The Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 team made a strong start to the 2016 Formula One season, but have fallen behind slightly since the promotion of driver Max Verstappen to sister team Red Bull Racing following the Russian Grand Prix, as well as the fact that they are unable to make any performance updates to their 2015 Ferrari power unit, whilst other teams keep moving forward on the engine development front.
The Faenza based squad now find themselves in a tight battle with McLaren-Honda, a situation they perhaps did not account for prior to the start of the season, sitting in sixth place just three points ahead of the Woking based team in the Constructor’s Championship. That slight edge over their closest rivals is a position they hope to be able to maintain come the end of the year, and they have every belief that they will achieve that aim.
In terms of driver performance, Carlos Sainz Jnr has been the stand out leader, with Daniil Kvyat seemingly lacking confidence after the demotion to his former squad, unable to find the right balance and understanding with the STR11 and the Faenza based team.
TCF takes a look at how Sainz Jnr and Kvyat have fared in comparison to each other at the halfway stage of the 2016 season, in our head-to-head report.
Despite the fact that Kvyat drove the first four races of the season for Red Bull, Sainz Jnr, who many feel is as strong a driver as the highly rated Verstappen but has his talents often overlooked, has finished higher up the order than the Russian on nine occasions to two (both drivers having DNF’s in Baku), and those two for Kvyat were in the Milton Keynes based squad’s colours. He has out finished ahead of Kvyat at every race since they became Toro Rosso team-mates, and whilst the Russian has struggled to find form, the Spaniard has helped keep the squad in the midfield battle this season, with strong performances in both qualifying and on race day.
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The Spanish Grand Prix in particular saw the 21-year-old produce an outstanding display of skill, on the way to achieving his best ever result, and on home soil too, when he brought the car over the line in sixth place. Having qualified eighth on the grid, Sainz Jnr got an electric start, promoting him up the field and passing both Scuderia Ferrari drivers into third place, nestled just behind the Red Bulls of Daniel Riccardo and Verstappen. He showed grit and determination to hold up Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen for a number of laps, which allowed the two RB12‘s of his sister team to make a break for it.
Once Raikkonen had finally managed to get by, Sainz Jnr pitted, and that was where the only downside to his race took place, as Williams Martini Racing driver Valtteri Bottas was able to get the jump on him, residing him to the sixth place which he was able to maintain for the remainder of the race. Kvyat, who beat the Spaniard to the GP3 title in 2013, came home in tenth and behind his team-mate in his first race for the Faenza based squad, a precedent that has continued in the subsequent rounds.
Sainz Jnr has the edge on his team-mate in both qualifying, eight to the Russian’s four, and the Driver’s Championship, where he currently sits in eleventh place with thirty points, compared to Kvyat’s twenty-three points in fourteenth. It will be interesting to see how the latter half of the season plays out, and whether Kvyat can get to grips with the STR11 and challenge Sainz Jnr for positions, something the Austrian squad will also be hoping for as they look to dominate that midfield order.
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Toro Rosso have already confirmed that Sainz Jnr will be driving for them again in 2017, an announcement that left many fans wondering whether the Spaniard should have looked to progress his career elsewhere now that the Red Bull line-up is filled for at least two more seasons. Nevertheless, the 21-year-old clearly feels that remaining in the Red Bull family is his best option, and will race under the Red Bull umbrella once again next year.
Kvyat’s future on the other hand is not yet clear, and unless he can pick up his game in the latter half of the season, we could see the Russian fall by the F1 wayside.
Click on the link to read our McLaren-Honda report!