Carlos Sainz admits Toro Rosso must make the most of its opportunities in the early rounds of the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship as it faces a season of limited development opportunities.
Toro Rosso come into the season with an overhauled package after dropping its Renault power unit in favour of a year-old Ferrari engine.
A move that Red Bull boss Horner believes is worth up to 0.8secs per lap, despite its age, though that figure has been disputed by Sainz, the Spaniard and his team-mate Max Verstappen have said the engine does represent an improvement over its predecessor.
However, after Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost admitted he doesn't expect Ferrari to bring any changes to the engine as part of its deal, Sainz fears there is only so much time gain Toro Rosso can make over a season with aero changes alone.
“Last year there was a lot of development on the engine side and you never do such big steps on the aero to compensate on the engine development that Ferrari & Mercedes can do,” he said. “So we should drop backwards a bit but this is not a secret it could happen.”
With this in mind, Sainz says it will be crucial for him to make the most of his chances during the early stages in the season, particularly as the package has proven reliable in testing thus far.
“We need to maximise the first half of the season and we need to work on the aero side to compensate the engine. It is how it is, but I prefer the situation to last year so it is not so negative.”
Toro Rosso enjoyed a strong pre-season test, with STR11 notching more miles than any other team, save for Mercedes. Horner has also predicted the team could find itself ahead of Red Bull come the opening rounds.
Including itself, Ferrari will supply four teams in 2016, with Sauber and Haas getting use of a 2016 specification engine.