Now fitted with a 2015-spec Ferrari engine, can Toro Rosso challenge the big boys and achieve its ambitious target of finishing fifth in the championship? Matthew Gannon predicts.
Constructors Championship - 5th.
The Ferrari power unit will give the Toro Rosso car a big boost over its Renault-powered rivals. We saw last season how the sister team could more than match the big boys at certain tracks. Verstappen stealing an amazing fourth place at Hungary showed the true potential of the Toro Rosso.
If they can have an equally strong chassis, expect big points in the early part of the year, while the second half of the year will be less fruitful, due to the Ferrari power unit being 2015-spec. While rivals will continue to get upgrades, the Toro Rosso will continue to use the same spec engine. That said, I believe they will have enough in the tank to out score it's big brother team Red Bull and many others.
Max Verstappen - 9th.
The fourth place at COTA was a mere insight in what the future holds for the prolific Dutchman. While the pace down the straights should improve, any gains on P4 look unlikely and matching it will be a huge achievement. This year could be big for Max who will be looking to beat one if not both of the Red Bull drivers in order to steal their seat, if Raikkonen doesn't retire or he isn't the chosen replacement. Many believe Max is Ferrari-bound and a strong year here will certainly boost his credentials to drive for the Scuderia.
Carlos Sainz Jr - 11th.
The Spaniard would arguably have been rookie of the season if it hadn't been for his daring team mate. While passing Felipe Nasr around the outside of Blanchimont wasn't his style, he was certainly up there, racing Max on a few occasions. Not only this, but Sainz is incredibly consistent and his solid points record will be crucial should Toro Rosso hold off Red Bull and the rest of the chasing pack in the constructors championship.
Pre Season notes -
Sainz was fifth on the aggregate runs behind the two Ferraris, and the two Nico's, with Max again backing up a solid showing in eighth with only the two Williams sandwiching them.
The sister team outpaced the Red Bull big boys by a solid margin and racked up the second most miles out of any team. Toro Rosso will be one team to expect to break the top 10 in Australia and don't rule out a top 5 finish for one or both of Formula One's top youngsters.
by Matthew Gannon