Scuderia Toro Rosso took the covers off of their STR8 machine at Jerez on Monday.
Piloted by Red Bull junior drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, the Italian closed the 2012 season a disappointed 9th in the Constructors’ Championship – a long way ahead of Caterham, Marussia and HRT, but far behind Williams.
Left behind by the rest of the midfield, Toro Rosso struggled to make an impression throughout last year, only troubling the points a handful of occasions. Both Ricciardo and Vergne made the best of what they had; however that was, all too often, not a whole lot.
Questions as to the status of the team remain hanging in the air, with persistent rumours that Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz is ready to offload the team should the right offer emerge.
For now, the team are concentrating on the job at hand and that must be to pull back into the midfield battle. According to team boss Franz Tost, “Formula 1 is approaching a new era, specifically in 2014, and, at Toro Rosso, we have already made significant changes to our structure both in terms of manpower and facilities, to be ready for that.
“We believe the changes made will also help in the short term for this coming season and, combined with the fact that Daniel and Jean-Eric are more experienced, now that they have a season with us under their belts, we start winter testing in a mood of justified optimism.”
Ricciardo and Vergne also seem rather positive, but then again an improvement is a significant must for their careers, with Vergne noting, “…going into this season is a completely different experience to this time last year, when I had to deal with a lot of unknowns. This year, I will still be learning (…) but the basics are there and I will be able to focus on more important aspects of the job.
“In general, I sense a new philosophy within Toro Rosso: I wouldn’t say people are working harder, but maybe they are going in a better direction and everyone has been working hard since the end of last season, to achieve our goals.”
Ricciardo added: “the target for us this year is very simple: to improve on last year. We want to make a big step forward and we have to get back among the teams we should be fighting with. I have a new race engineer for this year, but it’s not a step into the unknown as he used to be my data engineer and he ran me in Austin and Sao Paolo last year so it’s not like we haven’t worked together yet.
“The six days I will spend in the cockpit for pre-season testing should be enough time to get a good relationship going and I’m looking forward to it as an exciting new challenge.”
Team Principal: Franz Tost
Technical Director: James Key
Chief Designer: Luca Furbatto
Team Manager: Gianfranco Fantuzzi
Chief Engineer: Laurent Mekies