Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost has given the latest crop of Red Bull F1 rookies a promising mid-season report, but admits that the squad should have achieved more in the nine races to date.
Speaking to the official F1 website, Tost - whose team unceremoniously dumped Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi because they 'didn't have what it took to win world championships' - praised the efforts of 2012 pairing Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne despite STR having racked up just six points - and nothing at all since round two in Malaysia. By contrast, Alguersuari and Buemi aggregated 41 points in 2012.
"So far, I must say that both [Ricciardo and Vergne] are highly skilled and both of them, so far, have shown good performance," the Austrian insisted, "Daniel scored points in his first race for us in Melbourne, when he finished in P9 and Jean-Eric finished in Sepang in P8, which showed that there is a lot of potential. The progress that both are making is quite promising, so I have to say that so far we are satisfied.
"What I am expecting is that a highly-skilled driver shows at least one sparkle. Daniel did that for me in Bahrain, as it was a really fantastic performance, and Jean-Eric did it in Monaco. To be in P7 as a first timer in an F1 car at Monaco is quite remarkable!"
While many would be tempted to suggest that the drivers are not living up to the standards previously required by STR and Red Bull, Tost prefers to point the finger of blame at the team's shortcomings over the first nine races, admitting that other top ten finishes have been allowed to slip away.
"We had possibilities, we had chances, but we didn't seize them," he confirmed, "For example, Daniel started from P6 in Bahrain and couldn't profit from it, and Jean-Eric was in P7 ten laps before the chequered flag in Monaco, but finished 12th [after a late switch to intermediate tyres - Ed.
]. In Valencia, Daniel was in a promising position where he could have easily finished in the points before some contact cut short his ambitions, [and] last weekend [at Silverstone] was not exactly what we were looking for, as we definitely were better in the wet. But it didn't rain in the race and, on top of that, Jean-Eric had to cope with his penalty [from hitting Heikki Kovalainen in Valencia].
"So, no points again, but both cars finished the race and mileage is all that matters for rookies. We have definitely not taken a step backwards, but our competitors are working better. Maybe we have gained two- or three-tenths of a second, but the others have gained maybe four- or five-tenths. Maybe they found a better solution but maybe also the development speed has not been high enough on our side."
Asked what he wanted to see from both team and drivers over the remaining eleven rounds, Tost stuck to his claim that it was the team that had more room for improvement, although the drivers clearly had their own part to play.
"We should have a product with which the drivers are able to be positioned in the midfield, where they are qualifying between nine and twelve and where they are racing around nine or ten, scoring just one, two, or three points - that is the target," he revealed, "The frontrunners are far ahead, but the midfield has become very competitive. Sauber, Williams, Force India and Caterham are catching up, so it is up to us to make an impact.