Pierre Gasly concedes Toro Rosso has faced an uphill battle during the 2018 Formula 1 world championship having lost technical director James Key midway through the season.

McLaren announced it had signed the technical head during the build-up to July’s Hungarian Grand Prix but that was followed by Toro Rosso insisting Key had a contract, believed to be until 2020, still to see out.

A month later negotiations continued between the two parties, with Key placed on an unknown length of gardening leave, while McLaren is yet to set a start date for the technical boss.

With no new replacement announced by Toro Rosso, Pierre Gasly concedes its rate of updates has effectively come to a standstill which has seen the team struggle to fight for points over the second half of the year.

Gasly’s ninth place at the Belgian Grand Prix is the team’s last points while it has scored 11 of its 30 points over the past 11 races, having notched up 19 points across the opening six rounds.

“We haven’t really had any updates on the car since Melbourne, or the really small one we had in Monaco, and the one in Austria which didn’t work,” Gasly said at Suzuka. “So we have the same car that started the season really.

“Clearly we start to feel it because recently we’ve been struggling to get close to the top 10 because other teams are improving and we are not.

“For sure in a way you could say that it’s clearly missing and if you lose a technical director it always has an impact on the instant performance. It’s not an ideal situation.”

Toro Rosso looks set to fight Sauber to hold on to eighth place in the F1 world constructors’ championship over the final four rounds with just three points splitting the teams.