Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Toro Rosso STR13: Technical analysis

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With Red Bull potentially heading for divorce from Renault, it made an awful lot of sense for their junior team to take up the abandoned Honda power unit supply for 2018.

Toro Rosso may be a bit of a guinea pig this year, but the fact that they have had a promising pre-season so far suggests that Honda are back on the up and the STR13 is a good step in performance.

Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018
Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018
The team had to go through the opposite change to McLaren in terms of putting a Honda in where there was supposed to be a Renault. As technical director James Key explained, the team has had plenty of experience chopping and changing between power units.

“Obviously we had the Renault engine together with Red Bull for three seasons, with a quick go of the Ferrari in 2016,” he said.

“The engine is fundamentally different in its architecture. All these power units are different. Back in the V8 days it was more you kind of filled your space you had, the characteristics of the cooling systems and the software would be quite similar.

“Power units, it’s a totally different situation, there’s a lot of complexity there, there’s different ways of doing things. So I think what we’ve found with the Honda engine installation is it is fundamentally different to the Renault, there’s no commonality possibilities there really. The chassis design, back of the chassis is different but the gearbox is quite different as well. It’s all been done by us in that respect.”

Toro Rosso, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018
Toro Rosso, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Most of the car’s changes are underneath the bodywork to accommodate the Honda power unit, its architecture a different philosophy from the outgoing Renault. On the minus side, the split turbo design pushes the engine further rearward which affects the weight distribution, although the positive is that the gearbox case no longer has to accommodate the turbine, MGU-H and compressor in such a cramped space. A new combustion process has also been rumoured, alongside changes to the fuel from new supplier Exxon Mobil.

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Having started 2017 strongly the team languished in the latter half of the year, not helped by several driver changes. Their car was full of lovely details but they failed to develop upon them and were soon caught by most of the midfield. A lot of those details have been carried over into the STR13, including the raised front suspension arms (not forgetting that they came up with the idea at the same time as Mercedes), the single rear wing pylon that intersects the exhaust and the plethora of slots incised into the floor.

Toro Rosso, Circuit de Catalunya, 201
Toro Rosso, Circuit de Catalunya, 201

More little touches have been introduced for the ’18 car. Unlike other teams there is a small winglet behind the pillar of the Halo to wick air around the driver’s helmet. Over the second week of testing the team have added an intricate, two element lower T-wing, aiding airflow under the rear wing behind.

Toro Rosso, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018
Toro Rosso, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

So what’s properly new then? At this stage not a great deal externally, although this is hardly surprising given that the team were probably expected a tough testing period. The biggest visible change is up front, where they have ditched the Mercedes-style nose and reverted back to the thumb tip design with McLaren-esque slots in the pylons.

This is quite a different way of handling the air along the centreline of the car, so perhaps this is a weight-driven change – the thumb tip nose is better at dissipating energy in a crash test and therefore requires less material.

As was the case for McLaren, the team’s priority in testing was proving the new mechanicals. They can consider this mission pretty much accomplished as far as was possible given the unco-operative conditions in week one. Only Mercedes and Ferrari racked up more laps.

While the watching world has expressed surprise at Toro Rosso’s encouraging start to the year, the team is taking it in its stride.

“I had really high expectations after a couple of meeting I had at the factory at Faenza about the early signs from Honda,” said Brendon Hartley, “so I had high expectations before I arrived and it definitely delivered.”

Early in testing Key admitted that “if you look at the situation last year it’s a surprise” that they had started testing so well. “But having worked with them for a while it’s less of a surprise. Looking at the facilities they’ve got and the desperate will they’ve got to make it work, it’s less of a surprise to me now.”

Perhaps there will be more surprises to come. McLaren will certainly be hoping there isn’t.

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22 comments on “Toro Rosso STR13: Technical analysis”

  1. I’m relatively confident McLaren will be fine with Renault. They needed to be able to compare themselves with a top team anyways so it’s only good for them.
    And Honda maybe finally getting it right can only be good for F1 too. It probably needed some kind of shock and it got it with the McLaren divorce. Reliability is looking good but we still have to see the performance side.
    I hope both teams will fare well and wish for an action-packed 2018 championship (though with McLaren in front of Toro Rosso of course ;) )

    1. @spoutnik I’d go along with that. I still wonder how well Honda is doing in terms of cranking things up and racing in anger, and I did certainly note Hartley’s comment about their ‘desperate will’ to make it work.

      It will be interesting if they actually now have pace and reliability both, but I don’t look forward to the Mac bashing that has already started and will only continue. People so easily and conveniently will forget that Mac had to make a decision back when things were truly desperate, which Hartley acknowledges Honda still is. Somehow Mac are already being seen to be failures for not having a crystal ball, just from vague testing info that does not equate to racing in anger in the heat.

  2. Is Hartley saying that Honda delivered in terms that the engine is as powerful or more powerful than what he had last year?

    If that is what he means then that is quite the statement.

    1. It’s difficult to tell what he means. They had to run the Renault PU turned down towards the end of the year to end their reliability issues – Hartley turned up in the middle of all that, so he’s probably used to less power!

  3. A new combustion process has also been rumoured, alongside changes to the fuel from new supplier Exxon Mobil.

    I think Redbull already in join development of Honda PU via ExxonMobil. The divorce is imminent. I just didn’t know what would they call their team in 2019. Red Bull Aston Martin Honda TAG Formula One Racing?

    1. Sounds like a name Microsoft would come up with!

    2. @ruliemaulana I really would’ve loved a Red Bull-TAG Heuer going up against a McLaren-TAG

  4. Toro Rosso – Honda is by far the most interesting car to watch at Melbourne, if not this season. I think the high milage achieved in the pre-season testing (even if it did involve regular changes in the engines) will have been a huge moral booster.

    1. @drycrust actually I haven’t seen any infos about teams changing engines except from McLaren. Have you got some infos? Or does anyone know how many engines each team used?

      1. @spoutnik From what I have read and remember, Honda used 3 engines in test 1 and only 1 in test 2.

        1. @ijw1
          Actually, Honda used five engines. Which looks very strange at least. Why use so many engines? You can’t really test them on track: it was very cold, so you can’t know for sure if, for example, cooling was all right.

          1. Speculating, of course, but if they’re prepared to spend the money to build them and then take them apart, it would give them the ability to test a series of concepts and then evaluate them all in terms of internal wear, seal quality, etc.

            And I imagine much more detailed forensic data can be obtained by having the whole engine to analyse instead of just parts or samples of oil, etc.

          2. According to AMUS, Honda used three engines in the first week to test different specifications. And then they used the most promising one of them in week 2.

          3. @jw1
            To check, was that five individual PUs, or swapping a couple out & back in five times?

      2. @spoutnik I too hadn’t seen anything myself, but saw comments made by others regarding this, and thought it was probably true. One important point is the engines were kept within their Mean Time To Failure time.

  5. Didn’t Honda set-up in Red Bull’s home Town a couple of years ago?

    1. Big Joe, There is a Honda / Mugen engine facility in Milton Keynes. Obviously, I can’t tell you what they do in there, but it was opened at about the same time as Honda started making F1 engines for Maclaren. Draw your own conclusions…

  6. Article description: “car ran well interesting.”

    It was well interesting, but I think your computer might’ve misheard you, @keithcollantine

  7. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
    11th March 2018, 19:46

    I think that even if Honda doesn’t deliver as much power as the other engines, building up in reliability is a good way to fish some points. Races are long, and if Toro Rosso drivers stay out of first-lap carnages and crashes mid-race, they can get those points by finishing, no matter if it’s a couple of laps down. I see Toro Rosso more promising than Haas (yes, I know Haas achieved one of the best lap times, but on hypersofts), and this year Force Indias seem to have gone backwards (based only on the tests). So Toro Rosso has a good chance to recover from last year.

    1. I’m sure Honda have improved on their reliability, partly of course, because Toro Rosso are not the kind of team to really push the boundaries on packaging and cooling. Regarding performance, I also think they’ve made some progress in their straight line speed. But, let’s not forget that they made similar gains in 2016. Reliability was improved and performance was slightly better as well. It’s in no way a guarantee that things are upward and onward at Honda.

      I think for a team with Toro Rosso’s ambitions, Honda might actually be a good fit. Both will revel in the glory of being consistent midfielders, but if Red Bull were to ever switch to Honda power, I can’t see the situation being any different than it was with McLaren.

      1. Interesting point of view… Well if Honda deliver reliable PU this season then they have to focus only on performance in the next year and that means… When Red Bull switch in 2019 to better, improved Honda engine… Then there is high possibility we will be witnesses of something spectacular like McLaren Honda many years ago with Ayrton Senna behind the wheel. With only small difference – Max Verstappen :)

  8. If they would really go to Honda, they might keep the TAG Engine branding and also Aston Martin as Honda and Aston is not really a direct competition with each other, no different in using Renaul with Aston Martin sponsor

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