Toro Rosso technical director Giorgio Ascanelli admits he has high hopes for the team's new car, despite having had to incorporate numerous rule changes in its design.

Speaking at the launch of the STR7 in Jerez, Ascanelli explained the challenges the revised rulebook had presented to the midfield outfit, despite the sport still operating in an era of general technical stability, but revealed that the 2012 machine had still leant heavily on its predecessor, which finished last season challenging the likes of Force India and Sauber for sixth in the constructors' standings.

In terms of personnel and facilities, Toro Rosso will still be punching above its weight compared to the teams it is trying to beat but, with the STR7 the third car to be designed and built in-house in Faenza - with vital input from the Bicester wind-tunnel - there is an element of stability within the operation. Although Pirelli is making some changes to its tyres for this season, the team is confident of being on top of both that element and the DRS, which its designers have fine tuned to deliver improved performance this year.

"Looking at the design of STR7 in general terms, we could start from the fact that 2011's STR6 was a good concept, but it did not lend itself well to running a low exhaust and was better with a high one," Ascanelli remarked, reflecting on the overall design of the STR7, "Therefore, it was logical that, as the rules have changed in this direction, we should stick with a similar concept for 2012, expanding on the idea and its characteristics.

"Cooling as always, plays a major part in the design of the car and we have done something which should allow even more of an undercut on the sidepods, aimed at getting a better streamlining of the rear car. In simple terms, we have made a shorter chassis, with a larger distance between the engine and the gearbox, so that the car can be thinner and more streamlined.

"We have tried to improve the behaviour of our DRS and we have a new generation of wings aimed at this, hopefully in time for the debut of the car. We have also worked on the braking system, because we wanted to improve its efficiency, both front and rear. On paper, it seems to be very strong and we will see what our new drivers will have to say about it."

One area in which Toro Rosso followed the trend set by every team, other than McLaren, to have launched ahead of it this winter is in adopting the stepped nose design to accommodate the change in height restrictions at the front of the car.

"One of the rule changes for this year that had a significant effect on the design of the car was the need to lower the nose," Ascanelli confirmed, "This is a safety rule put forward by the FIA in order to tune the height of the nose to match the anti-penetration panels which have been applied to the side of the monocoque to protect the driver. The shape of the front end of the car is now less favourable than it was in terms of its aerodynamics.

"[There was also a] very significant change concerning the front wing, which was announced quite late in the form of an FIA technical directive. Concerned by vibration and excessive deflection of the front wing, the governing body has drastically reduced the flexibility of the front wing for 2012, allowing it to move by only 10mm instead of 20mm when a 100kg load is applied to it. The need for added stiffness means an increase in weight and so we have a large amount of weight added to the nose of the car, which can be problematic in dealing with the regulation regarding the weight distribution.

"We also had to contend with a rule change that extended the anti-penetration panels around the car, which are now larger, to provide greater protection for the driver, It's a good move for the drivers, but one with implications on the performance of the car."

The re-siting of the exhaust exit, however, is one area in which the team hopes to benefit from prior experience, having shown that its 2011 car performed better in something approaching the 2012 configuration.

"The rules now demand we relocate the exhaust exit to a more benign position, which effectively means no low exhaust blowing under the diffuser just ahead of the rear wheel," Ascanelli explained, "This has involved moving the exhausts higher, to where they were in 2009, before the new rules regarding bodywork had come out. This rule change has therefore led to the loss of a very high energy stream that will slow the cars down considerably, unless of course someone has come up with something particularly interesting! The exhaust blowing restrictions will effectively reduce the effect by a massive amount, down to about ten per cent of what it was last year."

As well as contending with the launch of the new car taking place on the eve of the first test, Toro Rosso also field two inexperienced drivers, with Daniel Ricciardo having started just eleven races and team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne yet to contest his first grand prix, and chief engineer Laurent Mekies confirmed that it would be imperative to give both drivers as much track time as possible in the early tests.

"With two new drivers, our highest priority is to give them as much mileage as possible before the first race and in practice in the early races of the season, so as to get them up to speed as quickly as possible," he insisted, "This means, whatever technical programme we have, it must, when possible, include high mileage.

"Scuderia Toro Rosso has a track record of working with new drivers and it is a known challenge with plenty of positives - the drivers bring enthusiasm, a fresh attitude and new ideas and they are extremely keen to show what they are made of and it is a fantastic motivation for everyone in the team. Both of them have an exceptional speed record and all of us, drivers included, are keen to find out how quick they are in an F1 car. In the past, we have seen that the learning curve is never smooth and it comes with steps in it, so we must be prepared to have a few changes of performance trends, with one driver doing better in one part of the season and another showing an increase in performance at a different point in the year.

"Another aspect of a grand prix weekend that continues to have a significant effect on the work cycle is the lack of in-season testing. One has to invest time for future car development, while balancing that against trying to find the perfect set-up for qualifying and the race, all within the four hours of free practice per weekend. When one needs to try dramatically different set-up or evaluate new components for future development, it is a difficult compromise."

Despite that, Mekies is hopeful that the new line-up and the STR7 can hit the ground running in Australia and Malaysia in order to provide a decent foundation to build the rest of the season on.

"The points you score in the early stages of the season will, as usual, be vital for us," he pointed out, "Normally, the first few races present a good opportunity for midfield runners, because there are usually a few more casualties among the very top teams in these opening grands prix. So there are big points available in the early races and, if you don't take those opportunities, you cannot recover later in the year."



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