By and large the team will be looking to avoid a repeat of last year when, despite start strongly, it went off the boil for the best part of the season – only discovering flashes of form in the dying embers of the championship, once the higher constructors’ places were largely out of grasp.
Much of this lay with the STR7’s critical flaw: a limited operating window which shackled the team from extracting the performance of its immediate rivals on a regular basis. Consequently, great detail has been placed upon widening the confines of the new challenger’s weight distribution as well as tightening the car’s rear end. As with many of this year’s cars, the new STR8 does not look too different to its predecessor (obvious changes aside); however the outfit insists that there is much change underneath, such as to its suspension and that the new car will open up the possibility to add any technical modifications in a quick and effective manner.
In addition, moves have been made away from the circuit to ramp up the squad’s methods, with recent changes led by Technical Director James Key, hoped to add greater efficiency and understanding between the windtunnel and aero departments in the UK and the design and manufacturer sector back in Italy. No wonder then that Team Principal Franz Tost is bullish about his team’s chances for 2013, setting the ambitious target of sixth in the Constructors’ Championship.
But is this a step too far or can the Faenza outfit finally emerge from behind the shadow of its sister team and take a sizeable step forward?
Of course to sustain this momentum the team will have to call upon its drivers to deliver whenever opportunity knocks. But this should not be a problem, given the huge carrot of a vacant seat at Red Bull which is constantly dangled above – regardless of whether or not Mark Webber departs at the end of the campaign.
With more experience under his belt many will look to Daniel Ricciardo as the man to come out on top. The 23-year-old has long been a favourite of his energy drink paymasters, and gained where many of fellow young-driver colleagues had not previously with a half-season running around the back in an HRT two years ago. However his stable-mate will have much to say in the matter, with Jean-Eric Vergne more than a match for the Australian during his debut season in the sport. At this moment it is hard to say who exactly will have the upper hand, with both men showing signs of promising during 2012’s topsy-turvy campaign. Although it was the Frenchman who finished the season with more points, one could point to Ricciardo’s greater consistency, finishing ahead in more races and possessing an evident advantage in qualifying. However, the verdict is still inconclusive and with both men seemingly with a car which will allow them greater freedom to push, the pendulum will likely swing back and forth throughout the season and presumably see both take their careers to the next stage – progress which must happen, especially with the threat of rising star Antonio Felix Da Costa looming large from behind in the queue.
Already testing appears to have been promising; taking a patient approach to get to grips with the new rubber, explore the boundaries of the new challenger and assess where it is compared to the immediate competition. Given the stability of the rules it is unsurprising that the package has been reliable, though this will come as great comfort in utilising testing as much as possible. While it is far too early to assess where the team lies in the grander scheme of things, there has been no signs of crisis.
Realistically, achieving its target may be a step too far, but if the STR8 can fight regularly amongst the likes of Sauber, Force India and Williams instead of snapping at their heels or picking up scraps then 2013 will should be deemed a success.
‘Toro Rosso Press Kit’, (04/02/2013, accessed: 21/02/2013), http://www.redbull.com/cs/Satellite/en_INT/Article/2013-Scuderia-Toro-Rosso-Press-Kit-021243313613418.