Toro Rosso have set themselves a challenging target with the STR8. Having finished ninth in the constructors’ championship last year, team principal Franz Tost says this year’s target is sixth.
The team benefit from having stability in their driver line-up. Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne will have to prove they deserve to remain part of Red Bull’s driver programme.
“Naturally, we will be expecting more from them this year as they both tackle their second full season of Formula 1,” says team principal Franz Tost.
“However, we are well aware it is up to us to provide them with a car that’s capable of allowing them to show their undoubted talent.”
To that end the STR8 is a new machine from the ground up. The only part retained from last year’s car is the steering wheel.
Immediate problems with the STR7
The 2013 car is the product of chief designer Luca Furbatto, who joined the team in December 2011, and James Key, who took over as technical director from Giorgio Ascanelli in September.
Furbatto says the team identified an immediate problem with the STR7 during pre-season testing last year:
“It was clear from the start that we had some issues with the weight distribution of the car and we were not able to effectively cover the entire weight distribution range, as controlled by the FIA regulations. This therefore became a point we wanted to rectify with STR8.”
Furbatto also wanted to make sure the team were pushing the rules as far as they could: “Another fact to emerge from initial testing, was that the car appeared to be more compliant in terms of laptime sensitive compliances, when compared to other cars I have worked on and that was another point we wanted to rectify with this year’s car.
“The rear end of the STR7 was effectively derived from the previous model, the STR6 and I felt the rear could be made much slimmer and more compact and that was another area we focussed on in designing STR8.”
Furbatto believes the team had reached the limit of what was possible with the sidepod design philosophy introduced in the 2011 STR6:
“Development was rather limited in 2012 and this was because the STR7’s distinctive sidepod design, although initially looking quite good, later proved difficult to develop, so that we reached a plateau during the season.
“We therefore decided in early August to go down another route and at the same time took the opportunity to change the cooling layout of the car and so, on STR8 the radiators are much lower. This also allows us to drop the deck of the sidepods more aggressively.
“These changes mean the car actually looks quite conventional, while still retaining some of the features of STR7, because even if it is a new concept, it is an evolution based on the current regulations.”
Focusing on aerodynamics
The team already have plans for how this area of the car will be upgraded: “We are also planning an aggressive development programme for the first part of the season, based around a very narrow rear end and low exhausts,” says Furbatto.
They have also tackled the weight distribution problems that plagued them in 2012: “We believe that thanks to the architectural shape of STR8, we should be able to explore all the opportunities within the weight distribution range allowed in the rules.
“Initial indications on suspension compliance are encouraging and in terms of aero development, we are in better shape than at the end of last season and another positive step is that the rate of development is increasing, indicating there is further potential to move forward in terms of downforce.”
New technical director Key arrives at the team from Sauber. Although he has not yet been with them for six months, he is already bringing his focus on improving aerodynamic performance to bear on the Faenza-based team:
“A big part of this has been to improve communications between the aero group in the UK and the design and manufacturing in Italy. In addition we are trying to ensure maximum aero development time with a quick turnaround of design and manufacturing periods.
“That is fundamental to what we do: a front wing will take the same amount of time to design and build for a given cost, but it could be worth one tenth of a second or four tenths of a second.
“It’s those four tenths that count, so if you squeeze the timing here in Faenza and allow more time on development side, then ultimately it should result in a better performance in the longer term.
“Although there was already an awareness of that, it’s been a case of pushing that idea a bit more, tightening the deadlines and stressing the fact we must give as much time as possible to aero. With the CFD department based in Faenza, trying to ensure that the communications are as slick as they can be is also an important priority.”
Tost has set his team a stretching target. Last year the team found itself on the wrong end of a very closely-matched midfield. If it can turn that around that sixth place could prove achievable.
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