The Singapore Grand Prix
witnessed James Key's first appearance at an official FIA press conference since completing his move from Sauber to Scuderia Toro Rosso, and he was immediately asked for his impressions of a team that has failed to deliver in 2012.
Although last year only resulted in eighth place for the Faenza operation, it remained in the hunt for sixth until the final round before eventually having to give best to Force India
and Sauber. This year, having ditched the relatively experienced partnership of Sebastien Buemi
and Jaime Alguersuari
for rookies Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso
has accumulated just twelve points and currently sits ninth overall, 42 points adrift of Williams.
Key, who replaces Giorgio Ascanelli, has only been with the Italian operation for a couple of weeks, but has already formed a few ideas of its strengths and weaknesses ahead of starting work on improving its fortunes for 2013.
"It's early days obviously, but I think one of the big strengths I noticed very quickly in the team is the enthusiasm everyone has and the ambition to make it succeed," the Englishman, who got his break at the former Midland F1 team, revealed, "Everyone is desperate for it to work, there's a real passion there, as you can imagine, being Italian in the team's origin.
"Primarily, it's a very good atmosphere to work in, something a little bit familiar to me in a way. There's a bit of family atmosphere because it's a small team that's grown very rapidly. As a result of that, with the rapid growth, it means that it needs a little bit more gluing together in a way. There's still separate departments doing a very good job, but it needs to come together – and everyone recognises that. It's just a case of going through that process.
"So, the strength, I think, is the will and the ambition of everyone. On the weakness side, I think it's just still a team that's growing. There's no lack of effort from anyone, it just needs to be given direction. There's certainly some work to do on the aero side - and mechanical, for that matter - which is very clear, from a technical point of view. There's some pretty clear steps. Some of it takes time, some of it's fairly obvious for next year."
Asked what influence he could have on the rest of 2012 and, more importantly, 2013, Key admitted that his input would be limited this year, although he could still play a part in helping direct the development of future machines.
"I think, for this year, obviously, time is short, and this is a time of year when you've really got to prioritise, so we're doing what we can with this year's car [aware that] what we can do now is obviously carried over to next year too. I think, for next year, the architecture and a lot of the suspension geometry was already defined before I arrived, so it's a case of picking up what I can, together with the guys in Faenza and at our windtunnel in Bicester from this point forward.
"I'd say there's probably 40 per cent of the car still to go, so certainly we can work on that. But I have to say a lot of very sensible decisions have already been made for next year's car, exactly what I would have done, which is good. We're all aligned in our direction and we'll do everything we can in between now and Melbourne."