The new machine will be powered by Renault’s new 1.6 litre, turbo power unit and brings the Italian squad in line with sister team Red Bull, Toro Rosso having used Ferrari engines for the last seven years.
“It has been a fantastic challenge but very hard work,” said Toro Rosso’s chief designer Luca Furbatto in reference to 2014’s wide-ranging rule changes. “Pretty much all the systems on the car are brand-new and that’s certainly a concern from a reliability point of view as the season progresses, because we won’t have known reference points from the past few years.
“Everyone in Faenza and Bicester has worked very hard and we have invested in different technologies and simulations in order to be as best-prepared as possible.”
Work on the STR9 began in the summer of 2012, initially purely on the simulation side. Current technical director James Key joined the team late that year and focused mainly on the 2014 car in terms of planning, simulation targets and internal resourcing. Toro Rosso were able to perform the first STR9 wind tunnel test shortly before Christmas 2012, much earlier than the team’s previous projects.
“The aero side was by far our biggest priority, as we wanted to put that department into a much more current and competitive shape,” said Key. “Over the past 12 months, we’ve been working on increasing the size of the aerodynamics department. It’s grown significantly, and we now have many new people with very relevant F1 experience.”
On the engine side, Toro Rosso announced their new agreement with Renault at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix and work between the two parties began immediately in order to ensure as smooth as transition as possible.
“Changing your engine partner is always a bit of a step into the unknown for both parties, until that working relationship is established and everyone understands how best to operate together,” commented Key. “Renault were very supportive from the outset, making sure we had a very good overview of what they’ve been up to with the PU [power unit] and their plans for development, so we were able to get up to speed very quickly with it.
“To switch from a process where you’ve got a well-established and understood way of working with the previous engine supplier to a situation where you have not only a new engine supplier but also a totally different type of power unit that we’re not familiar with at all, is quite a big leap. Not only are you trying to establish the relationship, you’re doing it through what is a very complex project for both sides. I have to say, Renault has been excellent at recognising that and helping us out a great deal. They are very proactive and we have daily discussions between our design team and theirs. We have already built up a good working relationship with them.”
Toro Rosso finished a slightly disappointing eighth in the 2013 constructors’ championship and the team’s build-up to March’s season opener in Melbourne will include not only the specific tasks of testing the STR9, but also the continuation of improvements to their factory infrastructure and working practices.
“As far as the team is concerned, the summary is it’s a work in progress,” concluded Key. “We were quicker than the points scored suggested in 2013, if you could look behind the numbers, but we didn’t make the most of our opportunities. Therefore, we’re putting all our efforts into ensuring we have a better situation for this year.”
The STR9 will test for the first time at Jerez on Tuesday with Vergne at the wheel, alongside the new cars from all teams bar Lotus.