Toro Rosso technical director Giorgio Ascanelli admits he has high hopes for the team's new car, despite having had to incorporate numerous rule changes in its design.
Speaking at the launch of the STR7 in Jerez, Ascanelli explained the challenges the revised rulebook had presented to the midfield outfit, despite the sport still operating in an era of general technical stability, but revealed that the 2012 machine had still leant heavily on its predecessor, which finished last season challenging the likes of Force India and Sauber for sixth in the constructors' standings.
In terms of personnel and facilities, Toro Rosso will still be punching above its weight compared to the teams it is trying to beat but, with the STR7 the third car to be designed and built in-house in Faenza - with vital input from the Bicester wind-tunnel - there is an element of stability within the operation. Although Pirelli is making some changes to its tyres for this season, the team is confident of being on top of both that element and the DRS, which its designers have fine tuned to deliver improved performance this year.
"Looking at the design of STR7 in general terms, we could start from the fact that 2011's STR6 was a good concept, but it did not lend itself well to running a low exhaust and was better with a high one," Ascanelli remarked, reflecting on the overall design of the STR7, "Therefore, it was logical that, as the rules have changed in this direction, we should stick with a similar concept for 2012, expanding on the idea and its characteristics.
"Cooling as always, plays a major part in the design of the car and we have done something which should allow even more of an undercut on the sidepods, aimed at getting a better streamlining of the rear car. In simple terms, we have made a shorter chassis, with a larger distance between the engine and the gearbox, so that the car can be thinner and more streamlined.
"We have tried to improve the behaviour of our DRS and we have a new generation of wings aimed at this, hopefully in time for the debut of the car. We have also worked on the braking system, because we wanted to improve its efficiency, both front and rear. On paper, it seems to be very strong and we will see what our new drivers will have to say about it."
One area in which Toro Rosso followed the trend set by every team, other than McLaren, to have launched ahead of it this winter is in adopting the stepped nose design to accommodate the change in height restrictions at the front of the car.
"One of the rule changes for this year that had a significant effect on the design of the car was the need to lower the nose," Ascanelli confirmed, "This is a safety rule put forward by the FIA in order to tune the height of the nose to match the anti-penetration panels which have been applied to the side of the monocoque to protect the driver. The shape of the front end of the car is now less favourable than it was in terms of its aerodynamics.
"[There was also a] very significant change concerning the front wing, which was announced quite late in the form of an FIA technical directive. Concerned by vibration and excessive deflection of the front wing, the governing body has drastically reduced the flexibility of the front wing for 2012, allowing it to move by only 10mm instead of 20mm when a 100kg load is applied to it. The need for added stiffness means an increase in weight and so we have a large amount of weight added to the nose of the car, which can be problematic in dealing with the regulation regarding the weight distribution.