Jean-Eric Vergne may only have one day of testing under his belt, but is already optimistic that the Toro Rosso
team can be more of a factor in 2013.
The Frenchman took over from team-mate Daniel Ricciardo on day three of the season-opening Jerez group test and, despite one minor technical issue that stranded him at the end of the pit-lane, added 85 laps to the team's tally and followed up Ricciardo's strong performances with fifth spot on the timesheets, just a couple of hundredths shy of Kimi Raikkonen' Lotus.
After ensuring that he was comfortable in the cockpit on his first encounter with the new STR8, Vergne's focus in the early laps was on familiarising himself with the new machine, before moving on to a programme that looked at set-up work, aero development and assessment of cooling solutions.
“It was really nice to be back behind the wheel for the first time this year,” the Frenchman admitted, “At the start of the morning, I was getting used to being in an F1 car again - and a brand new one of course.. After that, we immediately started doing some useful work and again, in the afternoon, we learned some important things about the car.
“Our aim today was not to find the perfect balance, but to get as much work done with what we had, to get through the items on the test schedule and learn a lot.”
Vergne was also working with a new race engineer, Phil Charles, and credits the team for making wider changes that he feels can only benefit its fortunes after finishing a disappointing ninth in the constructors' championship.
"There's only good people working in the team now, the changes went in the right direction,” he said, reflecting on the appointment of technical director James Key and others, “We're definitely in better shape this year.
"It's a brand new car. We didn't bring anything from the STR7 so, of course, the feeling is different, but so far it's good.
"I think the biggest area we need to work on now is understanding the car. Once we understand every little thing [and] what they can do, we will be able to give ourselves a much better car."