Over the winter, Toro Rosso changed its name and along with it its look, in favour of Alpha Tauri, the clothing brand launched in 2016 by Red Bull and named after the AlphaTauri star.
In 2019 Toro Rosso was the third best team in terms of race laps completed, narrowly losing out to Alfa Romeo, while it finished 38 times from 42 starts (90.5%), and scored points on 20 occasions (47.6%), effectively making it the fifth best performing team.
The entire team appeared to step up a notch, and while it was losing James Key to McLaren, drivers Kvyat, Albon and Gasly both delivered.
Though the season got off to a lacklustre start, with Kvyat finishing tenth in Melbourne, and Albon ninth in Bahrain and tenth in China, Monaco witnessed the team's first double points finish.
Picking up the odd point here and there, which wasn't easy when one considers that Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull effectively had the first six places sewn up, and McLaren, Alfa Romeo and Renault were scrapping for the rest, the Faenza outfit was given inspiration when Max Verstappen won in Austria, giving Honda its first win since returning to the sport. Sadly, Austria, like Russia, was one of those race weekends when the team appeared to be missing in action.
Just a few weeks later, in the difficult conditions that marked the German Grand Prix as the race of the season, Kvyat gave Toro Rosso its first podium since Monza 2008, while Albon's 6th added a full 23 points to the tally.
However, as the teams headed off for the summer break, Red Bull announced that it was dropping Gasly and promoting Albon, leaving many wondering if we were about to witness the death of two careers.
Back at Toro Rosso, Gasly was a new man, regularly out-qualifying his teammate on Saturdays and out-performing him on Sundays. Then again, Kvyat hardly helped himself when in Mexico and again in Austin, he finished in the points but was subsequently penalised for last lap clashes that were totally unnecessary.
On the other hand, at a time Monaco looked to be the highlight of the year, Gasly went one better in Brazil.
'Best of the rest' throughout the weekend, the Frenchman looked set to maintain that position on Sunday afternoon. In difficult conditions, somewhat reminiscent of Germany, Gasly worked his way up the order, and while he benefited from a certain amount of luck, such as the Ferraris taking one another out, and then Hamilton demolishing Albon's hopes, in the drag race to the finish line with the world champion the Frenchman kept his nerve, crossing the line ahead of the Mercedes to take second. A historic day for Toro Rosso, and redemption for the Frenchman.
Even though Renault failed to score any points in Abu Dhabi it held on to fifth by the skin of its teeth. But for that weak start to the season the Faenza outfit could have been celebrating its best finish since 2008.
Though tonight's launch was widely given the thumbs down by race fans, the Faenza-based outfit is hoping that the AT01 will soon be gibing those same fans something to cheer about
"AlphaTauri is the stand-alone premium fashion brand founded out of Red Bull," explained team principal, Franz Tost, "which is establishing a new way in the clothing industry that intersects fashion and function. It blends considered design and premium materials with textile innovations. Scuderia AlphaTauri gains an important supporter to be feeling great while working and looking well-dressed too in Scuderia AlphaTauri team wear. We share the same ambitions and we want to grow further together. It's a big opportunity.
"The name change has no effect on the way we operate as a Formula 1 team at the race track or our facilities in Faenza and Bicester," he continues, "but it is a very significant change in terms of how we present ourselves to the outside world: new name and new colours (white and navy blue), to mark a new long-term partnership which will be beneficial for both parties. Our new team wear will help all our team members deliver the best possible performance and feel comfortable in all weather conditions around the world, thanks to the wide range of purposeful clothing.
"In terms of results, since Red Bull bought the Minardi team in 2005 to establish Scuderia Toro Rosso, our team has developed a lot to reach the level of performance we have today. In 2019, we had a very successful season with two podiums and finished 6th position in the Constructors' Championship, it was a fantastic year for us and our best season since 2008. We are satisfied with our achievements, but now we are hungry for more, we made excellent progress on the technical front and in terms of how we manage the race weekend, so we intend to build on that to improve further.
"2020 will be a special challenge for all the teams, as we have to develop two car concepts because of the new regulations for 2021. For smaller teams like ours, in terms of resources and personnel, we will have to face the complex task of finding the right balance between pushing forward on the development of this year's car – the AT01 – and working on its successor for 2021, a year which heralds a new era for Formula 1 as it will undergo radical changes, not least in terms of the technical regulations that apply to the design of the cars. This does not have to distract us from our big task to look into every detail at every race to avoid mistakes as much as possible and take any opportunity that may arise in such a tight midfield pack.
"We will continue to work closely with Red Bull Technology in Milton Keynes," he admits, "who provide us with the complete hydraulic system, front and rear suspension, and the gearbox in 2020. This cooperation has been working really well last year as the level of engineering is very high and the parts they provided increased our reliability. Thanks to the synergies programme, our technicians in Faenza and Bicester can focus more on the details of those parts, which really can make the difference and give us more performance. Due to minor modifications to the sporting regulations in terms of how many components one can share with another team, some of the parts, for example the brake ducts which we could share last year, will have to be produced in-house now, which means their design and manufacture has involved more work in both Faenza and Bicester. I'm confident our technical group will continue to improve and deliver a good and reliable car to our drivers.
"Continuity is important for a team and we benefit from that also on the driver front, with Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat once again in the cockpit. In fact, by the end of last year, Daniil had driven more races for this team than any other driver, and our duo together represents the most experienced one in our team's history. Both drivers proved to be quick, showed fighting spirit and they are still eager to show to the world what they can do in this sport. So, new name, same team and we can't wait to see more action this season!"
"Our first AlphaTauri car, can best be described as a strong evolution of what we put in place for STR14, the 2019 car," adds technical director, Jody Egginton. "That's because the changes to the technical regulations for 2020 are fairly minimal. So there's nothing fundamental which has required a massive re-think. The focus has gone on pushing forward all the main priorities in terms of packaging the PU, packaging suspension, the systems and integrating all of that together to take the car to the next level and to give us maximum aero freedom.
"When it comes to PU packaging, the key is continuity as this will be our third year together with Honda. The second year already bore more fruit, which was clearly going to happen, after a pretty successful first year together. This third year gives us the opportunity to take that a step further. We have the opportunity, due to our relationship with them, to really maximise the integration of the PU into the chassis package. We are not just given a PU that we have to mount as best as we can. We're working together with Honda and Red Bull Technology to make sure that everything is as integrated as possible.
"The areas we have really focused on are further integration of PU and other mechanical items into the chassis. The reason behind that is to give the aero guys more freedom to develop, without us having to make costly, in-season, non-performance-enhancing updates. So, the main focus has been on getting everything packaged as tight as it can be. That's been a big push. We've attempted in a couple of ways to make the car a little bit more serviceable but overall, we've had to come up with some smart solutions to make the car serviceable, because everything is very tight.
"We've had to adapt the 2019 Red Bull rear end into our chassis package but that's part of the game each year, whether it's a new part or something you're inheriting from another team. It's a small detail but the gearbox has actually had to be re-homologated because of changes made on PU packaging, but to all intents and purposes it's the same. The inboard front suspension and uprights are also from last year's Red Bull, while the suspension members and associated brackets are AlphaTauri Designed & Manufactured. The hydraulics and other parts related to that also come from Red Bull. One small change to the regulations for 2020 concerns brake ducts: the brake ducts front and rear are now classified as listed parts, so these are AlphaTauri-designed and manufactured parts for 2020.
"Twelve months ago, one of the aims we had set ourselves was to maintain our level of competitiveness in the second half of the year. We actually increased our competitiveness in the second half of 2019 and that was down to a combination of aero and PU updates. It was an important step. We proved to ourselves we could improve the car consistently through the year. We'll take the same approach with this car as well. However, this year we also need to have one eye on the 2021 regulations, so it's unlikely we will develop AT01 in exactly the same way as STR14 but that's the challenge. The main thing to keep focussed on is aero development. The tyres are a constant, so aero is the battleground for 2020.
"The plan had been for Pirelli to introduce a development for this year and the rationale for wanting to do so was sound, in as much as it would have provided an opportunity to maybe address some of the comments regarding overheating and tyre degradation. But at the same time, 2020 is the last year run to this current set of regulations, so a change of tyre would have led to a lot more work, which would then have to be done again under the new tyre regulations, so you could argue why do it now? Also, looking at the competitiveness of the midfield, six teams were fantastically close together, which is good for the sport and a tyre change might have had an impact on that. The result of the two tests last year in Austin and Abu Dhabi did not tick the boxes to go with a new tyre for 2020, so it's the right decision, because I think it could have just been a change for change's sake. The new wheel/tyre size is already set for 2021 and Formula 2 is running that new size this year and we will learn from it, so keeping the existing tyres is the right thing to do.
"It's too early to make predictions for the coming season," he admits, "but in terms of our drivers, we're in good shape with our most experienced ever line-up across the two cars, in terms of numbers of Grands prix done. That's quite positive, because knowing both guys well means there are fewer variables there. We've got pretty much the same engineering team. There's some small changes but nothing that has not been planned for."
"2020 is our third consecutive season with this team and we are very much looking forward to it," saus Honda's technical director, Toyoharu Tanabe. "Ever since we first began working together, back in the winter of 2017, it was immediately obvious to all of us at Honda that we were dealing with an organisation that was keen to share everything with us and even to understand the Japanese way of working. It is a true partnership and right from the 2018 season, it began to deliver results. Last year, in its final season as Toro Rosso, it had its best result for over a decade, the highlights being the third and second place in Germany and Brazil respectively.
"Those results came thanks to improvements on the chassis, aero and PU side. But it also owed a lot to the excellent working relationship, when every problem was an opportunity to learn and every success was shared between us. Supplying two teams last year, with both of them part of the same family, linked by Red Bull Technology, allowed us to up the speed of our development and that is something that will carry over into this season. Everyone at our facilities in Sakura, Japan and Milton Keynes, UK has been working very hard to get even more power out of our PU. Of course, power is nothing without reliability and this year, that is even more challenging as the calendar will be the longest ever in F1, with 22 races.
"The technical regulations relating to the PU have hardly changed since last year. Therefore, we have been able to make progress based on the experience we gained across all four of our cars in 2019. I believe we can make a step forward and our aim is to obtain even better results than we did last year. In any sport, your performance can only be judged in relation to that of your competitors, so until we start racing, it's impossible to predict just how successful we can be. I'm sure the new name, Scuderia AlphaTauri will generate a lot of interest, but behind it, I know everyone shares the same fighting spirit that has served us well over the past two years together."
Check out our Alpha Tauri launch gallery, here.