Toro Rosso’s unreliability thwarts their remarkable rookies

2015 F1 season review

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Toro Rosso team stats 2015

Best race result (number) 4 (2)
Best grid position (number) 5 (1)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 11 (9/2)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,983 (92.06%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2014) 7 (7)
Championship points (2014) 67 (30)
Pit stop performance ranking 8

When Toro Rosso’s Team Principal unveiled the new STR10 in front of a crowded Jerez pitlane in January with the youngest ever driver line-up in the history of the sport at his side, he delivered a refreshingly bold and ambitious assessment of his team’s prospects for the year ahead.

“I am convinced that this will be the best car we have ever built at Toro Rosso so far,” Franz Tost declared. “The aim is to finish fifth place in the constructor’s championship and this means the drivers must be permanently in the points.”

Eleven months and 19 races later and while the team may have failed to live up to their own targets with 67 points securing only seventh in the championship, Toro Rosso had undoubtedly succeeded in fulfilling their raison d’etre – to produce exceptional racing talent for the Red Bull empire.

In Carlos Sainz Jnr and Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso have two of the most exciting young drivers the sport has seen in recent times at their disposal. The two latest products of the Red Bull driver development programme demonstrated throughout their rookie seasons that they both have the potential to eclipse the achievements of their two famous racing fathers.

Under the most intense media spotlight a rookie driver has arguably had to face since Lewis Hamilton, Verstappen produced the kinds of performances that a 17-year-old really had no right to pull off in motorsport’s premier category. Perhaps more impressive than his fourth places in Hungary and Austin was his ability to make a number of high-risk overtakes stick that many drivers far older and more experienced than he lack the awareness and judgement to themselves.

Sainz, while not attracting quite as much attention as his team mate, shone just as bright when opportunity presented itself.

Sainz had the least reliable car of 2015

A brilliant debut in Australia saw him qualify eighth and only a brief electrical glitch prevented him from taking seventh in his first grand prix. A late charge to ninth in Spain after qualifying a stunning fifth and a wild recovery drive to seventh in Austin after crashing out of Q1 further demonstrated Sainz Jr’s raw natural talent.

But neither driver would have been able to impress as much as they did had it not been for the fact they often had a genuinely quick car at their disposal. Verstappen made use of the STR10’s formidable one-lap performance to reach the final qualifying session in just over half of the races, while there were only six weekends in the entire year when the team failed to score any points at all.

Despite their talented young drivers and decent pace, Toro Rosso’s efforts were regularly undermined by their unreliable and underperforming Renault engine. In a year in which Red Bull’s relationship with Renault faced its greatest challenges, it was their junior wing that bore the brunt of the reliability and performance problems that plagued both teams.

Verstappen exceeded his four power unit component allocations as early as the seventh race of the season in Canada, while Sainz had more reason than any other driver on the grid to feel aggrieved, after being forced into retirement due to mechanical issues on seven occasions during the year. Overall, the team amassed close to 80 total engine-related grid place penalties over the season.

While Red Bull’s Christian Horner did not shy away from public criticism of his team’s engine supplier, Franz Tost opted for a more subtle approach.

“The aerodynamics are working very well and in some of the high speed corners it has been proved that the car is almost as good and sometimes even equal to the Mercedes,” he said following Verstappen’s fourth place finish in Hungary. In other words, ‘the car is good, if only the engine was too…’.

Regardless of whether or not the STR10 really was comparable to the dominating Mercedes, it would be hard not to blame the team for feeling frustrated when they look back over the fruits of their tenth season as Red Bull’s junior outfit. But while they failed to achieve their team principal’s pre-season target, they will at least head into the winter knowing they did everything in their power to do so.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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13 comments on “Toro Rosso’s unreliability thwarts their remarkable rookies”

  1. I genuinly think that the STR chassis was better than what the more expensive sister team brought to the start of the season (before RBR spent enough money to find their solution and got on to improve to be about the 2-3rd best chassis). It certainly proved to be more value for money!

    Apart from the engine issues, there were also operational issues the team could have prevented, but 7 DNFs for the one car and 4 for the other certainly didn’t help them!

    1. @bascb pound-by-pound it probably was. Not the first time tho, the 2008 car was better aswell.

      This is why this rooster team is so hard to analyse, tho. Alguersuari and Buemi had much harder years with the team, having switched from basically running Red Bull’s chassis to their own designs, and that new path took a while to get going.

      The machinery is so relevant these days, that you don’t know who was responsable for the goods and the bads: the team producing a good or bad car, or the drivers under or overperforming. It’s difficult to know Toro Rosso’s targets and abilities because they are a team that has to finish lower than Red Bull but still do well, and that translates to the drivers aswell.

      1. @fer-no65 Sometimes I wonder how awesome it would be to have just two Red Bull teams. Basically just wondering how life was with more competitive front running teams.

      2. The 2008-STR was a 2007 Red Bull.

        1. The chassis was identical, the engine was not. The Renault was a dog then too.

        2. @matthijs @fer-no65 The 2008 STR was a Ferrari-engined Newey-designed 2008 chassis.

          1. @davidnotcoulthard @matthijs yes I know, but that renault engine wasn’t weak like today’s Renault engine.

    2. @bascb I think there are hardly any acutal lost points to blame on the drivers.

      Apart from the engine issues, there were also operational issues the team could have prevented, but 7 DNFs for the one car and 4 for the other certainly didn’t help them!

      1. @xtwl

        I actually agree with you, here.

        For a couple of rookies, Carlos and Max have been frighteningly good. The team were mostly outstanding with their calls too. They understood the strengths of the team, cars and drivers and we’re able to use that to maximise their potential at most races where reliability didn’t scupper them.

        A well sorted little outfit!

  2. I’m really looking forward to what this team can do with a reliable/competitive engine, next year the battle between Force India and Toro Rosso (maybe Mclaren also?) will be very interesting.

  3. ILuvSoundtracks (@)
    15th December 2015, 17:21

    Toro Rosso being #8 in the rankings? Well, not bad. They’ll do it much better next year.

  4. STR have been genuinely exciting. Despite all of the negativity surrounding F1 at the moment, next year’s grid, at a glance, looks like it might be the healthiest in a few seasons.

    Not only did STR arguably do a better job than RBR in terms of squeezing all of performance of the Renault, their chassis looked pretty good too. I’m sure some synergies exist between the engineering and design departments of the sister teams, despite not sharing the same power unit for the first time since 2009, I’m sure next year’s chassis will be an improvement.

    Not to mention their capable driver line up both benefitting from a full season’s experience each. It’ll be great to see them both in front running cars at some stage, but they’ll do a good job next year.

  5. A do agree with this.

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