duck in style after withstanding Nico Rosbergs Williams to take eighth at Indianapolis.
Not content with outperforming the likes of Midland and Super Aguri, Toro Rosso also took on the challenge of sister squad Red Bull. They suffered only eight retirements to Red Bulls 12 and would also periodically beat their counterparts on performance. Most notably, Liuzzi bettered both Coulthard and Robert Doornbos to reach the second qualifying session in Japan - lapping almost half a second quicker than the RB2s.
After leaving behind their humble beginnings as Minardi and scoring their first point - and securing Ferrari power for 2007 - Toro Rosso look to have claimed a firm foothold in the midfield for next years title fight.
More 2006 team reviews - Renault, Ferrari, McLaren, Honda, BMW Sauber, Toyota, Red Bull, Williams, Spyker MF1 and Super Aguri.