Lacking longevity? Toro Rossos mid-season report 21 Aug 2012
Toro Rosso enjoyed one of their strongest starts to a season in years. With one of their drivers qualifying or finishing in the top ten at three of the four opening rounds, the Italian team were firmly in the mix. But somehow, somewhere, the STR7 lost its way and race by race they have tumbled down the order from sixth after Australia to their current lonely ninth, a full 40 points behind nearest rivals Force India. With a young, talented driver line-up, and the security of Red Bull backing, this team should surely be more than a buffer to the backmarkers. But at the moment, the car is letting the side down
Season in numbers
Constructors standings: 9th, 6 points
Drivers standings: Jean-Eric Vergne (17th, 4 points), Daniel Ricciardo (18th, 2 points)
Highest 2012 qualifying: 6th (Ricciardo, Bahrain)
Highest 2012 finish: 8th (Vergne, Malaysia)
The Ferrari-engined STR7 showed strong midfield promise in testing and Ricciardo and Vergnes successes in the early stages of the season, including Riccardos sixth-place on the grid in Bahrain and Vergnes eight-place finish in Malaysia, confirmed it. But its been downhill ever since for the Italian wing of the energy drink manufacturers F1 stronghold. Often failing to come close to the top-ten shootout and with at least one driver habitually missing out on even the Q2 cut, Toro Rosso have fallen into the no-mans land between the midfield and the 2010 newcomers. Its arguably only a matter of time before Caterham start to pressure for ninth in the constructors standings.
A training ground for young drivers hoping to prove their worth to sister team Red Bull, Toro Rosso may have a distinctive role to play on the grid, but its not one that prevents the team having ambitions of their own. As a result, the Toro Rosso garage and their well-established factory in Faenza boast a great deal of experience. However, there are reportedly changes afoot, with rumours that former Sauber man is set to replace Giorgio Ascanelli as technical director as the team switch focus to 2013.
Toro Rosso started the year with an all-new line-up after unceremoniously dropping previous incumbents Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari and installing promising Red Bull Young Driver scheme graduates Ricciardo and Vergne. Given their car, they have performed admirably, but even the ever cheerful Ricciardo couldnt be blamed for feeling just a little frustrated with the teams slip down the order. Neither man has scored points since the second round, but Vergne seems to be faring less well than his team mate, especially in qualifying, and has often been the one to fall out of Q1. His races have been much stronger, but there have been well-publicized mistakes - most notably his collision with Kovalainen in Valencia - which have dented his reputation and possibly knocked his confidence. Mark Webbers re-signing means there will be no step up to the Red Bull big time for 2013 and only time will tell whether theyve done enough to avert another cull ahead of next season, despite avowals from team management that they are pleased with the duos progress.
What they say: We cannot hide the fact that our performance level is currently not good enough to fight at the front of the midfield. Everyone in the team will be working hard to find some improvements to try and turn our season around in the remaining nine rounds of this very close championship. Franz Tost, Toro Rosso team principal
What we say: Theres much work to be done if the STR7 is to become a regular points contender like its 2011 predecessor.
For more pictures, check out Toro Rosso's 2012 team gallery.
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