Toro Rosso aim to recreate their Vettel-era peak after technical team shake-up

2013 F1 season preview

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Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Five years ago Sebastian Vettel started his first full season with this team and Red Bull’s search for his successor goes on.

The latest candidates are Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, who are entering their second seasons with the team.

Anyone with a passing knowledge of recent F1 history knows the clock is ticking and the road in front of them leads either to a Red Bull seat or a door marked ‘exit’.

But Toro Rosso’s role as Red Bull’s kindergarten doesn’t mean it lacks ambitions of its own. Team principal Franz Tost made it plain at the launch of the STR8 that his aim is for the team to finish sixth overall in 2013.

That would be three places higher than they managed last year, matching the peak they hit with Vettel in 2008. This tall order will likely mean beating Sauber, Force India and Williams – a considerable challenge, and one which will reveal any shortcomings in its drivers.

But the team need more from their car as well. The STR7 offered limited set-up options and just wasn’t quick enough. Several areas for progress were identified on it.

Following the departure of Giorgio Ascanelli the STR8 was designed by former McLaren man Luca Furbatto, who has been with this team for more than a year. It will also benefit from the input of James Key, who joined Toro Rosso from Sauber in September.

The team expect significant gains from the changes in the technical team. “We had the hands [behind] our backs last year,” admitted Jean-Eric Vergne. He describes the changes in the new car as “massive”.

Both drivers will need to exploit the opportunity if they are to avoid joining the list of young hopefuls Toro Rosso has tested and discarded. With promising rookie Antonio Felix da Costa looking ripe for graduation to F1, they cannot afford any slip-ups.

However neither driver will admit to feeling under pressure as the year begins. “I have no problem with the pressure,” says Vergne.

“I always lived with the pressure: when I was in go-karts I was never sure for doing the next season. So I was never secure. I’m still in the same position. It’s quite nice to be under pressure, I deal with it, it’s not a problem for me.”

Car 18: Jean-Eric Vergne

Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Vergne seemed particularly energised at getting his hands on the new car.

He is also relishing the challenge of Pirelli’s tricky tyres which he expects will suit his driving style better this year.

There were a few weak spots in Vergne’s game last year. More often than not he gave away a few tenths to Ricciardo in qualifying and there were a couple of incidents too.

But his race pace was sound and with as more adaptable car at his disposal he has a chance to realise more of his potential.

Car 19: Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, Jerez, 2013Ricciardo is a generally chipper character but the grin was discernibly broader after he’d sampled the STR8 for the first time. Like his team mate, he believes this car will give him more opportunities to show his potential.

There were flashes of it last year: such as in Bahrain, where he qualified an excellent sixth, only to reverse his way through the field in a nightmare opening lap.

Like Vergne, Ricciardo says he’s grown used to being told he has a ‘make or break’ campaign ahead of him: “It’s something I hear at the beginning of every season: ‘This season’s a big year, it’s an important season…’, I mean they all are.”

“It’s got to the point where I’ve gone through enough important seasons that no one is more important than the other. You shouldn’t approach it any differently, in a way. I think I’ve approached the last few seasons in the right way to get to Formula One and to be here. It’s not like you change your approach or anything.

“You try to improve some things you’ve learnt with experience, which I’m doing. But there’s no radical mental training it’s just go and do what you know and as I said just try and keep improving and let experience show you the way. I’m not looking at the season as a whole yet. I still like to take a step-by-step process. I’m not doing anything radically different.”

Toro Rosso STR8

Toro Rosso championship form

Championship position97610989

Toro Rosso in 2013: Your view

Do either of Toro Rosso’s drivers look like Red Bull star of the future to you? How close will they get to their target of sixth in the constructors’ championship?

Have your say in the comments.

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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty

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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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51 comments on “Toro Rosso aim to recreate their Vettel-era peak after technical team shake-up”

  1. Toro Rosso have for the last few years been F1’s least interesting team. The main point of interest for them this year will be waiting to see which one of them wins the sack race. My money’s on Ricciardo at the moment but things could change.

    Their status as a “Red Bull kindergarten” is hardly credible anymore; only one of their drivers has ever graduated to Red Bull, and just one made the transition to other teams. They are a team in their own right, but a pretty mediocre one.

    1. Agreed, lose the livery, dump the Red Bull sponsorship and bring back Minardi :-)

      1. Or buy the Minardi name from Stoddart (which I presume he still owns) and race the team as a Red Bull sponsored Minardi, filling seats the same way it currently does.

        That’s probably what they should have done in the first place. I for one would certainly have warmed to the team a bit more if they would have done that. The “Red Bull Racing kindergarten” concept has never sat well with me. This is F1, the pinnacle of motorsport. It’s kindergartens are karting, F3, FR2.0, GP3, FR3.5 and GP2, there is no need to have a team which serves as a “half-way house” for driver development.

        1. Agreed, the team needs to be sold because it’s purpose is a bit sad when there’s plenty of junior categories where drivers can do a lot more to stand out than in a Formula 1 car that’s barely fast enough to make it out of Q1. Especially Considering Vettel’s the only one that was ever promoted to Red Bull… I dislike the team with a passion, one Red Bull team is enough. It’s a team that doesn’t want to win, because if anyone in the team makes a big enough impression they’re being moved to Red Bull. Not every team has the funds to get to winning ways, but at least they’re in the game to be competitive, while Torro Rosso’s not.

          Just sell the team and slap a new livery on there…

          1. Yes it does not feel right.

    2. Yes Torro Rosso are a bit of a nothing team.They not good enough to challenge the midfield teams and are just quicker than the marussia’s and caterhams.They are making 9th place their own.I guess there only purpose is to let the red bulls through if they find themselves infront of either vettel or webber.The only way TR has a chance of making an impact is to put Da Costa in one of the race seats.

  2. I they want to recreate their Vettel-glory days, they first must have talent of Vettel’s caliber. I don’t see neither Vergne, nor Ricciardo as special drivers like Vettel. I wouldn’t be surprised, if Vergne would be dropped mid season and I see Ricciardo as another Webber, but not Vettel. I would like to see da Costa replace one of the drivers mid season and show his potential, because I see real talent in him. Of course, F1 is different thing than junior formula categories, so it’s not a given that he will succeed in F1, but I’d really like to see him showing what he can.

    1. The only comparison between Ricciardo & Webber that can be made is that they’re both Australian. That’s like saying when Alonso came into F1 he was just going to be another Pedro de la Rosa.
      There wasn’t much that either Vergne or Ricciardo could’ve done in the STR7, and the conditions in which Vettel drove and won in the Toro Rosso were completely different.

      The main issue that these two drivers have had is that they had to be able to fully take advantage of conditions that throw the usual Top 10 pecking order in disarray, like bad weather or retirements, because without a decent car under them they will always struggle against the stronger midfield teams.

      Personally, I rate Ricciardo as the stronger of the pair – better single lap pace and also put himself into more point scoring positions before the car failed him on multiple occasions.
      But both driver’s potential can only really be shown in a car that can compliment their natural speed.

    2. I they want to recreate their Vettel-glory days, they first must have talent of Vettel’s caliber.

      Yeah, cause Torro Rosso’s glory days was EVERYTHING to do with Vettel and nothing to do with the fact that he was driving the previous years, Adrian Newey designed Red Bull

      How bout giving Dan and Jev last years RB8 to drive this year and see how they get on?

      1. So how many races did Red Bull win in 2007/2008 then? @nick101
        Clue: Red Bull didn’t win anything; the car was extremely unreliable and just plain slow

        1. Red Bull might have won a race in Japan, except for a certain kid in a Torro Rosso. But that’s the thing with kids, they do a good job and then **** it all up

          1. @juan-fanger That’s a pretty big “might” given Webber wasn’t even leading at the time.

          2. Vettel was supposed to take out Hamilton…

          3. @juan-fanger – I assume you’re just pulling Keith’s legs. Red Bull were no front running team until 2009. Vettel won for STR, in amazing fashion, from pole, before that.

      2. @nick101

        Yeah, cause Torro Rosso’s glory days was EVERYTHING to do with Vettel and nothing to do with the fact that he was driving the previous years, Adrian Newey designed Red Bull

        Just because Adrian Newey built it doesn’t mean it was that good. Speed, Liuzzi and Bourdais scored 7 points between them. Vettel scored 40 in the same period.

        And the 08 car was only the 6th/7th best. Vettel beat a lot of faster cars to be 8th in the WDC, something Vergne and Ricciardo didn’t do last year, by being 17th and 18th, nowhere near the next car’s drivers.

        1. …oh, and to answer your question, DR and JEV haven’t shown that they would do better than Mark Webber (a thoroughly good, solid, experienced driver) in an RB8.

  3. They’ll end like Buemi and Alguersuari… I can’t see Red Bull picking any of them for one of their seats next year, unless they transformed into something amaizing over the winter. Which I doubt…

  4. David not Coulthard (@)
    12th March 2013, 10:18

    Ahh….the last lap of Brazil ’08, when Vettel almost helped the team he’s currently fighting the Driver’s World Championship against to a World Driver’s championship…..

  5. Toro Rosso as a team disgusts me. It’s sad to see that the only purpouse of this team is acting like a mini-feeder series (inside ‘the pinnacle of motorsport’) for RedBull. Sauber is also considered to be a springboard for young drivers to the top teams but at least they preserve their interests, try to develop their team. For them succes is measured in where they finish in the WCC standings, for Toro Rosso – wether the drivers get to keep their seats for another year.

  6. “Antonio Felix Da Costa is the next big thing” so everyone says. Fact is, 2 years ago everyone said exactly the same about Ricciardo and Vergne, and look at the criticism they’ve copped after 1/1.5 years.

    The sad fact is that the people that think like that are no better than Helmut Marko, and I can bet you any money that if they were driving for any other team (you know, one not renowned for dropping its drivers like flies), this criticism would be a lot more subdued.

    People say that Dan and JEV haven’t accomplished much; both dominated Formula Three, both WSR runner-ups in their debut year (both should have won those titles), and Ricciardo – despite missing six or so races in 2011 with STR commitments still managed to fifth in the championship. All of a sudden Jules Bianchi comes along, does virtually the same thing (albeit IMO slightly less impressively) and everyone praises him as the next Messiah. If Da Costa doesn’t impress almost immediately I have very little doubt that a lot of people that thought highly of him as a junior driver will disregard him, much like they have with RIC and VER. And that’s quite sad.

    1. Completely Agree,
      everyone is giving Ricciardo and Vergne a hard time after 1 year in by far the worst car in the midfield group. Both these drivers have done well in the junior categories and by saying they are not the next vettel is unfair as Seb had a better car in 2008 where he one his race.
      For all we know the Toro Rosso last year could have been terrible in qualifying and JEV did pretty well and Riccairdo could have been on top pace all year. If these 2 have a good solid season in a half decent car this year and 2 seats hypothetically became available at red bull, i would think they would go fine in the older team and challenge for wins and championships.

    2. If I were Antonio Felix Da Costa and I wanted enter F1, I’d be talking to Sauber and keeping myself as far away as possible from Toro Rosso.

    3. The main problem is Toro Rosso’s revolving door driver policy. If a driver doesn’t achieve more or less instantly, he’s out, to be replaced by whichever bright young thing in the Red Bull young driver programme Franz Tost likes the most that particular week. I’ve no doubt that Ricciardo and Vergne could both be very good drivers given the opportunity – but no more so than Buemi, Alguersuari, Bourdais, Liuzzi and Speed, all of whom were booted out from the team after a short time.

      People put pressure on Vergne and Ricciardo because that is the reality they are living in. If your driving, straight from the get-go, doesn’t mark you out as an instant superstar (and in the last ten years you could probably count the number of those we’ve had in F1 on one hand), you will not last long at STR. And in all likelihood you won’t get a shot anywhere else either.

      1. @red-andy,

        The main problem is Toro Rosso’s revolving door driver policy

        I only slightly agree. If the team feels the drivers are not good enough, they should drop them. The names you mention, Buemi, Alguersuari, Bourdais, Speed and Liuzzi, have all had a decent shot, and they didn’t impress sufficiently. What is more problematic is the ruthless way in which they treat their drivers. For instance the way in which Alguersuari was dropped at the very last minute (and all the while giving the impression he would be retained) was not a class act – not to mention Marko’s ridiculous upbraiding of him after he was in the way of golden boy Vettel for two corners in the 2011 Korean FP1.

        The extent to which I agree is that Toro Rosso are hiring drivers for the wrong reasons, that is, not to get the maximum result for the team, but to assess whether they are future world champions. This is a little harsh, and drivers in the junior team suffer from the fact that Red Bull’s success has gone to their head. If Red Bull had still been a midfield team, then the job description would not be quite so stringent.

        1. I agree hat Marko’s actions were over the top, however Alguersuari blocked on two consecutive laps in that Saturday FP3 session, not just two corners.

      2. @red-andy
        “If a driver doesn’t achieve more or less instantly, he’s out”
        Both Buemi and Algersuari has several season where they showed pretty much nothing that made anyone think they deserved a seat in a better car.
        I actually think TR was very kind to retain them for as long as they did.
        The problem was the way they dropped the two drivers. In the very last moment when almost all other seats were filled. But they were given plenty of time to show something. They didn’t use that, and therefore found themselves out of TR. If anything they have to be thankful that they weren’t dropped after a single season because they didn’t bring enough money.

    4. You can’t actually say Toro Rosso just drop their drivers at the first oppurtunity really; Buemi was in a TR from 2009-2011, as was Alguersuari.

    5. I see where you are coming from. Still you forgot to watch the feeder series in 2013, Da Costa was far more impressive than any of the above where, that said he is already 21, I’m not sure but he always had problems with penaltys and I don’t really remember him past this season, he should have won GP3 and he would have won WS easily if he had started the year, and he also won Macau. Honestly I’m not a fan of Da Costa or anyone else, from the point they join a good team all of them are pretty impressive, that said he won’t get to F1, he hasn’t got the money for sure.

  7. Anyone with a passing knowledge of recent F1 history knows the clock is ticking and the road in front of them leads either to a Red Bull seat or a door marked ‘exit’.

    Sebastien Buemi seems to have created a third option for himself: Reserve driver limbo.

  8. petebaldwin (@)
    12th March 2013, 10:52

    They’re not going to do as well as they did in 2008 because they can’t use a Red Bull painted as a Toro Rosso anymore – they have to use their own car.

    Since they had to design their own car in 2010, they’ve managed 31 top ten finishes in 116 starts which is woeful.

  9. I don’t even think having a sister team should be legal. Unfair advantages over other teams.

    1. The other teams could do it.
      Nothing stopping them

    2. @shimks – really, what can Toro Rosso actually do that would benefit Red Bull Racing, other than feeding them drivers (well, Sebastian Vettel)?

      1. @vettel1

        really, what can Toro Rosso actually do that would benefit Red Bull Racing, other than feeding them drivers (well, Sebastian Vettel)?

        Perhaps feeding them with two more no.2 drivers for RBR’s no.1 driver

        1. @seahorse – which is what I said. Other than that, they are of no benefit whatsoever, so I don’t see how that complaint holds any validity.

          1. @vettel1

            which is what I said. Other than that, they are of no benefit whatsoever, so I don’t see how that complaint holds any validity.

            Absolutely true. I second that. But as you as well as many on this forum said, STR lacks the competitiveness to fight.

        2. @seahorse – very true, which is a criticism I absolutely agree with: they lack ambition, and without ambition I don’t think they make a proper F1 team.

  10. Did Spyker try to ban sister teams a few years ago?

    1. The debate was over customer cars. The other backmarker teams of the time – Toro Rosso and Super Aguri – were using one-year-old cars built by other teams. Midland/Spyker/whoever it was at the time saw that they wouldn’t be able to compete if all new teams entering the sport were simply able to buy a reasonably competitive, albeit old, chassis (remember that Prodrive were making noises at this time too, about purchasing and racing old McLarens). Those two teams were given a couple of years to sort themselves out before they had to build the cars themselves, but it effectively spelt the end for customer cars, which had previously been something of a “grey area” in the F1 rulebook.

      1. I believe Williams also joined in this protest, though theirs was probably aimed more at the possible Prodrive/McLaren tie up.

  11. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    12th March 2013, 14:38

    Personally, I can’t see them beating the likes of Williams, Sauber and Force India to 6th in the constructors.

    They might have a chance of beating Force India, but I think Williams and Sauber are still a step or two ahead.

  12. The only team on the grid not there to win.

  13. Toro Rosso as a team I do not admire, but as a principal I like them. The concept of having a junior team may be a profitable one to the bigger teams and it gives young drivers without the financial backing an opportunity to move up the ladder. Sure, they are unduly harsh at times on their drivers, but the real talents will always shine through (such as Vettel and I suspect Felix Da Costa).

    1. That said though, every team should have ambition to be successful – Toro Rosso generally seem lacking in such ambition. Perhaps that is a consequence of their ownership and detrimental-to-development driver policies, but regardless every team should be there to win. In a way, they remind me of some of the 90’s teams present purely for brand exposure.

  14. As Webber gets closer to retirement, Toro Rosso becomes more and more intriguing.

    In around two years’ time, the group’s executives will have to face up to difficult questions. They might have to choose between recommending an external driver for Red Bull – making 4+ years of driver development pointless – or choosing to promote someone who isn’t quite as good as his peers: a Vergne when they could have had a Rosberg.

    What they’ll have to decide is whether Red Bull really benefit from having a ‘closed shop’ instead of shopping around. McLaren don’t have a second team – but when they needed a replacement for Hamilton, they snapped up one of the most promising drivers on the grid. Who would have picked Ricciardo, Buemi, Vergne or Alguersuari over Perez; Hulkenberg; or Di Resta?

    And if they decide it’s better to find drivers on the ‘open market’… what will become of Toro Rosso?

  15. I really hate the way people just use the word talentless or something similair to describe drivers.
    Can you have any idea how demeaning that is to them, and also downright disrespectful; any F1 driver will be far better than any mere mortal will ever be, and it is just ridiculous to state such things.
    I think that people need to just accept that every single F1 driver on the grid are supremely talented, with maybe less than 0.5s separating the entire field of drivers in equal conditions for all.
    So when people start to use it, could you please just think about what you’re actually saying?

    1. I think everyone is aware that every driver possesses exceptional skill and ability behind the wheel. F1 is the most advanced form of motorsport and the standards are extremely high. When someone says that a driver is rubbish, I don’t think that they see the driver as rubbish at any level, but they just don’t see them as good enough for F1.

  16. Michael Brown (@)
    12th March 2013, 23:03

    Toro Rosso were very fortunate to get a driver of Vettel’s talent as well as a good enough car in 2008. And it seems even by today they still haven’t figured it out. Marko is hard on the drivers because of his own experiences in F1, but Toro Rosso is the worst of F1 for drivers. We all know you’re expected to perform at your best in F1, but Toro Rosso wants you to be the next Vettel: The next youngest 3-time World Champion, race winner, pole sitter, etc.

    1. @lite992 – I agree with that. There’s no use throwing drivers into the sport on a conveyor belt, expecting them all to be superstars. They don’t grow on trees.

    2. @david-a agreed, but that said the Toro Rosso drivers to there knowing that will be the case, so it is a conscious decision I believe on their part. They do go there thinking they can be the next big thing.

  17. Poor car, poor results. I think modern day f1 pecking order is heavily influenced by the car and the ability for that car to preserve its tyres. There are exceptions of course (massa v alonso, vettel v webber) but by and large they finish a place or two apart). The drivers are doing their best but are badly let down by the car.

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