3 September 2014
F1: Vergne expecting ‘tough race’ as STR heads home
"You need to be flying down the straights," admits Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne as F1 builds up to this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Scuderia Toro Rosso has fond memories of the Italian Grand Prix, and not just because it's the team's home race, but is bracing itself for less successful weekend this time around.
The Faenza outfit memorably claimed its one and only win with rookie Sebastian Vettel back in 2008 but, despite the best efforts of current drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat, knows that it could be fighting with one hand tied behind its back in 2014.
Putting the emotion of racing in front of a passionate crowd to one side, the hard truth for STR is that the Italian race is the fastest of the season, with the combination of long straights, tight chicanes and testing corners not likely to suit the power characteristics of the STR9's Renault engine.
“It's the home race for us at Toro Rosso and I'm really looking forward to the weekend, because it's always great to perform in front of the tifosi,” the soon-to-depart Vergne commented, “They really make this grand prix special, but I think it might be a difficult race for us, as it is very much a power track where you need to be flying down the straights, which is maybe not our biggest strength this year.”
The Frenchman, who is being replaced by teenager Max Verstappen in 2015, is hoping for better luck than he endured last season, when he retired from the race, while rookie Kvyat will be tackling the famous royal park for the first time in an F1 car.
Like Vergne, who triumphed in World Series by Renault, the Russian knows what it feels like to win at Monza, having taken top spot during his GP3 title campaign, but he admits that the challenge will be a big one this weekend.
Although the current rules mean there are no longer special 'Monza-specification' cars, all will run in low downforce configuration, meaning that that the long, high-speed straights will give brakes a stern examination as well as stressing the new hybrid engines. With quick tracks tending to provide the least passing places, and therefore adding to the urgency of turn one on Sunday, Saturday's qualifying session will also be an important hurdle to overcome.
“Monza has been an important circuit for me, as I have taken some major wins and podium finishes there, but it's a very challenging track, especially for the rookie drivers” Kvyat reflected, “I have always enjoyed driving it in the junior formulas and I hope it will still be the case in the F1 car this year. Of course, it's also Toro Rosso's home race, which will make what is always a highlight of the calendar even more special.”
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