Scuderia Toro Rosso has become the fourth team to officially unveil its 2014 F1 challenger, the STR9, at a launch ceremony in the Jerez pit lane on the eve of pre-season testing.
While the likes of McLaren, Ferrari and Sauber have gone with online unveilings of their respective cars, Toro Rosso opted for a more traditional launch with an open invitation to the sport’s journalists and photographers at the Spanish circuit.
The car has been designed under the leadership of the team’s technical director James Key and chief designer Luca Furbatto.
For the first time in the team’s history, the car will be powered by Renault’s new V6 turbo engine, mirroring the engine partnership enjoyed by its senior ‘sister’ team, Red Bull Racing. The alliance will no doubt allow for closer links to its championship-winning Red Bull team as the sport greets a new era of major regulation change.
“In 2012, we began a concept study for STR9, the earliest we have ever started a new car project, As time went by, more and more of our staff were involved in the project, as we invested a lot of effort and resources, both technical and financial into the design of the new car,” team principal Franz Tost said.
“In 2014 the key parameters for success will be finding the best balance between deploying the power of the engine and managing the 100kg fuel limit per race, the use of the two energy recovery systems and, just as in the past, the tyres. Apart from the new rules, at Toro Rosso we have also had to adapt to a new engine partner and we are looking forward to working with Renault.”
Following the common design trait seen so far, the STR9 – which will be powered by Renault’s turbo engine for the first time – sports a striking ‘proboscis’ nose rather reminiscent of the nose tip run by Sauber in 1995.
The STR9 sports larger sidepods than its predecessor – a necessity given the additional cooling required for this year’s new powerplants – but the rear end is still tightly packaged with distinctive ‘coke bottle’ sculpting.
From a sponsorship and livery standpoint, the STR9’s colour scheme remains almost identical to previous years, with the hand-painted red bull on the engine cover being the car’s traditional feature.
The usual sponsors have remained on board – the Emirati-owned CEPSA and NOVA Chemicals remain prominent – while Falcon Bank (owned by the same parent company as CEPSA and NOVA) seems to have made way for a new sponsor: Sapinda, an internationally operating investment company based out of Europe.
The Renault-powered car will be driven by Jean-Éric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat.
For Vergne, this will mark his third year – and in the eyes of many, a make-or-break season – for the Frenchman, who was overlooked in favour of teammate Daniel Ricciardo for a promotion to the senior Red Bull team in the wake of Mark Webber’s retirement.
The Frenchman will be joined by Russian teenager Daniil Kvyat, who was something of a surprise choice from Red Bull’s junior driver ranks. Kvyat had two Friday practice outings with the team at the final two Grands Prix last year, and was quickly on the pace.
Toro Rosso finished a rather distant eighth in last year’s Constructors’ Championship standings, regularly challenging for the lower reaches of the points without ever really threatening to claim a shock result.
Last year’s car provided to be something of a better qualifier than a racer (13 top-ten grid results compared with ten points’ finishes), compounded further by some sometimes odd tyre strategies that cost it further point-scoring opportunities.
While the switch to Renault power aligns it with ‘big brother’ for the first time since 2006, the intra-team battle between Vergne and Kvyat will prove to be one of the most fascinating fights this year.
Images via Scuderia Toro Rosso, XPB