All change at Toro Rosso, the Red Bull kindergarten

2012 F1 season preview

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Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo take over at Toro Rosso

Dropping Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari for Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne sent a crystal-clear message about Toro Rosso’s purpose in F1.

This is not a team with its own ambitions of winning races and championships. This is Red Bull’s nursery.

The dropping of Buemi and Alguersuari surprised some, but their stints of three- and two-and-a-half years respectively meant they spent longer with the team than many of their predecessors.

Vitantonio Liuzzi had two seasons before being dropped, Scott Speed a year and a half and Sebastien Bourdais the same.

Sebastian Vettel also spent a year and a half at Toro Rosso – before his promotion to Red Bull. At Toro Rosso you either move up or move out.

Having the least experienced driver line-up in the sport is, therefore, familiar territory for the team.

With that in mind, what can their latest pairing expect to achieve in 2012?

Car 16: Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo started 11 races last year

Compared to his team mate, Daniel Ricciardo has the advantage of having spent the second half of last year in F1, driving for HRT.

While it’s difficult to draw judgements about any driver in such an uncompetitive car, Ricciardo looked good up against his more experienced team mates.

Ricciardo and Vergne have performed very similarly in the junior categories so far. But Ricciardo’s extra experience in the top flight – however small it may be – should give him an edge.

But, like his team mate, he is unfamiliar with many of the tracks which host the opening races.

Car 17: Jean-Eric Vergne

Jean-Eric Vergne was previously Ricciardo's team mate in 2008

Jean-Eric Vergne is one of only two drivers with no previous F1 starts to his name who will be on the grid in Melbourne.

He made a rapid ascent through the junior formulae and narrowly missed out on winning the Formula Renault 3.5 championship in his first full season last year.

Vergne is Toro Rosso’s eighth different driver in seven years.

For more on Toro Rosso’s new driver line-up, see the guide to the rookies of 2012:

Toro Rosso STR7

Toro Rosso’s transition from Red Bull customer car team to full constructor has required them to expand their design team.

Their work began to bear fruit towards the end of last year when the STR6 became a regular points contender.

As is the case with many of the midfield teams, the STR7 looks like a straightforward evolution of last year’s car, plus a stepped nose.

The STR7 has run well in testing

The team felt last year’s car was not well-suited to running an exhaust-blown diffuser. But new rules limiting exhaust-blowing have encouraged them to stick with their concept for 2012.

One of the stand-out features of the STR6, the deep undercut in its sidepods and ‘double-foor’ effect, has been carried over to the new car.

Technical director Giorgio Ascanelli said: “We have done something which should allow even more of an undercut on the sidepods, aimed at getting a better streamlining of the rear car.

“In simple terms, we have made a shorter chassis, with a larger distance between the engine and the gearbox, so that the car can be thinner and more streamlined.”

Toro Rosso use the Ferrari engine and drivetrain and have therefore followed their fellow Italian team in adopting pull-rod rear suspension.

But how much progress they make with the new car will be strongly influenced by the loss of continuity in the driver line-up. A repeat of their 2008 heroics is too much to hope for even if it turns out they’ve got the next Vettel in their squad.

Toro Rosso’s championship form

Championship position9761098

Toro Rosso in 2012: Your view

How do you think Toro Rosso will perform in 2012? Will their rookie line-up hurt their chances of competing with the midfield teams?

Have your say in the comments.

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Images © Red Bull/Getty images, F1 Fanatic/Jamey Price

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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55 comments on “All change at Toro Rosso, the Red Bull kindergarten”

  1. Wow, pulling no punches Keith. I like it!

    1. Same impression here. The title alone conveys strong feelings from what is normaly a very mild mannered site. I totally agree with everything written, but wow, lots of pressure release here !

    2. @McLarenFanJamm @Tango I don’t think it’s particularly controversial guys, they’ve said themselves in the past their role is to suss out potential future Red Bull drivers.

  2. I dont understand why you say they are not interested in winning races

    1. I Love The Pope
      8th March 2012, 13:44

      Maybe because they have already admitted that they are a “proving ground” for future Red Bull drivers? Perhaps I’m wrong, but consigning oneself to be a “B-Squad” to another team would say that they are not interested in winning.

      And, as such, I have no interest in this team. There is no chance that Rouge Bovine would ever allow their junior squad to seriously contend for the title. If by some miracle they actually were beating Red Bull, I believe Dietrich and Helmut would yank their car away from them and give it to Seb.

      1. They have actually outperformed RBR during one season; 2008 I believe, and I can’t recall RBR being neither happy or sad about it

        1. They employed the driver that won that race, I think that says something about their intentions!

        2. Actually they were a little upset, complained that the Renault was clearly underpowered, and as a result the Renault engine was allowed an upgrade at the end of the year.

    2. Their job is to provide drivers and staff with experience to work for Red Bull. Their job is not to contend with Red Bull for points.

      I feel sorry for the people actually running this team, if it wasn’t for the Red bull paid handicap, they could be a great squad I think,

      1. Agreed. Sauber, Force India and Williams aren’t much more sucessful, but at least they’re trying hard to achieve something and move forward. Toro Rosso is just there to provide for Red Bull.

        1. In my book they have less role in F1 than HRT does. A team with no ambitions shouldn’t be in F1.

  3. I don’t like Toro Rosso, never have and probably never will. As Keith quite rightly pointed out, this team is nothing but a nursery for potential Red Bull drivers of the future. I often wonder what the likes of men like Enzo Ferrari and Colin Chapman would make of a team like Toro Rosso, I doubt they would be impressed.
    In a way, Buemi and Alguersuari maybe better off away from Toro Rosso. Who wants to be in a team that has no hope, and more importantly, no desire to win grands prix? Ofcourse they is always the outside bet that a Toro Rosso driver can get a drive with Red Bull, like Vettel did, but thats about it.

    1. At least the drivers at Toro Rosso have the opportunity to show their talents in front of the other F1 teams. If you believe Alguersuari he supposedly had at least one very good offer from another team at the end of last year that he turned down because he’d been assured of his seat with Toro Rosso. From the radio commentary box he likely won’t be getting offers like that, so I would argue that a driver is definitely better off in Toro Rosso than out of an F1 drive altogether.

    2. Enzo Ferrari used to be in charge when his team could run 4-5 cars, some of those being earlier models than the ones given to their top drivers. I don’t think he’d mind at all, except to wonder why Ferrari weren’t doing it today.
      And Nigel Mansell got his start in a 3rd Lotus car in 1980, as did Emerson Fittipaldi running an old Lotus in 1970. I don’t see much difference between what Toro Rosso are doing today, and running 3rd and 4th cars for extra drivers in the past. It’s just because of the rules they run now that the second team has to be developed separately, which is an extra expense. I don’t necessarily like it, but it’s not a new concept in F1.

    3. Well said,. It’s kind off like a GP2 team in F1. The stress must be tremendous for Toro Rosso drivers.

  4. I for one, dislike this whole Toro Rosso thing.

    The fact that on race weekend Vettel is effectively competing against 20 cars only smells like cheating. Vettel knows that neither Webber, nor the 2 Toro Rosso will challenge his run at the championship. We all saw what happened in Silverstone (“Mark, we need to maintain the gap” and we all saw what happened to Jaime in Korea for not jumping out of the way immediately… in practice! (“This is unacceptable”

    And when you consider that Red Bull were one of the most vocal teams when Ferrari told Massa to get out of the way for Alonso, I get the feeling that the organization is lead by a bunch of hypocrites (“we let our drivers race” “it is wrong for the sport”

    Everybody is competing against 23 cars, Fernando is competing against 22 cars, but Vettel only against 20.

    1. But noone stops Ferrari from buying out HRT and renaming them Irarref and painting them dark red.
      They could all do that, Red Bull is just the only ones that have done so.

    2. You seem to forgot how Sauber in the early 2000’s was basically the Ferrari-junior team.

      1. If you find me any video showing Domenicalli trashing a Sauber driver for not giving way to a Ferrari, I’ll by your argument.

        Do you think a Toro Rosso driver is allowed to do this?

        There is a lot of difference between sharing technical knowledge (which is supposed to happen this year between McLaren and Marussia too) or political support (FOTA withdrawal), and running a team only for the benefit of another bigger team.

        1. If a Red Bull driver found themselves in the midfield and were somehow slower than a Toro Rosso? Yes the

        2. If a Red Bull driver found themselves in the midfield and were somehow slower than a Toro Rosso? Yes the STR driver would be able to do that.

        3. It looks like Alonso locks up and looses the line pretty badly…

          @ Victorinox you are absolutely right

          and Kobayashi is ******* awesome

    3. Tom Haxley (@)
      8th March 2012, 18:06

      Slightly off topic but the whole Red Bull “we let our drivers race” was just that, BULL.
      Horner is a bare faced liar at best.

    4. Wow, I had forgotten Vettel’s radio transmission saying “Be wise.” Not a fan of team orders and find them frustrating, but obviously there was a problem with enforcing the rules. Even though team orders were were no longer illegal in 2011, I guess Red Bull couldn’t more plainly tell Mark he isn’t allowed to pass Vettel. So much for letting drivers race.

    5. In Korea, Alguersuari blocked Vettel when he was trying a fast lap, Vettel slowed down to give Jaime time, then within the next lap, Alguersuari was weaving all over the place blocking Vettel again. He hardly failed to “jump out of the way immediately”, more like block repeatedly after being given a chance to get on with his own lap.

      1. @David-A

        Alguersuari has a different version of events.

        I’m not sure which version is correct, but if he had already let Vettel go by and the reason Vettel was behind again was because Vettel made a mistake – then I’d have to say Vettel has no one to be angry with but himself.

        1. @jeffs86

          I found a video of the session. With just over 4 mins left, Vettel comes up to Jaime. Seb slows down to give Alguersuari some breathing space, but with 2 mins left comes up to Jaime again around the same part of the course.

          Competitive times in that session were under 1:40, so Alguersuari took over 2 minutes to get around the track with no-one ahead of him holding him up.

          It’s unclear whether Vettel made a mistake off camera before catching Alguersuari the first time, and I certainly think Marko and Vettel overrected. But if you get caught twice by someone who slows down to give you room and don’t yield either time, you’re being carelessly slow.


    6. I think it’s an exaggeration to suggest the Toro Rosso drivers don’t give as good as they get when racing the Red Bull drivers. After all Alguersuari didn’t pull over for Webber at Yas Marina in 2010, did he?

      Given Helmut Marko’s reaction to Alguersuari briefly holding up Vettel in practice in Korea last year after the title was already decided, perhaps he would like to see more deference from the Toro Rosso drivers. But I don’t think we’ve seen any examples of it.

      1. Alguersuari didn’t pull over for Webber at Yas Marina in 2010 because Vettel was leading the race, and therefore on route for the championship. Markol wanted Vettel to win the championship.

        Red Bull gives you wings (from Mark’s car)…

        1. And Mark was also behind Alonso, Petrov, Kubica, Rosberg, Hamilton and Button. Webber just drove a very poor race, not befitting of a world championship contender.

  5. What happens to Toro Rosso and the Red Bull training scheme if this pair fail?
    Especially if Mark Webber doesn’t perform better than last year.

    It does seem to be a pretty brutal short sighted policy. Most former champions took 2 years in lowly teams, before getting a place in a top team where they usually had a couple of years getting up to 3rd or 4th, before winning the championship.

    Mario Andretti had 6 years of part time in F1, incl 2 with Ferrrari, then another 3 years full time before winning, and that was after more than 10 years in Indy car and several entries in the Le Mans 24hr.

    1. That was 40 years ago and Andretti had other priorities in America. Drivers like Vettel and Hamilton have shown it doesn’t necessarily work like that any more.

  6. It’s kind of silly by the way that your (well, you’re not the only one) entire rant on Red Bull allegedly favoring Vettel is based on two ‘incidents’ that are entirely overblown.

    1) Silverstone 2010: Webber by his own admission DID NOT WANT to use the new front wing.
    2) Silverstone 2011: It is COMMON that teams ask their drivers not to fight each other in the FINAL stages of a race, to preserve car and points. That has nothing to do with Red Bull or Vettel/Webber.

    1. This was meant as a reply to @victorinox.

    2. He mentions also mentions the Alguersuari incident in Korea (with a link )….

      I happen to think Alguersuari was showing a fair bit of promise and that it would have made sense to keep him for comparison purposes. As that didn’t happen we will not be able to know whether these two are better.

  7. As a Toro Rosso driver you have to feel a bit sorry for yourself because as I see it, rather than they not being interested in winning, the way Formula 1 has become, I don’t think they’d be allowed to win. People still speculate whether the simple act of holding up Vettel in a race was enough to get Jaime kicked out of the team. In a situation where say Ricciardo was in a potentially winning position and Sebastian or Mark behind him, would they be allowed to win? And that is why I felt sorry for both former drivers. They may have been given ample opportunity but they could never enjoy the freedom that Sebastian enjoyed during his time at the team.

    1. In a situation where say Ricciardo was in a potentially winning position and Sebastian or Mark behind him, would they be allowed to win?

      If not, at least it would require the team to issue an illegal team order, as this type of collusion between teams is not allowed (right?).

      1. @AdrianMorse There’s nothing specific on the rule book on that but if something like it ever came to light I suspect the “bringing the sport into disrepute” clause would get a workout.

    2. @MahavirShah

      holding up Vettel in a race

      Not a race – a practice session – not wishing to nit-pick but it’s a pretty significant distinction! (Assuming you’re talking about Korea?)

      1. @keithcollantine : A practice session with respect to Korea but a hypothetical situation given a race day as well. The point I’m trying to make is that who really calls the shots Tost or Marko? There were numerous times last year when I felt that the Toro Rosso sort of ‘allowed’ the Red Bull to pass but would not do it when there was a Ferrari behind. ( I think it was Singapore or Yas Marina). I just don’t think its fair to the drivers and in some cases the spectators.

    3. I would suspect either Ricciardo or Vergne would suffer mysterious gearbox problems in that scenario…similar to Vettel’s in Brazil last year

  8. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    8th March 2012, 18:06

    2008, if I’m not wrong , and Vettel won a rainy GP in Monza, and the Toro rosso team (ex Minardi) were pleased about that. Obvious next move was Vettel going to Red Bull.
    People comments about “Vettel racing 20 cars” are nonsense. At any race , as far as I remember, Did a Toro Rosso open the door for the “Team A”. Could you imaging all the moaning from Ferrari if that happens?
    People also claim TR are not fightign for the championship. Well, let me answer in the same way I was once answered about why is a team as HRT in F1. A LOT of comments told me “F1 is not just about winning, there’s a midfield”. “If F1 was just for winners, 7 teams should go out” Those are not my words, it’s what people told me when I stated that HRT damages the image of the sport.
    Well, of course Virgin, Williams, Sauber aren’t aiming a WDC or WCC right? but they want to progress (as HRT), and if Toro Rosso can progress a few steps up in the midfield, the Big Brother Red Bull will really look at their drivers as potential replacements for Webber. I disagree about dropping BOTH drivers last year, but I also disagree with the ones who put TR off as a team with goals. They can be “a nursery” but if they can be at the top of the midfield, that’s a goal

  9. I’m not sure I agree completely with a lot of these comments. Pre-2009, we saw Toro Rosso sometimes more competitive than Red Bull, and everything was fine with that.

    Yes, the team does look a bit like a junior team at the moment, but this won’t stop them from progressing through the field, if the team is able to do such a thing.

    I don’t really know much about Verge, but Ricciardo seems like a nice friendly guy, and I’m sure he’s a good racer as well. So I wouldn’t mind betting that Toro Rosso have a decent year ahead of them, and it will be interesting to see how their tiny sidepods and double-floor design works with the effect of the EBD being seriously reduced.

    1. @jamiefranklinf1

      competitive than Red Bull, and everything was fine with that.

      Not so sure about that. Red Bull was happy as it proved their driver program finally had a result, yes.

      But I doubt it was a coincidence that the next year, 2009, STR had to wait a few extra months to get the new updates the top team used to good effect, including the DDD. And at the time they didn’t have development capacity yet, they were building up to that only with the 2010 car.

      1. @bosyber

        Yeah, I’m sure it is still preferred that the Red Bull team is the ‘top’ team, but if the Toro Rosso team do develop into a team that is ahead of the midfield, and possibly fighting towards the top, then there wouldn’t be any stopping them.

        Maybe I’m a little biased in my opinion merely because I like the look of the car this year, and want to see if their twin floor design is as quick as it looks.

  10. Im still having trouble getting past the Helmut v Jaime video… no wonder Jaime no longer sides upon a Red Bull… One thing that irks me about the video is that Vettel isn’t there complaining himself, he sends the dark lord off to do his bidding instead.

    (“This is unacceptable”

    1. Maybe Vettel didn’t care – what makes you think he did?

      1. That’s just how I read the situation, though in hindsight you’re right Marko could have gone off on his own accord, I had just assumed that something would’ve been said to Marko at some stage to get him to confront Jaime like that, and infront of a TV camera no less.

    2. Remember when Jamie held Webber up for 2 laps in the 2010 Yas Marina GP, Webber, a car that was pushing for the WDC and Jamie holding him up let Alonso get the jumps on him in the pits? I wonder if words were said about what was possibly the most important 2 laps of his career there. But no, he holds Vettel up in practice and the wheels fall off the bandwagon.

  11. I have oftenthught and said that thiose teams who leant so heavily on the EBD of the last seasons will be more adapted to ruinning under this years rules. However the bulls and macca are looking to recreate a similar effect yet again with the body work and some rule bending. It wont be the least surprising we see STR in the top 7 feeding pack on the final flag if not higher. On another note i was chatting an old kart mate of mine about RBR hiding some kind of f-duct device in the inerter damper area near the stepped nose. What they can operate with hand they can with their foot. Possibility.?? Go #16!!!!

  12. They have not performed similarly in the lower categories, they have been team mates in the Formula Renault 2.0, Ricciardo won the championships with 9 wins, Vergne got 0 wins.

    1. I’m an Aussie and a big fan of Ricciardo, but in fairness to JEV, he’s a year younger and has basically been a year behind. While Ricciardo won the 2008 FR 2.0 championship (when a teammate to JEV), the 2009 winner of the same championship was JEV. Dan won the British F3 in 2009, which JEV won it in 2010. In 2010 DR was the runner up in FR 3.5 and, you guessed it, JEV was runner up last year. So their records are not just similar, they are downright spooky!

  13. This is not a team with its own ambitions of winning races and championships. This is Red Bull’s nursery.

    The team has never claimed to be anything else.

  14. I kinda respect Toro Rosso for being as honest as they have but I can’t help but think that they could have given Buemi and Alguersuari more notice so they could have put themselves in perhaps better positions for this year.

    However, this is about looking forward. Ricciardo does look promising and will hopefully keep clear of many silly mistakes. Vergne is an unknown quantity to me. Going on the past couple of years, this should be a fast car in a straight line which will hopefully favour them in Canada, Monza etc.

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