Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost has admitted that launching its 2012 car on the eve of the opening group test of the pre-season is not an ideal situation for the midfield operation.

As the sun set on Jerez on Monday evening (6 February), Toro Rosso became the eighth team to take the wraps off its latest F1 contender, unveiling the STR7 to an audience that had already witnessed launches by sister team Red Bull Racing and Sauber earlier in the day.

The STR7 is, as its name implies, the seventh car to bear the Toro Rosso name, and the third to be conceived and designed entirely in-house at Faenza and Bicester after the enforced technical divergence from RBR, but the Italian operation heads into the 2012 campaign with two comparative rookies behind the wheel.

Daniel Ricciardo completed half a season with HRT after being parachuted into Narain Karthikeyan's seat by Red Bull, while Jean-Eric Vergne is promoted from the role of reserve - a position he inherited from Ricciardo - after STR opted for a clean sheet of paper in terms of drivers, replacing Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari.

Despite their inexperience, however, Tost admits that the team is more familiar with its drivers that it is with the machine it has spent the best part of nine months conceiving and building.

"A new car unveiled by two new drivers," he acknowledged as the covers came off the STR7, "The day before testing starts, we can claim to know more about the drivers than the car!

"We are looking forward to working with our rookie line-up of Daniel and Jean-Eric, both of whom are very talented young drivers. They are extremely committed and motivated and they are well acquainted with the team, having both run with us in Friday morning sessions in 2011.

"Daniel has the greater experience of the two, having competed in eleven grands prix with another team last season, but Jean-Eric also has the right background and apart from running with us in a few Friday sessions, he also tested with Red Bull Racing as recently as Abu Dhabi last year and has spent many useful hours in the simulator.

"It's too early to make predictions for the coming season although, clearly, our aim is to score more points and finish higher in the championship than in 2011."

Despite the restrictions being placed on spending on F1, Toro Rosso has been able to expand its operation, and Tost is confident that that will allow it to take the fight to the likes of Force India and Sauber, with whom it was battling at the end of 2011.

"The team has continued to expand over the past year in terms of our facility in Faenza and also in the number of staff who work there, so we are in better shape than at any time in our seven year history," the principal confirmed.

"The STR7 is the third car designed, produced and assembled entirely by Toro Rosso. Over those three years, we have increased our workforce from 160 to 300 and Toro Rosso is now in the most stable and strongest position since it was founded. Apart from being up to strength in terms of personnel, we can also work from a sound financial basis, thanks to the support of Red Bull, with further backing from our sponsors, Cepsa, Nova Chemicals and Falcon Private Bank. Everything is therefore in place for us to move forward and reap the benefits of this stability on the race track."

After a slow start to 2011, Toro Rosso became a contender for points at almost every round towards the end of the year, and Tost expects the new car to continue to build on that form from the start of the new campaign.

"STR6 was a major step forward in terms of performance compared to the 2010 car, the STR5, therefore I expect to see a further improvement with this year's car," he insisted, "Last year, we finished eighth in the Constructors' championship and clearly we want to do better than that this time. It is far too early to make predictions but, looking at the work we have done over the winter, we must set ourselves the target of finishing sixth or at least seventh by the time we pack up in Brazil in November.

"It looks like being a great year for F1 and, I hope, for Scuderia Toro Rosso too. No doubt, we will find ourselves fighting with our usual adversaries behind the top four. Last season produced some exciting battles and, even though the championship titles were decided quite early, interest in F1 remained high to the end of the year. I expect Red Bull Racing, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes will be very close at the front of the field and naturally, as part of the same family, we hope Red Bull Racing will again have the upper hand."



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