2007 Team Review - Toro Rosso 12 Nov 2007
Toro Rossos 2007 campaign was by and large a tale of two halves. During the opening stages internal wrangling, multiple retirements and a distinct lack of pace dominated the headlines. But by the seasons close, there were reasons to celebrate and a bright future to look forward to.
Given they had an Adrian Newey-designed chassis, Ferrari power and a stable line-up, those barren early races had come of something of a shock for the Italian squad. On paper, Toro Rosso looked as if they should challenge their better-funded sister team Red Bull as they had done a year before.
Scott Speed and Vitantonio Liuzzi had stayed on to compete for a second year, though confirmation of this came very late and only after team co-owner Gerhard Berger had publically criticised both. It didnt make for the happiest of teams and on top of this there was another controversy to contend with.
The teams choice of chassis had caused consternation in some parts, and accusations that the team were running an almost exact copy of Red Bulls RB3 proved distracting and potentially damaging. Surprisingly though, it was the STR02, and not the Renault-powered Red Bull, that looked most promising during pre-season testing.
In Melbourne, however, neither Liuzzi nor Speed made much of an impression. Indeed only the Italian made it to the finish line and then only in 14th. For Toro Rosso that first race would mark the start of a long period of scarce results and poor reliability, and at the sixth round of the season in Montreal the team recorded their fourth double DNF.
There were some positives - Liuzzis qualifying form for one - the Italian making it into Q2 five times during those early stages. But without reliability, for the team to finish a race was rare, and to make it into a point-scoring position looked nigh on impossible. Even the long-awaited arrival of a seamless-shift gearbox seemed only to compound the teams strife.
By mid-season they had been eclipsed by Super Aguri and the teams morale melted away. With no upbeat results to distract, relations between drivers and management were at best strained, at worst impossible. It was perhaps inevitable that blame would be apportioned and it was Speed who bore the brunt. After a rather too public row at the European Grand Prix, the American was replaced by bright new hope Sebastian Vettel, who had already impressed by scoring a point standing in for Robert Kubica at BMW Sauber.
Did the change help? Not at first maybe, but as the young German found his feet, there were marked improvements. No doubt aided by advances in the STR02s reliability, Vettel was clearly the breath of fresh air the team needed. His arrival certainly acted as a wake-up call for Liuzzi, who quickly raised his game. It proved too little too late for the Italian, however, and news broke he would be replaced by four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais in 2008.
In Japan, the squad looked set to score their first podium, but a mistake by Vettel saw him crash into the back of Mark Webbers Red Bull while running third. A point for Liuzzi for eighth place also proved fleeting, after the FIA decided he had overtaken under yellow flags.
The teams disappointment, however, only lasted a week and at the penultimate round in China the team bounced back with a vengeance. Vettel moved up 13 places on his grid slot to finish fourth, while Liuzzi crossed the line in sixth. The haul of eight points - the teams best ever from a single race - elevated them to seventh in the constructors championship and there they remained, a two-place improvement on 2006.