Toro Rosso delighted to be the benchmark for Honda


Cast your mind back to late February, as Red Bull prepared to take the wraps off its 2017 contender, one of the last teams to do so.

Naturally, the fun-loving Austrian outfit, chose to make the most of the fact that its new car would be designated the RB13, a thought that would put those suffering triskaidekaphobia into a cold sweat.

"Stroke that rabbit's foot, grab that four-leaf clover, fling that horseshoe and crank up the Stevie Wonder," proclaimed the Austrian team in an official video at the time, "because after a long winter's wait our 2017 challenger, the RB13, is here."

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Nine months later, and having finished third in the team standings behind Mercedes and Ferrari, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen having recorded 13 DNFs between them, completing just 72% of the laps that comprised the season and the Australian losing fourth in the driver standings to Kimi Raikkonen following another DNF in the season finale, one tends to feel that Red Bull tempted fate just a little too hard.

What then of Toro Rosso, which not only has a new engine partner in the form of Honda for 2018, but gets the relationship underway with a car due to be designated the STR13.

Ignoring the fact that the four-leaf clover will adorn the Sauber, is the Faenza outfit's luck - what there is of it following a difficult season - about to run out?

Looking back on 2017, team boss Franz Tost admits the season was something of a roller-coaster.

Asked about the highs, lows and subterranean moments of the past season, he tells the official F1 website: "We are still above ground! That's because we had a very good start into the season, a very successful first half - either we were in P5 in the constructors' championship, or pretty close.

"But then came the second half, and that was a different matter," he admits. "We weren't as competitive as expected, for different reasons, one of them being the departure of Carlos. That didn't really help.

"But also the car development side was not as planned, as we didn't make the steps that others did in the same time. And then, of course, all the reliability issues. Other than Singapore, we always had one car at the back of the grid - and that is never helpful if your plan is to score points!"

Having dropped Ferrari for Renault, next year sees Toro Rosso team up with Honda, a legendary name in F1 but one whose latest return to the F1 grid has been mostly calamitous.

"I am very happy, because we are their only partner in F1," he insists. "I see it already with the design of the monocoque: we can come up with our own ideas and are not having to take what others have planned for themselves. That is a big advantage.

"And because we are the only one, we're sure will have enough power units and parts for the whole season! It is fantastic to be the ‘benchmark' for an engine manufacturer."

While Toro Rosso has much riding on Honda finally getting its act together, so too, it would appear, does Red Bull which has yet to secure an engine partner for 2019.

"I'm sure they will have a very close look," Tost admits, "and whatever they plan with their engine from 2019 onwards that is a decision for Red Bull Racing."

Indeed, Red Bull's dilemma is one the sport has faced for several years now and one which still hasn't been resolved.

"Well there is a proposal for a new power unit regulation, but Ferrari, Mercedes and others are not happy about this," says the Austrian. "From their point of view it is understandable, because they don't want to build another engine and give up their advantage. So it is now in the hands of the commercial rights holder and the FIA to find a good ‘midway' or whatever to find stable rules.

"This is very decisive not only for the future of F1, but also for any possible manufacturer wanting to join F1. So a decision is important.

"I personally hope that the power units become much cheaper and less complicated," he admits. "The regulations we have now were made by engineers, they had their playground, but at a very high price, not only financially but also on the fan side. Had Ferrari not been able to close the gap to Mercedes this year and Mercedes had been way in front again, the interest of F1 fans would have dropped dramatically. Fans want to see interesting on-track fights and many different teams and drivers capable of winning races."

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Published: 11/12/2017
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