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Lacking longevity? Toro Rosso's mid-season report 21 Aug 2012

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7./
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 28 July 2012 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Race, Hockenheim, Germany, Sunday, 22 July 2012 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Preparations, Hockenheim, Germany, Thursday, 19 July 2012 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 29 July 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 Vergne’s successes in the early stages of the season, including Riccardo’s sixth-place on the grid in Bahrain and Vergne’s eight-place finish in Malaysia, confirmed it. But it’s been downhill ever since for the Italian wing of the energy drink manufacturer’s 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-man’s land between the midfield and the 2010 newcomers. It’s 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 it’s 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 couldn’t be blamed for feeling just a little frustrated with the team’s 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 Webber’s re-signing means there will be no step up to the Red Bull big time for 2013 and only time will tell whether they’ve done enough to avert another cull ahead of next season, despite avowals from team management that they are pleased with the duo’s 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: There’s 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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