Despite it only happening in 2008, it must feel like a lifetime ago when one remembers the Toro Rosso team – the nursery team for prospective Red Bull Racing drivers – thumped its bigger sister, even beating it to its maiden win at the Italian Grand Prix.
But the momentum only lasted so long, and in 2009 the team came crashing down to earth in the realms of the lower midfield.
Part of that problem was the loss of Sebastian Vettel to Red Bull, but the team is still a small, low-budget Italian team trying to compete with much bigger kids in the sandpit…
Toro Rosso’s 2010 track record
One of the biggest challenges the team faced was having to start building its own cars once again, with the 2010 season marking the beginning of new regulations banning customer chassis’.
Its 2010 STR5 challenger was very much influenced on what the team had as a customer chassis the year before, and it generally showed in a car that enjoyed little in the way of major developments.
Initially eschewing the ‘F-duct’ bandwagon on the grounds of cost, it eventually plumped for the drag-saving device, but couldn’t get it to work and so it never raced.
The other operational challenge is in the driver line-up, which is an area the team has seemingly – at times – been willing to change quite readily. In fact, the team has never gone two seasons without a change in at least one driver.
The pressure is then on its two young charges: Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, who will both be expected to deliver better results and more consistently.
Alguersuari grew steadily in his first full season at the top, and earned plaudits for some good driving and overtaking. Buemi had his moments as well – most notably in Canada, where he briefly led the race – but his form faded dramatically in the latter half of the season.
Team management has made it clear that it won’t be so patient any more, and the signing of Daniel Ricciardo as the team’s Friday test and reserve driver will have both Buemi and Alguersuari looking over their shoulders.
The team needs a serious technical breakthrough if it wants to vault itself clear of the midfield, but it will be dissatisfied if can’t achieve more regular points finishes in 2011.
Watch the Richard’s F1 pre-season vodcast as Richard and Jen argue that Toro Rosso could be the dark horse of the 2011 F1 season:
[Images via Toro Rosso; video via Matt Lennon]
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