James Key has admitted that there was more than one reason why the Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda made such a dramatic jump in performance during last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, which culminated in Pierre Gasly scoring an excellent fourth place finish.
Toro Rosso’s technical director believes the developments made by Honda help the performance of the STR13, as did the team bring updates to its aerodynamic package, while the drivers also showed improved pace to what they did in Australia last month, with Key admitting they underperformed during the opening round of the season.
“It was a good leap from Australia, but the reality is we underperformed pretty horribly there,” said Key to Motorsport.com. “The car wasn’t working well, so we had a negative result and it looks like a bigger leap than probably it was.
“We thought we’d be better here, the drivers know the track, and we’ve had quite a few aero updates on the car which are worth a few tenths but also comes with some desirable characteristics.
“After learning a bit from Australia, we made quite a substantial change to the way we are setting the car up.”
Key reckons this combination enabled the team to get to the front of the incredibly close midfield battle, with tenths of a second seemingly separating pretty much every team that are not Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, Scuderia Ferrari or Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.
“It is very tight,” said Key. “In FP3 there was three tenths between P9 and P15, so you could do almost as good a job and it [would] look pretty disastrous.
“We have got a better balance between low and high speed, which is a combination of all the differences compared to Melbourne.”
Key admits the driveability of the Honda power unit has been a positive surprise so far this season, particularly as Bahrain is meant to be a power track, which he feels will bode well for the rest of the campaign.
“The driveability of the Honda engine has been quite positive for us, things like traction and the way the drivers can get out of the corners has been generally better than last year,” said Key.
“In that respect, it does somewhat play to the strengths. It shows the Honda engine is not quite as far off as maybe it was, or was perceived as being, last year.
“It’s definitely a track which suits our general car strengths better, there’s some high-speed and medium content but it doesn’t dominate the lap time particularly.”