With Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne on Friday testing duty at Toro Rosso during the season, the pressure was on the team’s regular drivers to deliver in 2011.
This produced one of the most intriguing intra-team battles of the season. It began at the first corner of the first lap of the first race, as Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari made contact.
Over the course of the year Buemi generally held the upper hand in qualifying. Alguersuari seemed ill-suited to the new tyres at first and after six races Buemi had scored all the teams’ points.
Alguersuari was not the only driver to be troubled by tyre degradation on the new Pirellis early in the season. But by focussing on his race set-up, often at the expense of qualifying performance, gradually he got on top of the problem and started to deliver.
This produced some remarkable runs from the lower reaches of the grid into the points. Alguersuari finish eighth having started from the pits in Canada. He was eighth in Valencia from 18th on the grid and continued his trend of reaching the points from 18th on the grid at Silverstone and Monza.
|Best race result (number)||7 (2)|
|Best grid position (number)||6 (1)|
|Non-finishes (mechanical/other)||8 (5/3)|
|Laps completed (% of total)||1,957 (86.36%)|
|Laps led (% of total)||0 (0%)|
|Championship position (2010)||8th (9th)|
|Championship points (2010)||41 (13)|
|Pit stop performance ranking||9th|
His team mate proved capable of similar feats when they were required of him, rising from 23rd on the grid in Hungary to finish eighth. This was off the back of a poor weekend in Germany where he’d collected a grid penalty for pushing Nick Heidfeld off the track.
The Belgian Grand Prix promised much for the team, with Alguersuari starting a career-best sixth. But he was hit by Bruno Senna at the first corner, ending his race.
In the closing stages of the season it looked as though Toro Rosso were poised to surge past Sauber and Force India to claim sixth in the constructors’ championship – far ahead of their pre-season target of eighth.
An exhaust-blown diffuser upgrade introduced at Suzuka was key to the team’s surge in performance. The following race in Korea brought their best result since the 2009 Australian Grand Prix, Alguersuari seventh and Buemi ninth.
But reliability problems frustrated the team at this late stage. Buemi was particularly hard done by. He retired when a wheel came off his car after a pit stop at Suzuka, had an engine failure in India and a hydraulics failure in Abu Dhabi.
This ended Buemi’s hopes of beating his team mate and, more importantly, meant the team stayed behind Force India and Sauber in eighth place. That satisfied their pre-season target but team principal Franz Tost admitted his disappointment at not finishing higher.
Nonetheless the team had clearly made progress since last year as it continues to develop its technical department. Further new recruits have been announced for 2012 in the shape of Luca Furbatto and Jon Tomlinson as Toro Rosso continues its conversion from Red Bull chassis customers to full-blown constructors.
But with four drivers vying for a place in F1 next year it will be a fascinating off-season for Toro Rosso.
2011 F1 season review
- The 2011 F1 season: The complete F1 Fanatic review
- Your 2011 F1 predictions revisited
- 2011 F1 statistics part 3: Stats and facts highlights
- 2011 F1 statistics part two: Vettel’s domination
- 2011 F1 statistics part one: car performance
- New 2011 rules produced best racing of last four years
- What F1 Fanatics really thought of the 2011 season
- Sebastian Vettel voted F1 Fanatic Driver of the Year
- F1 Fanatic’s article highlights of 2011
- Dominant Red Bull join F1’s top teams
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