Toro Rosso’s Red Bull rookies prove closely-matched

2012 F1 season review

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Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, Montreal, 2012

Toro Rosso began 2012 with an all-new driver line-up drawn from Red Bull’s driver development programme. The unsentimental decision to drop both its 2011 drivers reinforced the point that this team is the kindergarten for its world-championship winning sister outfit.

The team makes no pretences to the contrary – team principal Franz Tost called it “a rookie training school” after Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi were dropped at the end of 2011.

Toro Rosso team stats 2012

Best race result (number)8 (4)
Best grid position (number) 6 (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 5 (1/4)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,223 (93.25%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2011)9 (8)
Championship points (2011)26 (41)
Pit stop performance ranking7

That being so, the pressure was on Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne to demonstrate their potential this year. In the final reckoning the less experienced Vergne edged Ricciardo on points by sixteen to ten. But the technical problems which cost Ricciardo points in Italy and Korea won’t have gone unnoticed by the team.

The pair were a very close match, as the graphs below make clear, and both showed sufficient promise to be retained for 2013.

But one of them will have to start regularly out-performing the other to avoid the next swinging of the Red Bull axe.

Ricciardo was consistently the better qualifier of the two, and produced a brilliant effort to line up on the third row in Bahrain. But a very poor start saw him slump towards the rear of the midfield.

Vergne impressed in damp conditions, particularly in Malaysia where he scored his first of four eighth-place finishes, passing Felipe Massa on the way. He was quick in the rain in Brazil as well.

But he attracted attention for the wrong reasons with a clumsy and needless collision with Heikki Kovalainen in Valencia, which followed an unimpressed weekend in Canada in which he’d been out-qualified by the Caterhams and picked up a pit lane speeding penalty.

Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, Bahrain, 2012The team endured a nine-race point-less streak in the middle of the season as their junior drivers struggled to compete in a tightly-packed midfield. Though reliable, the STR7’s pace was lacking and the team had a car eliminated in Q1 on ten occasions, usually Vergne’s.

Technical director Giorgio Ascanelli was shown the door and replaced by James Key in September. The team’s new recruit arrived from Sauber and, before that, Force India, and is credited with extracting the most from teams that lack the mega-bucks resources of the front-runners.

His arrival was praised by Ricciardo, who credited him with raising the team’s expectations. Their results duly improved in the second half of the season.

Ricciardo made several appearances in the lower reaches of the points, though it never looked like being enough to bring the team into contention with Williams, who they finished in front of last year.

But even with a more experienced driver line-up its doubtful much more could have been achieved with the STR7. Better things should be expected from the team team with its STR8 under Key.

However the cycle of regularly replacing their drivers with new arrivals will continue. And that makes it doubtful that this team can rise to the front of the midfield – or beyond – any time soon.

Toro Rosso drivers’ 2012 race results

Daniel Ricciardo9121715131411131315912910913101213
Jean-Eric Vergne1181614121215141416813815128

Toro Rosso drivers’ 2012 laps per position

Daniel Ricciardo00161023193883796814613616114577926014115010
Jean-Eric Vergne00225113563455852941059514211310735352773111

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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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  • 23 comments on “Toro Rosso’s Red Bull rookies prove closely-matched”

    1. Both did well this season and showed they deserve to be on the grid. But they have to impress much more in 2013, or one of them will quickly be replaced by the super-talented Antonio Felix da Costa.

      1. @enigma I personally believe that if da Costa dominates in World Series by Renault next year, and if neither Ricciardo nor Vergne impress next year, the outgoing Webber(surely he’s coming to the end of his career??) the Portuguese will be directly drafted to RBR. A tight decision to make, but it could make sense. The only other promising Red Bull rookies are further down the order-Daniil Kvyat(Formula Renault 2.0 Alps winner and Eurocup Formula 2.0 Renault runner-up), and Carlos Sainz, Jr.(had a poor Formula Three campaign in both Britain as well as Euroseries).

        1. @chicanef1 Could well be. But it’s hard to predict, Red Bull have done some strange things with their young drivers. I do believe da Costa will get some FP1s, like Ricciardo and Vergne did in 2011.

    2. Toro Rosso were top of the top speed table quite often this year, weren’t they? I wonder if their 2013 car will have as much STR8-line speed.

      1. >_>

        If not, it’ll be a travesty to their name.

    3. I like both of the Toro Rosso guys. Hopefully next season they can be fighting for position with Sauber and Force India regularly.

      1. @jh1806 And hopefully they’ll be keeping their noses clean and toeing the team line by staying out of “Big Brother”-‘s way.

    4. They showed promise to some extent. But it was a lackustre season for Toro Rosso.

      They’ll need to hurry up real quick. And that has to go in detriment of one of them, because if they stay evenly matched, Red Bull won’t make a decision and might drop them both altogether.

    5. La Scuderia Toro Rosso on it´s purpose to find new talents seem to offer a 2 year stint for each driver to prove themselves worthy of being Vettel´s team mates or even to replace them if he choose another path.
      So with the probable arrival of Felix da Costa in 2014 (will depend of his performance on next year WSR 3.5) at least one of its current drivers if not both will leave the team.

      In this cenario I think Webber will retire from F1 in 2013 to leave room to his protégé Ricciardo at RB, as Schumacher did with Massa in 2006.

      1. @pnunocosta I’m pretty sure that if Webber retired next year, they’d think about other options rather than just sticking with the Toro Rosso guys. They are the best team in F1 right now afterall ! I can see Hulkenberg driving for Red Bull…

        1. Yes they would see other options because they are always saying that they want the two best drivers available, but if Ricciardo next year has a good season then he might be a strong candidate.
          The Hulk is certainly on the radar of not only RB (Webber) but also Ferrari (Massa) and Mclaren (Perez) for 2014. I´m still very impressed with his last race…

    6. I have high hopes for this team in 2013 but especially in 2014 where Key´s influence will be much bigger.
      I see James Key as a successor to Adrian Newey if he embraces other challenge, and I believe that was the purpose for hiring him.

      1. Agree. I’m definitely in the boat that when Newey leave RBR, Key will take over his place there.

    7. considering Franz’s statement, there is no point in driving for Toro Rosso even if the driver is a good one. Suppose a vacancy doesnt arise in RBR, the drivers will be dropped and nobody may hire them

    8. I don’t know if I would call Ricciardo’s 6th place in qualifying in Bahrain as brilliant effort. For me it’s quite clear either he had qualifying set-up or set-up ideal for qualifying, which greatly compromised his race pace. That qualifying was the only time when Toro Rosso driver was within 5 tenths of pole, while in all other 19 sessions they were always more than 1 second slower than PP, which may be confirmation of what I think.

      In the race JEV, who was 2 seconds slower than Ricciardo on Saturday, was gaining on Dan almost 10 seconds in every stint, which again can indicate Ricciardo’s set-up for qualifying, while in the race he had to drive slower in order to protect tyres.

      Overall I think what let them down was quite poor car, because speed and racecraft were more or less what I would expect from 2 rookie drivers. In my opinion Dan had slight edge on JEV despite championship table stating otherwise, but the true test is just ahead of them, it will be truly sink or swim for at least one of them.

      1. I believe Daniel has Qualy pace but Jean has Race pace.
        In most of the races jean starts Low in the grid but ends up higher than Daniel.
        Lets see how they fare next year if they had a Better car then we can see How they are Fighting each other

        1. Often due to him starting with more sets of fresh tyres.

    9. I feel their current lineup is slightly better than the previous, pity they didn’t have the car this year to capitalise. If Key works his magic over winter they could be fighting for 5th in the constructors’ championship next year.

    10. These two drivers will be the ones to watch in coming seasons.
      I see a great rivalry forming here.

    11. From what I’ve personally seen in lower formulas, Ricciardo is a stronger prospect than Vergne. Hope to see Da Costa in formula 1 soon. Toro Rosso or Red Bull won’t matter. He will impress in either Red Bull team. Now in a Marussia or Catherham it would be more difficult, but on a Toro Rosso he could definitely make a strong impression. Lets wait and see…

    12. For all of Felix de Costa’s unquestionable talent and results this year, it compares with Vergne’s year before he got into F1, so I just hope jev gets at least another full year to prove himself at the top level. Same for Ricciardo.

    13. Neither drive stood out for me, but then neither did the team. It’s good to see that they’re at least attempting to develop with the hiring of James Key and we all saw what impact the C31 had on the field this year…

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