18 Vitantonio Liuzzi, 19 Scott Speed
Whatever anyone might tell you, indications are this has not been a happy team during the winter break. Neither Vitantonio Liuzzi nor Scott Speed had their contracts confirmed until very late, following harsh public criticism from co-owner Gerhard Berger. The Austrian suggested he had sought drivers of the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya and Mika Hakkinen as potential replacements, despite the fact that last season both the Italian and the American regularly upstaged their Red Bull siblings in a car that was one year older than their mounts. Perhaps not a conventional way to motivate people, though it was interesting to see in recent testing in Bahrain that in a short time both Toro Rosso pilots got their new cars going faster than the Red Bulls again.
Therein, of course, lies a tale, as Toro Rosso faces the same criticisms from rivals as Super Aguri that their new car breaks the rules by being based on another competitors. There are those who will tell you that the Adrian Newey-designed Red Bull RB3 and the Toro Rosso STR02 are separated only by their engines; the former has the Renault RS27, the latter Ferraris 056 V8. The team insist all is legal.
Watch this lot, however. Liuzzi is underrated and is determined to beat the Red Bull guys again; and Speed showed well against him in the second half of 2006. They both have a point to prove.
20 Christijan Albers, 21 Adrian Sutil
Testers: Fairuz Fauzy, Adrian Valles, Giedo van der Garde, Markus Winkelhock
First they were Jordan. Then, after gentle decline, they became Midland for an uncomfortable limbo period. Since Spyker took over late last year, this team have begun the long task of pulling themselves up by their boot straps.
Getting Mike Gascoyne on board as chief technical officer was a positive move - many believe Toyotas loss to be Spykers gain. Affectionately known as the Rottweiler in the paddock, there isnt an awful lot Gascoynes been able to do with the F8-VII given his relatively recent arrival, but he is a down-to-earth character who, appropriately, calls a spade a spade, and he will guide the engineering department, led by technical director James Key, down the right path.
With Ferrari engines for the first time, they will have good power and should have excellent reliability, giving Spyker the chance to progress. Of course it will be tough, but team principal Colin Kolles proved himself adept at keeping Jordan afloat when investment from Midland dried up and Andy Stevenson did a solid, unsung job as team manager.
On the driver front, Dutchman Christijan Albers will be the darling of team owners Michiel Mol and Victor Muller. He has shown reasonable speed and has the experience to make the most of his equipment. German rookie Adrian Sutil showed well against Lewis Hamilton in F3, and also impressed on his Friday test runs for Midland in 2006.
22 Takuma Sato, 23 Anthony Davidson
Tester: Sakon Yamamoto
Last year Super Aguri struggled along with a lashed up car, the faithful Takuma Sato and Japanese team mates Yuji Ide and Sakon Yamamoto. It was always going to be a tough season as they established themselves, but towards the end of the year, particularly in Brazil, improvements in their Bridgestone tyres enabled Sato to get in amongst the Spykers and Red Bulls. A teams second year is always harder than the first, but Super Aguri may prove the exception to that rule after a tough 2006 baptism. In 2007 things should only get better, given that they have had an awful lot more time to prepare for the new season, and that their ties with Honda are even stronger.
First, Sato gets what he needs: a team mate who can give him a hard time and keep him fully focused. Anthony Davidson played with Sato the role Dario Franchitti played to Jan Magnussen in their F3 days, but just as Franchitti went on to have the stronger career in the big leagues, so Davidson could yet get the upper hand. He is hugely experienced from all of his testing with Honda, in which he proved himself to be fast and reliable. He may yet gain the advantage over the mercurial Japanese racer.
Much will depend on how successful the teams new car is. Despite any protestations to the contrary, all the expectations are that the SA07 - to be launched on the Wednesday prior to the Australian Grand Prix - will be based heavily on Hondas 2006 RA106, and the RA807E engine will be strong.
The 2007 Team by Team Preview - part three 12 Mar 2007