Scuderia Toro Rosso has become the ninth team to take the wraps off its 2009 Formula One contender but, while many will say that they have seen it all before at the Red Bull launch, the Italian outfit insists that the STR4 differs from its sister.
Although there are obvious similarities between the Toro Rosso machine and the RB5 that broke cover at Jerez exactly a month ago, STR technical director Giorgio Ascanelli is at pains to point out that there are also necessary differences between the two, with the Faenza operation having far more control over its technical destiny, right from the design stage through to construction, than many give it credit for.
“Red Bull Technology does extremely significant work in defining the essential characteristics of the new car: its length, wheelbase, weight distribution, its basic metric characteristics," Ascanelli concedes, "However, with any F1 car, the packaging revolves around an engine and peculiarities from the drivers and, as we run a different engine to our sister team, it involves a different fuel system and fuel tank. Therefore, ours is completely different to the Red Bull Racing car and is designed here by us.
“The same goes for the water and oil systems linked to the engine. Different engines have different heat rejection and different operating temperatures, with materials specified to different levels. Also, the tolerances, which you have to respect when building an engine, are tuned in such a way that an engine works at its best within a defined temperature range. This in itself conditions the radiators and also all of the internal aerodynamics. That then impacts on the aero side and this work is also done in Faenza.
“The engine mates to a gearbox via some fixings and a clutch. Here again, the clutch installation is completely different between the two cars. In fact, the clutch itself is very different and the work of installing clutch and gearbox is also completely done in Faenza, involving a casing designed in Faenza and using completely different technology to the one Red Bull Technology provides to Red Bull Racing. The same goes for the oil and water radiators and the entire hydraulic and electronic systems."
“If you take parts manufactured in the factory or purchased directly by us, almost 100 percent of the car is made in-house - our procurement department processes 14,000 drawings, including those for car components, jigs, tooling, assembly and so on,” team manager Gianfranco Fantuzzi elaborates, revealing that the most obvious increase in home production came from the composites department.
“At first, we decided to make a few parts in our own composites department, but for the first time ever, we have now made the actual chassis in-house, whereas last year it was produced by Carbotec in Austria. This has been a big challenge for us and the chassis took up 100 per cent of our energy up to the start of the season. It involved re-commissioning the original autoclave that has been here since before the Toro Rosso name went up over the door. We also had to take on more staff with good qualifications in the fields of laminating and trimming. In fact, before tackling STR4, we actually made a 2008 STR3 chassis to see how it would work out and that proved to be a very valuable experience.”
The factory itself has grown, with an additional building shaping up to be the new machine shop, while additional staff have joined on the design and composites side. As for the team's future expansion, a lot will depend on how the sport's rules determine just what constitutes a manufacturer and constructor in Formula One.
Ferrari provides the engines for STR's challenge for a third consecutive year and, although the V8 unit retains the same 056 code number as a result of the engine freeze, the new rules concerning how many engines can be used per season, plus the reduction in maximum rev limits and the need to cope with the arrival of KERS, the engineers have had plenty to think about.