Lap 26 at last weekend’s British Grand Prix was the halfway mark of this exciting 2010 Formula 1 season, and Toro Rosso, sit ninth in the constructors standings with 10 points.
A recent resurgence by Sauber and their driver Kamui Kobayashi in the last two rounds has seen them jump above Red Bull’s sister team, something that Franz Tost is not happy about.
“I have always said our target is to finish eighth in the Constructors' classification,” said the Toro Rosso team principal. “We are working very hard towards achieving this goal, even if our closest rivals at Williams and Sauber are doing a good job … It will not be easy.”
Tost knows that it is not just one aspect of the team’s performance that needs to change to increase their competitiveness, but all parts need improving together. “In terms of the car itself, we are introducing some updates over these next two races, starting with a new front wing in Hockenheim, then a new diffuser in Hungary,” he explained. “Other updates are in the pipeline and I am therefore convinced that car performance will improve, starting with next weekend.”
Of course, one of the key components to race day success the person sat in that car. In Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, the team have one of the most inexperienced line-ups on the grid. However, Tost feels that they are getting better as the season goes on. “Our drivers still lack F1 experience compared to the majority of their colleagues,” he said. Therefore, as they get more track time with every race, I expect to see an improvement in the final half of the season.
“This is particularly relevant to Alguersuari, because from Hungary onwards, he will be able to rely on the knowledge he picked up after making his debut there in 2009, knowing all the remaining tracks, with the exception of Korea.
“It is not just a case of their driving getting better, because it is also true that their understanding and engineering feedback improves, which is vital if we are to get the most out of our package.”
The team announced this week that they will be retaining both Buemi and Alguersuari for 2011. “I believe our drivers will be well prepared for 2011, which is why they are both confirmed for next year,” said Tost, explaining the reasons behind the team’s decision. “It is also logical, because one key role of Scuderia Toro Rosso is to bring on young drivers from the Red Bull Young Driver programme and at the ages of 21 and 20 respectively, both Seb and Jaime certainly still meet the right criteria.”
Things have been a little different at Toro Rosso this year. The ban on customer cars – which means no hand-me-downs from Red Bull – has forced the Italian outfit to design their own car for the first time. The team now have to find the balance between developing their existing car and working on next year’s model.
“It is another new and interesting challenge for us,” explained Tost. “The design group has been split, with part of it already working on the 2011 car, including starting wind tunnel work, which is a first, given that our Bicester wind tunnel was not fully validated this time last year and therefore was not able to contribute much to the basic design of the 2010 car.
“Another part of the design group is still working on developing new specifications for this year's car. Of course, our resources are limited when compared to the teams ahead of us in the championship, but we have no plans to increase our manpower, as the F1 regulations are moving towards capping the size of the workforce in the future and while our size might be a disadvantage at the moment, it could become a positive factor in the future.”
Toro Rosso still believe that they are in good shape to pick up more points in the second half of the season. With nine races still to go in 2010, Tost believes they are in a good position to push up the championship standings.
“I expect a combination of car updates and improved performance from the drivers and indeed the whole team to bring us more points in what remains of the season,” he said.
“We have not fixed a cut-off date when development of the STR5 will stop and, while working on the STR6, if we come up with some solutions that we feel could benefit this year's car and we have the resources and capacity to produce new parts, then we will introduce them on STR5. It would also mean we are effectively testing for 2011 this season.”