|Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR5
After its fairytale victory at the 2008 Italian GP at the hands of Sebastian Vettel, the 2009 season saw Toro Rosso come back down to earth with a big thud, finishing last in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
Having soundly beaten its senior sister team, Red Bull, they reacted by prising the young German from the Faenza squad’s clutches, which coincided with a consierable decline in fortunes for the team formerly known as Minardi.
Part of the problem lay that the team’s drivers, Sébastien Buemi, Sébastien Bourdais and later Jaime Alguersuari were not in Vettel’s league. Bourdais, in particular, looked completely out of his depth and disinterested at his prospects, and was rightly shown the door after a lacklustre season – again, cementing the stigma that US-based open-wheeled successes do not translate to the same results in F1.
Another factor that hurt the little team was that the upgrades used to great effect on the senior Red Bull outfit took too long to filter down to Toro Rosso, and its relative lack of resources meant it took longer to make these upgrades work properly.
Only once the latest-spec double diffuser came on board in the latter stages of the season did Toro Rosso really start to threaten to move away from the tail of the field. At Suzuka, the team looked a sure bet for a serious points haul, but the inexperience (read: overexcitement) of Buemi and Alguersuari saw both cars embedded in the Armco on several occasions, which resulted in zero points and an almighty repair bill.
The 2010 season is going to be very interesting for Toro Rosso.
With the use of shared chassis now banned, the team has had to come up with the resources to design and build its own chassis for the first time in its current incarnation. With the RB5/STR4 being a useful base on which to design and construct a new chassis, they have developed a car which doesn’t bear too many dissimilarities to its predecessor. However, it also bears quite a few similarities to the 2010 RB6… Is there still some input from the senior team?
What this has resulted in is a useful chassis with which to work; much of this has been evident in pre-season testing where both Buemi and Alguersuari have appeared at the sharp end of the timesheets. It will be interesting to see how the STR5 compares with the RB6; the STR5 has a Ferrari powertrain for one. How the team copes financially, operationally and strategically will really set the tone, in addition to how its still-relatively-inexperienced drivers are able to utilise the car’s evident potential on the circuits.
Buemi started and ended his 2009 campaign with back-to-back points’ finishes, and he will be hoping to sustain that form throughout a full season. The young Swiss driver proved a pleasant and welcome addition to the paddock, and impressed many with his potential on the track. Alguersuari has finally had the opportunity to complete a lot of testing mileage – indeed, Toro Rosso was among the teams that completed the most mileage in pre-season testing – and this will do him no end of good after being drafted in with no testing at the Hungarian GP last year. However, he will need to start stepping up to the plate and occasionally out-pacing Buemi if he wants to retain his seat in F1. His confirmation occurred very late, which would indicate some reluctance on STR’s part to retain him, but he has potential and needs to have it developed in a supporting environment if he wants to succeed.
Toro Rosso has publically stated it is targeting 6th place in the Constructors’ Championship. With the equipment at its disposal and two hungry drivers to boot, that could be a realistic target if all goes well and the drivers can keep the cars out of the barriers. The team cannot afford to throw away points’ opportunities like it so clearly did at Suzuka.
- Funding (and perhaps technical?) support from the Red Bull parent company
- Technical Director Giorgio Ascanelli – he used to be Ayrton Senna’s engineer and is highly regarded for being able to maximise a car’s potential
- Throwing away points’ opportunities. STR was the only team to post a double retirement in the same race, and did it on three separate occasions in 2009. It can’t be repeated.
- Jaime Alguersuari: signed late and question marks still remain if making his debut at just 19 years’ age was a wise move. Time will tell…
- Just how long is parent company Red Bull going to finance two F1 operations, or will it continue to exist as a feeder team for the more established sister outfit?
What defines success in 2010?
- Target regular points’ finishes and improve the DNF record.
- Manage the limitations of its resources cleverly and keep pace with its rivals on the development front.