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Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda



Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda Team

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With the Concorde Agreement coming to an end in 2007, and the threat from the Grand Prix Manufacturers' Association to form a 'breakaway' series, Formula One was in for some massive changes.

Whatever one felt about the future of the car manufacturers in Formula One, or indeed motor sport, it was a fact that the days of the 'privateers' were numbered.

It's widely assumed that Tyrrell was the last of the true privateers, the English team being bought by BAR, which was in turn bought out by Honda, however, Sauber, Minardi, Jordan and Williams, were also (essentially) private teams.

Sauber was bought by BMW, while Eddie Jordan sold his team to Russian emigre, Alex Shnaider, at the beginning of 2005.

After years of struggle it was inevitable that Paul Stoddart would eventually have to face facts and accept that in the face of the car manufacturers, Minardi was facing an impossible struggle, and the only sure fact was that the Italian team would eat up more and more of his money, and fall further and further behind the competition.

In mid-2005 there was talk of a consortium, led by former F1 star Eddie Irvine, buying out the Faenza-based outfit, however, it was Dietrich Mateschitz' Red Bull drinks company - thanks to some 'assistance' from Bernie Ecclestone - which ended up purchasing the team.

Thus, the twenty-year dream came to an end in Shanghai, though the cars made a final appearance at Vallelunga in November, when, after four days of testing, Paul Stoddart took to the track in a PS05, an emotional moment for the Australian, Gian Carlo Minardi, and the team's many fans around the world.

After just a few weeks, Red Bull was making its presence felt, appointing former BMW man, Franz Tost, as Team Principal. Although the team was initially named Squadra Toro Rosso, this was soon changed to Scuderia Toro Rosso.

In early December, in true quirky Red Bull style, Toro Rosso announced its 2006 driver line-up, with Tonio Liuzzi leading the team, Scott Speed partnering him and Neel Jani brought in as test and reserve driver.

In November and December the team ran the 2005 Red Bull chassis, while the 'self built' Toro Rosso STR1, which appeared in February at Jerez looked remarkably similar. Though many doubted the parentage of the Italian car, according to Max Mosley the FIA was "satisfied". So that was OK then.

On the same day that the STR1 'broke cover', Toro Rosso announced that former F1 star, and BMW Motorsport Director, Gerhard Berger, had bought a 50-percent stake in the team, having sold a share of his transport outfit to the Austrian company.

In addition to the controversy surrounding the obvious fact that Toro Rosso was using the previous season's Red Bull chassis, itself basically the last Jaguar car, many in the paddock, most notably Midland, which was in direct competition with then Italian team, were unhappy that Toro Rosso would use the Cosworth V10.

Although all teams had changed to the new V8 configuration, Minardi had been given special dispensation to run with V10 powerplants due to its lack of money. However, not by any stretch of the imagination could the same be said of Toro Rosso. Nonetheless, as in the case of the chassis, the FIA gave its blessing.

Although its power was regulated, there were times, particularly in the early stages of the season, when it was felt that the Toro Rosso-Cosworth was sandbagging, saving its torque 'advantage' for the power circuits. However, as the season progressed, the 16,700 rpm Cosworth (300 rpm more in qualifying) was no match for the V8s, which were reaching 20,000.

There were other problems for the Italian team however, including the fact that the aero package was compromised by the V10, which in turn negated any advantage the Cosworth might have in terms of torque.

Furthermore, due to a lack of capacity, Michelin was unable to supply tyres for serious testing, consequently ruling out any hope of development as the season progressed. Then again, at least Toro Rosso had a 'test team… a luxury that Minardi could only dream of.

Finally, Toro Rosso had the added problem that it was running two inexperienced drivers. Although not helped by Red Bull's 'pick and mix' approach to its employees, neither Liuzzi or Speed ever looked truly capable of raising their game, should they be given the opportunity.

That said, Speed gave a good account of himself in Melbourne, while Liuzzi took a well deserved point at Indianapolis. However, particularly in the case of the Italian, there was never a moment when you thought of Alonso in his Minardi season.

Going into 2007, Toro Rosso was surrounded by controversy... not for the first time.

In what many believed to be a cynical move - albeit, according to the FIA, strictly legal - the Italian team was running virtually the same chassis as Red Bull, albeit with a Ferrari engine as opposed to Renault.

Though Gerhard Berger claimed the car to be legal, Williams and Spyker were both threatening legal action, though sources were already telling Pitpass that should palms be crossed with the right amount of dosh the threats would magically cease.

As for drivers, at the unveiling of the STR2 (RB3) at Barcelona only Liuzzi was confirmed for the new season, with Berger revealing that "contractual issues" still needed to be sorted out with Scott Speed. Though the Austrian subsequently admitted that for much of 2006 he'd been disappointed with the American's lack of commitment, and still questioned his attitude, Speed was finally confirmed as the team's second driver just days ahead of the season opener.

Running the Red Bull chassis meant that Toro Rosso inherited the problems that went with it, namely poor reliability and a lack of pace. However, on the plus side, the team secured the services of former McLaren and Ferrari engineer, Giorgio Ascanelli.

While the team had its problems on track, namely public disagreements with Scott Speed, Ascanelli and his fellow backroom boys gradually improved reliability, to the point where at least one of the cars was making it to Q3 by the end of the season.

The improved reliability came round about the time Speed was finally dumped, allegedly following a physical altercation with Franz Tost at the Nurburgring, and with the arrival of the young German hot-shot, Sebastian Vettel.

Finally, in China it all came good, Vettel finishing a magnificent fourth with Liuzzi bringing the second car home in sixth, thereby giving the Faenza based outfit eight crucial points, enough to (ultimately) secure seventh place in the Constructors' Championship.

Long before the end of the season, the team had announced the signing of four-time Champ Car Champion Sebastien Bourdais, which, coupled with the retaining of Vettel, meant that Liuzzi was on his way out.

Looking back, before the start of the 2008 season, we at Pitpass have to confess to being hard on the Faenza team. On reflection this is probably because, for much of the time, Toro Rosso was seen as Red Bull's little sister, a chip off the old block. However, in 2008 the team began to develop its own character, and this, most likely combined with the demise of Super Aguri, left the Italian outfit as the underdog, a natural successor to Minardi.

With around 175 staff the team could hardly be called little, and let's not forget the car was built by Red Bull Technologies. However, as the 2008 season developed there was something of the 'little team that could' about the Faenza outfit.

The late completion of the STR3 - essentially the RBR4 - meant that the team contested the first five races with the 2007 car. Nonetheless, this didn't prevent it causing a few upsets, most notably in Australia where Vettel qualified tenth and teammate Bourdais finished seventh.

Unfortunately, a crash during testing for the Spanish GP meant that the team had to wait until Monaco before it could race the STR3, hardly the best introduction for a new car. Nonetheless, despite starting from eighteenth, Vettel finished fifth, clearly a portent of what was to follow.

It was at Magny-Cours that the team introduced its aerodynamic upgrade and from then on there was no holding back as the Faenza outfit. Other than the engine, and the drivers, there was little difference between the cars fielded by Toro Rosso and Red Bull, however, the Faenza team appeared to understand its car better.

Some would rightly argue that it was Red Bull that was doing all the experimentation, smoothing the way for its sister team, however, Ascanelli appeared to be crucial in making one car work better than the other, in particular the Faenza team's work on its braking system.

It goes without saying that the highlight of the year was Vettel's epic performance at Monza, where, having taken pole position, he followed up with a bravura performance on race day, establishing himself - as if proof were needed - as one of the real men to watch in the coming years.

Despite a shaky start, Bourdais came into his own as the season developed, both in terms of his qualifying and race performances. At Monza, his qualifying drive was almost as breathtaking as his teammate's and it was only a technical glitch before the start of the race that surely prevented him from taking a podium finish.

The Frenchman was retained for 2009, partnered by Switzerland's Sebastien Buemi, while Vettel headed to Red Bull. With a full season under his belt we waited to see how Bourdais would progress in his second year, particularly as he was no shoe-in for the 2009 drive. That said it was unlikely that Buemi would give him as much trouble as Vettel.

Over the winter, Gerhard Berger parted ways with the team handing back total control to Dietrich Mateschitz and while there was talk of the Austrian offloading the team eventually it came to nothing.

In 2008, Toro Rosso had taken a major step forward, not only as a competitive winning race team but in the hearts and minds of fans keen to cheer on someone other than McLaren, Ferrari and Renault.

Punching well above its weight in 2008 and delivering what can only be described as a bloody nose to its better funded big sister in 2009 it was back down to earth with an alarming jolt for the Faenza team. While the car was good - a Ferrari powered RB5 - the lack of testing, in-house development and a weak driver partnership saw Toro Rosso struggle.

As in previous seasons, once the new car was made available by Red Bull there began the massive task of modifying it to take the Ferrari engine - as opposed to the Renault it had been designed for - and all its other components which now included KERS.

Sadly, the Italian team was unable to match the weight distribution of its Milton Keynes counterpart which was to have a direct impact on its aerodynamic performance. For the first four races the team used the aero package featured on the original Red Bull launch car and thereafter remained several steps behind its sister team. Furthermore, it was well into the season (Hungary) before the Faenza team got its hands on Red Bull's evolved double diffuser, the Italian team using a 'standard' diffuser for the first few races.

In terms of drivers, having always been under the spotlight it came as no real surprise that Toro Rosso was eventually to give up on Bourdais, it would not be a Red Bull team if there wasn't at least one firing during the course of the season.

Following his dismissal, which for a time looked as though it might result in legal action, Bourdais was replaced by 2008 British F3 Champion Jaime Alguersuari. While the young Spaniard performed well, the new test rules meant he was always up against it.

Buemi however, was a revelation, the Swiss youngster proving far more competitive and quick to adapt to F1 than fellow GP2 hot-shot Romain Grosjean.

The points finishes for Bourdais and Buemi in Australia, the season opener, were a false start however, for while the Swiss was to finish eighth in China and the Frenchman eighth in Monaco there were no further additions to the tally until the very end of the season, the car clearly suited to the fast sweeps of Interlagos.

While Buemi was confirmed for 2010 long before the end of the 2009 season, the decision to retain Alguersuari wasn't made until late January.

However, the team's main concern for 2010 wasn't so much its driver line-up but the fact that, for the first time, it was out on its own in terms of car design. While the team didn't exactly start with a blank sheet of paper, using the Red Bull 2009 car as the foundation, it was now sailing into unknown territory.

Nonetheless, for the first time since its Minardi days the Faenza outfit was a constructor, and this should be borne in mind when looking at the end of season standings.

The first thing that Giorgio Ascanelli did was to take on more staff, creating a structural department from scratch, whilst adding more staff to the design office and windtunnel team. In terms of windtunnel work, the team used the windtunnel used by its sister team in Bicester. However, there were problems, Ascanelli famously complaining that "there was no handbook".

Although nothing special, the STR5 did the job, allowing Buemi and Alguersuari to hone their skills, even though they never seriously troubled their midfield rivals.

There were a number of upgrades over the course of the year, a new front wing package in Turkey, a new diffuser in Belgium and a blown diffuser in time for Monza. However, while the team came up with its own version of the F-duct it was never raced, Ascanelli claiming that it only ever worked in the windtunnel.

The highlight of the season had to be Buemi's eighth place in Canada, followed by a ninth at Silverstone two weeks later. However, there followed a lean period when the team failed to score a single point in six outings.

Once Williams and Sauber had come to grips with their own problems the Faenza team was essentially left for dust, ending the season ninth in the Constructors' Championship, the last of the points scoring teams.

While Buemi had his moments, there were periods when he was distinctly unimpressive, the Swiss seemingly caught out by the progress being made by his young teammate. Though the technical problems were not his fault, three accidents, not to mention being out-qualified eight times by his younger, less experienced, teammate didn't help.

Alguersuari continued to make good progress, and while he only scored three points there were some impressive moments, not least a couple of scraps with Michael Schumacher.

Both drivers were retained for 2011 however, the presence of Australian hot-shot Daniel Ricciardo as reserve driver ensured they would both be kept on their toes.

In 2010, the first year in which it was left to its own devices in terms of designing and building its car, the Faenza team suffered from not continuing to update its car in the final stages of the season. In 2011, having learned its lesson, the updates kept on coming, however, it was problems in the early part of the year that were to cost the team any hope of challenging Renault and Force India.

In the early stages of the season, the STR6, though reliable, was neither consistent or particularly pacy. However, as the season developed and the updates began appearing things began to improve. Early on, Renault and Sauber had the edge but towards the end of the season the Faenza team was making ground, and though it challenged its Swiss rivals until the very last race, Renault, having been so strong early on, was untouchable.

The team's best result came in Japan, where Alguersuari finished seventh and Buemi ninth, the Spaniard going on to score four more points in India. Nonetheless, disappointing outings in Abu Dhabi and Brazil allowed Sauber to secure 7th in the standings when by rights Toro Rosso should have nailed them.

Of course the improvement in the second half of the season could have had something to do with the fact that Buemi and Alguersuari no longer had Ricciardo looking over their shoulders, the Australian having headed off to Hispania. Never was the pressure on the duo more evident than in Melbourne when the duo collided on the opening lap. Thankfully however, both were able to continue, Buemi even managing to open his 2011 points account.

Buemi out-qualified Alguersuari thirteen times however, in the races it was the Spaniard who often had the edge, scoring twenty-points to his teammate's fifteen. That said, in Hungary, Buemi came from 23rd on the grid to finish eighth while at Monza his teammate finished seventh (a career best), going on to repeat the feat in Korea.

While neither driver had done particularly brilliantly, it can be argued that neither was particularly disappointing. Indeed, all things considered, bar the odd mistake, both gave good accounts of themselves.

Therefore, one can imagine the surprise when, on 14 December, the team announced that both drivers had been dropped for 2012 in favour of Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. Both current drivers admitted to being shocked by the news, Buemi in particular since he was in the team's simulator at the time of the announcement.

With the new driver line-up, not to mention the strengthening of its technical team in the shape of Luca Furbatto, who joined the design team from McLaren, and Jon Tomlinson, previously at Williams, who had taken on the role of Deputy Head of Aerodynamics, the Faenza outfit was seeking a serious improvement in 2012, as were the people at Red Bull who control the purse strings.

It is telling that having suffered one of its worst seasons in F1, the Faenza team, which is not known for its patience and understanding, opted to retain both of its drivers for 2013. One can only assume that this was an admission of guilt from the team, that it failed to provide Daniel and Jean-Eric with a decent car.

Eighth placed Williams scored almost three times as many points as Toro Rosso, while the only teams to score less were the three newbies - all of which failed to open their accounts.

While much was expected of Vergne the youngster was not really given the opportunity to shine. That said, based on what we did see, and taking into account the equipment at his disposal, there was little to write home about. And we should never forget that it was at Minardi, in a much worse car, that Alonso initially showed his mettle.

Looking ahead, the one bright note was that having lured James Key from Sauber, the Englishman would hopefully lift the team - he certainly seemed to make an impression in the final stages of 2012.

There were times during 2013 when it was difficult to remember those heady days when Toro Rosso and Red Bull were joined at the hip, the days when the Faenza car was essentially the Red Bull model, albeit with a different livery. In 2013, as Red Bull cruised towards its fourth title the chasm between the sister teams was never greater.

Having retained its 2012 line-up, the team got off to a poor start in Melbourne where Vergne finished 12th and Ricciardo retired following an exhaust problem. In Malaysia, Vergne opened his 2013 points account whilst his teammate suffered another exhaust issue.

Ricciardo finally got on the scoreboard in China, where a strong performance saw him score his best result ever, bringing the STR8 home in seventh. Granted he had qualified seventh also, but the fact is that the Australian tended to perform well on Saturdays, certainly compared to his teammate, whilst it was Vergne who usually had the edge come Sunday.

In Bahrain, Vergne suffered a puncture whilst Riccardo finished 16th, almost a lap down, though the Australian was to score another point in Spain, again a lap down on the race winner.

It was round about this time, following months of speculation and denial, that Mark Webber finally confirmed that he would be quitting F1 at season end and heading to Sports Cars with Porsche. Suddenly, the situation at Toro Rosso took on a whole new urgency as Ricciardo and Vergne found themselves under serious consideration as his replacement.

Vergne was quick to react, finishing eighth in Monaco and then taking a convincing fifth in Canada - his team's best result since Brazil 2008.

However, it was clear that Toro Rosso had a problem. Though Williams and Sauber had issues of their own, the Faenza team was losing ground to Force India and showing no sign of making it up. Indeed, to date, in fact over the course of the entire season, not once did both drivers finish a race in the points.

Sadly, Canada was as good as it got for Vergne, the Frenchman going the remainder of the season, a further twelve races, without adding to his tally. Other than finishing outside the points, the Frenchman suffered a number of retirements including tyre damage, hydraulics and transmission.

Ricciardo finished eighth in Britain before giving a bravura performance in Belgium. Having qualified nineteenth, one place behind his teammate - the team's worst qualifying performance of the year - the Australian fought back to finish 10th. Just ahead of the next race, at Monza, he was rewarded when it was confirmed that he would be replacing countryman Webber at Red Bull in 2014 and partnering Sebastian Vettel.

"He's a very talented youngster," said Christian Horner, "he's committed, he's got a great attitude and in the end it was a very logical choice for us to choose Daniel. He joined the Red Bull Junior Team in 2008 and we've seen in his junior career in Formula 3 and Renault World Series that he's capable of winning races and championships.

"He's got all the attributes that are required to drive for our team: he's got a great natural ability, he's a good personality and a great guy to work with. Daniel knows what the team expects from him; he'll learn quickly and it's very much a medium to long term view that we're taking in developing him. The seat within the team is a wonderful opportunity and I think he's going to be a big star of the future."

The news did little to encourage Vergne, though Ricciardo celebrated by finishing seventh, thereby leapfrogging his teammate in the standings in the process.

Tenth places in India and Brazil were the best the team could muster over the remaining races, finally succumbing to Sauber and finishing eighth in the Constructors' Championship.

Retained for 2014, Vergne was joined by surprise signing Daniil Kvyat, who, though only 19, won the 2013 GP3 title in his rookie season having previously finished runner up in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series. While some said the deal was all about money, others argued the youngster is the real deal.

Meanwhile, in a move which saw the Faenza team move back that little bit closer to its sister outfit in Milton Keynes, in 2014 it would use the same Renault 'power units', or engines as we used to call them.

As was the case with all Renault runners, pre-season testing didn't bode well. Nonetheless, the season got off to a strong start in Melbourne with Vergne and Kvvat qualifying 6th and 8th and subsequently finishing the race 8th and 9th. Indeed, in his first outing, the Russian youngster had broken Sebastian Vettel's record as the youngest point scorer in the sport's history.

Other than the British Grand Prix, that was the last time both drivers finished in the points together, Vergne scoring points in seven races in total and his teammate in five.

The Russian was one of the true discoveries of 2014, outperforming his teammate in qualifying 12-7 though it was the Frenchman who usually made the most progress come Sunday afternoon.

Like a number of teams Toro Rosso experienced a hit-and-miss season, both drivers experiencing more than their fair share of retirements. Indeed, both suffered five retirements with issues including the power unit, exhaust, brakes, drivetrain and electrics.

Other than Kvyat's third-row qualifying effort at his home Grand Prix, the season highlight had to be Vergne's drive to sixth in Singapore, an effort which helped the Faenza outfit secure seventh in the final standings.

In mid-August, the team announced that it had signed 16-year-old Max Verstappen for 2015 alongside Kvyat, with no mention of Vergne. However, the Frenchman was given hope when it was subsequently confirmed that Sebastian Vettel was to leave Red Bull (for Ferrari) and that Kvyat, in just his second season in F1, was to step up to partner Daniel Ricciardo.

As we waited on news of who would get the Toro Rosso seat, Vergne took to Twitter to reveal that it wasn't him, the drive subsequently going to Carlos Sainz Jr. This prompted the obvious question, why, despite giving a good account of himself had the Frenchman twice been overlooked whilst his teammate promoted.

Not for the first time, Toro Rosso's hiring and firing policy raised eyebrows, especially as in 2015 the team would be fielding two rookies 2015 with an average age of just under nineteen.

Verstappen made a couple of FP1 appearance for the team following his signing and he clearly had talent, a lot of talent. However, there was that nagging feeling that at 17 he just might be too young for such a baptism of fire. Indeed, the same could be said of his teammate.

How wrong we were.

Fact is, 2015 must be regarded from two angles; the car (the STR10) and driver line-up. Whilst one failed, the other succeeded.

Though the car was good - its one-lap pace particularly impressive - reliability was a serious concern, mainly in terms of the Renault power unit in the back.

The two drivers, on the other hand, must rank as among the best, most exciting discoveries of recent times, both impressing from the outset.

Finishing seventh in the constructors' standings, scoring a total of 67 points from thirteen of the nineteen races, tells part of the story, as does the list of retirements; electrics, engine, loss of power, brakes and handling.

Whilst there was one accident and one spin, the list of technical failures demonstrates that the Faenza team should have been capable of much more.

Whilst in no way comparable to the situation at McLaren, the fact that Verstappen needed eight power units over the course of the season, and teammate Sainz seven, tells you all you really need to know. Over the course of the year the pair amassed no less than 80 grid penalties due to engine issues, and whilst not as bad as Honda, indicated how good things might have been.

Nonetheless, Verstappen's superstar status is confirmed, while Sainz, though clearly very talented, was never really able to shine as brightly courtesy of the endless list of reliability issues.

Both drivers were retained for 2016, whilst the Renault was ditched in favour of the (year old) Ferrari unit.

With sister-team Red Bull sticking with the Renault (Tag Heuer) it was going to be interesting to compare not only the STR11 with the RB12, but the Faenza team's drivers with their Milton Keynes rivals.

Fact is however, Toro Rosso appeared to jump the gun. Though the Renault wasn't able to take on the Mercedes, it was a far more competitive beast and by the second half of the year Red Bull regularly had the beating of Ferrari. Whether Toro Rosso might have benefitted by sticking with the French power unit is a moot point, but it was clearly the lack of grunt from the 2015 Ferrari unit that hampered the Faenza team for much of 2016.

Indeed, not for the first time, the Faenza outfit had produced a competitive car which was good aerodynamically, innovative and also strong, thereby allowing the drivers to 'go for it' a little harder than their rivals. However, the eleventh hour decision to use the Ferrari power unit caused all manner of issues which were to impact the team throughout the season, not the least the gearbox - provided by Red Bull Technologies - which was actually meant for the Renault engine.

However, while the Ferrari power unit was to compromise the team's season, so too did the decision to promote Max Verstappen to Red Bull and bring back Daniil Kvyat. Not only was Verstappen a big loss to the Italian team, on his return, a shell-shocked, deeply disappointed Kvyat took almost half a season to sort himself out and get competitive again.

However, there was always Carlos Sainz.

Not for the first time, Toro Rosso suffered as a result of being the Red Bull B-team, the experimental plaything of its older sister, who just happens to control the purse strings.

Despite all this however, for much of the season, certainly until the shortcomings of the 2015 Ferrari were too much, the Faenza team continued to punch above its weight.

Fears that the team might be handicapped should its old engine prove better than the Renault were seemingly unfounded as the French unit soon proved to be much more competitive than its predecessor, but there were others ways in which 'big sister' could interfere.

Despite the strengths of the car, strategy was another factor where Toro Rosso lost out, Australia, where the team failed to capitalise on the VSC period and change tyres, being the most obvious example. Then there was some poor pit work, most notably in Monaco where Sainz missed out on some decent points, possibly even a podium.

The biggest disruption to the team however was the loss of Verstappen. Not so much because of his talent but because Kvyat was so clearly 'damaged' by the experience of being demoted and subsequently spent a sizeable part of the season on his return to Faenza in the Twilight Zone.

Thankfully Carlos was on hand, and while we never got the opportunity to see him take on Verstappen in the same equipment we did at least get to see more of the young Spaniard's undoubted talent. Sadly, these two bright stars arrived on the scene at the same time, and in the same team, and as a result it is the Dutch teenager who has grabbed the headlines.

If Alonso was performing miracles in the McLaren, so too was countryman Sainz at Toro Rosso.

Sainz and Kvyat were both retained for 2017 and providing the Faenza team could come up with a decent car, the Renault engine should have allowed them to move further up the grid, building on what was a very strong 2016 performance.

However, while we wondered how much longer Sainz would accept racing for the B-team, we also could not help but believe that one of the biggest issues facing the Faenza outfit was the fact the purse strings are well and truly held by Big Sis.

And talking of Red Bull interference, though retained for 2017, Kvyat now knew how tough life could be with Helmut Marko in charge. Consequently the Russian would have to be on his game from the outset, for GP2 champion Pierre Gasly was waiting - none too quietly - in the wings.

All things considered however, with a decent, if erratic driver pairing, James Key designing and the improving Renault in the back, things looked good going into the new season.

While there was the little incident with Scott Speed all those years ago, it is rare for Franz Tost to lose his temper, indeed, when it comes to shouting the odds both Toro Rosso and Red Bull can always call on the services of Helmut Marko.

However, over the Brazil weekend Tost was beside himself, raging, and at times the resultant row looked set to get out of control.

Unhappy with the engine reliability issues that had plagued his team - and Red Bull - all season, Tost suggested that the continuing issues might have something to do with the fact that the Renault works teams was closing in on Toro Rosso in the constructors' standings.

In some ways, while Tost's outburst had the desired effect, in terms of lighting the blue touchpaper underneath Cyril Abiteboul, it did nothing to improve reliability, the Faenza outfit scoring just one point in the final six races and being overhauled by Renault in the season finale.

Between the various drivers the team suffered 7 DNFs due to technical issues most of them engine related. Indeed, of the teams that started all 20 races, only Red Bull completed less laps (72%), Toro Rosso completing 78.3%. In fact, on only two occasions did both cars make it into the points.

Other than the shortcomings of Renault, Tost's mood will not have been helped by another lacklustre season from Daniil Kvyat, and long before Abu Dhabi the Faenza team had tired of both.

In what remains to be seen as whether it is a case of frying pan to fire, while finally dumping Kvyat, the team also elected to do a deal which will see the infamous Honda power units in the Faenza cars next season.

As part of the deal, which sees Renault give Toro Rosso's engines to McLaren, the Faenza team agreed to release Carlos Sainz to the French team on loan, even to the extent of handing him over for the final races of 2017.

Thus began a typically mad Red Bull/Toro Rosso episode of musical chairs which saw a clean departure for Sainz while Pierre Gasly was brought into replace Kvyat, though the Russian subsequently made a one-off return to replace the Frenchman, and Brendon Hartley - who had been rudely dumped several years earlier - was welcomed back to the fold with smiles and open arms.

As if this wasn't enough, for reasons best known to itself - money if we are honest - the team gave over a number of Friday session to Sean Gelael, a driver who is not likely to make it into F1 on merit anytime soon.

Due to the shortcomings of the Renault it was hard to judge how competitive the STR12 was, though its blue and silver livery made it one of the prettiest cars on the grid.

Other than those technical issues, the team was further hampered by the fact that only one driver was delivering... and he subsequently headed to Renault.

Consequently going into 2018 we were heading into the great unknown. Other than having the most inexperienced driver pairing - though it was a lot more exciting than Williams - Toro Rosso would have the Honda engine and few will forget the faces of Franz Tost and Yusuke Hasegawa at the press conference confirming the deal, neither man looking totally convinced by the words they uttered for the cameras.

As if this wasn't enough, with Renault set to withdraw its supply to Red Bull at the end of 2018, it wasn't only Franz, Pierre and Brendon hoping that Honda had taken a major step over the winter.

All this, and with an eye on Red Bull's issues in 2017 with the RB13, 2018 saw the Faenza chassis unfortunately designated the STR13.

2018 was always going to be tough, what with the (relatively) inexperienced driver line-up, but on top of this we not only had a new engine partner, but the feeling that Toro Rosso was being used as a test bed for its big sister.

Though pre-season testing had indicated a clear step forward for Honda, the Japanese manufacturer's power units completing 2,377 miles over the course of the 8 days, compared to 1,229 in 2017, 2,053 in 2016 and 1,088 in 2015, one couldn't help but feel that Toro Rosso was somewhat hyping up the feelgood factor ahead of Melbourne.

The sceptics got their answer when Gasly retired just 13 laps into the race, smoke billowing from the rear of his car, and teammate Hartley finished a distant 15th (of 15), a lap down on the leaders.

Two weeks later however, in Bahrain, not only did the Frenchman put his car 6th on the grid, no doubt causing Messrs Horner and Marko to brush up on their Japanese, but went on to finish a strong fourth in the race - Honda's best result since returning to F1 in 2015.

Sadly however, other than a seventh (Gasly) in Monaco and a sixth in Hungary (Gasly again), that was about as good as it got.

Just three races in to the season, it was revealed that Toro Rosso had approached McLaren with a view to obtaining the services of Lando Norris, which was hardly the sort of news to boost Hartley's confidence.

Then, at a time the team was already incurring grid penalties, the official confirmation that Red Bull would be using Honda engines in 2019, saw the Faenza outfit adopt full-time guinea pig status. Admittedly, some of the grid penalties were about tactics whilst others were in order to introduce an update, but there was no denying the real reason.

Of course, the penalties made things that much harder on Sunday afternoons, which, combined with a number of errors, particularly from Hartley, further hampered the cause.

The likeable kiwi didn't help his case with some needless mistakes and embarrassing incidents - we're talking crashes, encounters with birds, misunderstanding the start procedure and almost taking out his own teammate in Baku.

On the other hand, in Monaco, Canada and Britain he was the hapless victim of a rival's over enthusiasm and, at Silverstone, a suspension failure.

However, other than Gasly being given access to any updates first, Hartley picked up grid penalties at eight races, more than any other driver.

As the season progressed, and it became clear that Gasly was the favoured one, so Hartley became more and more frustrated, resulting in a war of words which the media was happy to promote.

Sad to say, but by the end of the season Hartley was clearly with a team that had already given up on him. In Brazil, though Hartley was quicker, Gasly, despite being told to do so, refused to yield, such was the way the relationship had deteriorated.

A strong run-in to the season from Leclerc saw Sauber leapfrog its Faenza rivals for 8th, Gasly having supplied 29 of the team's 33 points.

At season end, the team had completed the least (race) laps of all ten teams, had suffered the most technical DNFs and only Williams had a worse record in terms of points finishes

With Ricciardo jumping ship to Renault, it wasn't that surprising to see Gasly promoted to the 'big team' for 2019, nor was it surprising to see Hartley dumped. While Toro Rosso failed to even mention the kiwi's departure, it was noticeable that Honda paid a warm tribute to the two-time WEC champ.

What was surprising however was to see Kvyat brought back into the fold, the Russian - now in his third stint with the team - to be partnered by London-born Thai driver Alexander Albon.

Before either the Toro Rosso or Red Bull had turned a wheel, it was made clear that in 2019 the Faenza outfit would continue in its guinea pig role for both Honda and big sister.

On the back of a poor 2018 nobody was expecting miracles twelve months down the line, but fact is that the Faenza team finished 6 points adrift of 5th-place Renault, as it finally appeared to become a force in its own right, finally appearing to step out of its big sister's shadow.

Though the STR14 was nothing special, it was a vast improvement on its predecessor. Then there was Honda, which despite the penalties incurred by its various drivers as it sought to improve pace and reliability, was a massive step forward, especially when one considers those dark days with McLaren.

Indeed, as opposed to 2018, 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 all 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.

In all honesty Gasly had not been performing well at Red Bull, the youngster clearly trying too hard (and failing) to beat his teammate. However, it was now putting a rookie alongside Verstappen, a rookie that Red Bull had previously dropped from its roster. For Kvyat it must have seemed like deja vu all over again.

Fact is, in their 'new' roles, Albon and Gasly both stepped up to the plate, and in his first outing for his new/old team, the Frenchman finished 9th while the Thai came home 5th.

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 Gasly.

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.

While it is expected that Honda will take another step forward in 2019, so too Kvyat and Gasly must continue to perform. The mid-season driver swap was clear proof - as if it were needed - that Helmut Marko is always watching - and in that respect Kvyat, in particular, cannot afford to slip back.

Both drivers are retained for 2020 when the team will get a new name, Toro Rosso being dropped in favour of Alpha Tauri, the clothing brand launched in 2016 by Red Bull and named after the AlphaTauri star.


Team Principal: Franz Tost

Deputy Technical Director: Jody Egginton

Team Manager: Graham Watson

Chief Designer - Composites & Structures: Paolo Marabini

Chief Designer - Mechanical & Systems: Mark Tatham

Head of Vehicle Performance: Guillaume Dezoteux

Reliability Manager: Phil Mitchell

Team Coordinator, Chief Garage Technician: Michele Andreazza

Chief Race Engineer: Jonarthan Eddolls

Chief Mechanic: Domiziano Facchinetti

Race Engineer (Hartley): Pierre Hamelin
No 1 Mechanic (Hartley): Eduard Turon

Race Engineer (Gasly): Mattia Spini
No 1 Mechanic (Gasly): Michele Moschitz

Head of Communications: Fabiana Valenti

Junior Press Officer: Jennifer Seeber

Digital Manager: Diego Mandolfo

Head Sponsorship & Brand Manager: Andrea Menth

Brand Manager: Alberto Allegri

Digital Producer: Josh Kruse



Chassis: Scuderia Toro Rosso - carbon composite monocoque.

Front suspension: Scuderia Toro Rosso/Red Bull Technology - carbon composite wishbones with pushrod operated inboard torsion bars and dampers.

Rear suspension: Red Bull Technology - carbon composite wishbones with pullrod operated inboard torsion bars and dampers.

Steering: Scuderia Toro Rosso/Red Bull Technology - power assisted

Gearbox: Red Bull Technology - carbon composite maincase longitudinally mounted, hydraulically actuated 8 speed.

Differential: Hydraulically actuated multiplate.

Clutch: Hydraulically actuated carbon multiplate

Exhaust: Honda

Brake System: Scuderia Toro Rosso/Red Bull Technology

Driver's seat: Scuderia Toro Rosso - driver specific carbon composite

Fuel system: Scuderia Toro Rosso/Red Bull Technology

Overall weight: 743 kg

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