Having endured a torrid time of things last season - indeed, only the three F1 newcomers fared worse - Scuderia Toro Rosso really needs to step up a gear over the course of 2011, and the initial signs are that the team is set to do just that.

After taking a substantial leap forward in 2008 - although in hindsight, how much of that was down to the prowess behind the wheel of current defending F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel is open to interpretation - the Red Bull 'junior' outfit did not so much tread water in 2009 and 2010 as wholeheartedly sink without a trace. Never mind pole positions and podiums, over the past 36 grands prix, there have scarcely even been any top ten qualifying positions or race finishes.

On the basis of pre-season testing with the innovative and impressive STR6, however, that appears likely to change this year. The team's new baby has looked quick and capable of rattling the cages of more than a few midfield rivals, with the potential to take the fight to - and perhaps even beat - the likes of Williams, Sauber and Force India F1.

The weak link in STR's make-up could just be its two drivers. S?bastien Buemi might claim that he is leading team material, but thus far in his top flight career, he has produced little real evidence to substantiate that boast, whilst team-mate Jaime Alguersuari has yet to fully rediscover the spark that made him such a hot property in British F3 circles - though in the Spaniard's case at least, there were flashes of form last year in what was to be fair pretty abject machinery.

With test and reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo and the similarly highly-rated Jean-Eric Vergne waiting in the wings, however, it would not really be any great surprise to see at least one of the Toro Rosso pairing fired out of the team's ejector seat come mid-season. The more pertinent question is, which one of them will it be..?

Crash.net World Championship Predictions

S?bastien Buemi: 15th (2010: 16th) Jaime Alguersuari: 14th (2010: 19th)

Scuderia Toro Rosso: 8th (2010: 9th)