Scuderia Toro RossoMax VerstappenCarlos Sainz
2015 Constructors' Standings - 7th

If Toro Rosso now has the engine to make the most of its chassis, it has a fairly formidable package coming into 2016 and a driver line-up capable of getting the best from it. A slowing in season development could reel it in come the second half of the year though

It is rather indicative of how poorly the Renault power unit was regarded that Toro Rosso and its drivers were almost reacting with glee at the prospect of using a Ferrari engine this year, albeit one from 2015.

Taking special dispensation from the FIA to be able to use the engine, on paper a dated power unit marks a step backwards for a team that was clearly on the rise with driver line-up that turned initial misgivings about their experience into a reputations as the future of the sport.

However, in this age where engine gains are measured in shuffles rather than steps, a Ferrari engine that was substantially quicker than the Renault unit last year stands to retain that advantage this year.

Indeed, Toro Rosso is yielding some positive predictions following pre-season testing, where a quite extraordinary effort by the team had the car ready by mid-February despite late confirmation of its supply. The Building on the strengths of the STR10 - considered the best handing car after Mercedes -, the STR11 is a tidy, simple and effective design, spurred on by a Ferrari engine that refused to go wrong in testing.

Christian Horner believes a 0.8secs lap time gain could see Toro Rosso ahead of Red Bull come Australia, and while most have whittled that down a fair amount, there is potentially a half second improvement to be had from the engine alone. Naturally, other teams have been improving - not least Renault - to squeeze that gain more, but in what threatens to be a tight mid-field battle, Toro Rosso looks a strong bet for the top ten... at least initially.

And herein lies the problem. Toro Rosso will find it hard to keep pace in the development race, with the 2015 engine having probably been taken as far as it can go. Even if it hasn't, Ferrari is unlikely to be able to spare the staff from its 2016 development project to bring anything like an update. It means Toro Rosso must maximise its opportunities early and get the most from that anticipated superior reliability.

Though something of an F1 misnomer - though not entirely -, the 'tricky' second season is here to test Carlos Sainz and especially Max Verstappen.

For the Dutchman, his rather impressive first season sends pressure, spotlights and expectations his way, though the youngster seems genuinely unfazed by anticipations that would crumble more experienced drivers. He hasn't cracked yet and there is no reason to suggest that, car permitting, he can't be in the hunt for podiums this year.

Similarly, Sainz has a tough ask in 2016. Fortunately, comparable qualifying and race pace with Verstappen helped disguise the eventual points' gulf between the two, but a lack of killer instinct made the difference when it mattered. Arguably the driver with the most to gain given his package in 2016.

 

Comments

Loading Comments...