With a competitive chassis and an impressive rookie lineup, Toro Rosso arguably enjoyed its best campaign during its brief tenure in Formula 1.
Ahead of pre-season testing, Toro Rosso was the only outfit to host a proper launch ceremony in Jerez. Naturally, there was a reason behind such a move. The team was convinced that it has produced the best chassis in its 10 year history and was targeting fifth position in the constructors championship - it’s highest ever - despite fielding an all-rookie lineup in form of 17 year old, F3 graduate Max Verstappen and Formula Renault 3.5 champion Carlos Sainz Jr.
Although the team finished quite some way off its target - by 69 points to be precise - an underpowered and unreliable Renault engine somewhat masked the true pace of the STR10 chassis, especially during the early part of the year when the car was particularly strong.
After all, Toro Rosso beat the senior Red Bull team - powered by the same Renault engine - at multiple occasions, most notably in Malaysia and Hungary.
Verstappen and Sainz exceeded expectations as well, regularly scoring points for the Faenza-based outfit, while securing that odd stand out result.
In Hungary, Verstappen piloted his car to an impressive fourth place result, despite serving a five second penalty for an incident involving Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. A few months later in Austin, he repeated that result with another fine drive from eighth on the grid. Prior to the aforementioned races, the Dutchman made headlines for impressing throughout the Monaco Grand Prix weekend.
But the most exciting aspect of Verstappen’s driving was his craftsmanship in wheel-to-wheel combats - something that won him plenty of plaudits from media and fans alike. His pass over Felipe Nasr around Blanchimont was a class act, and so was his determined move over Sergio Perez at Senna S during the penultimate round of the season in Brazil.
It was this ability behind-the-wheels that allowed him to finish in eighth place around the streets of Singapore, despite stalling at the start and rejoining a lap down on the leaders.
Carlos Sainz, too, was particularly impressive in the sister Toro Rosso, but took the lion’s share of team’s (and engine’s) reliability issues. For instance, in Russia, Sainz stormed through the field from 20th on the grid, before brake issues forced him to retire from seventh place.
Verstappen was also hit with reliability issues, as engine troubles forced him to retire from Austria and China.
The two drivers also made some critical errors, but should be forgiven considering they were in their debut season in Formula 1. Verstappen infamously collided with Romain Grosjean’s Lotus during the Monaco Grand Prix and spun on his own during the British Grand Prix. His Spanish teammate crashed multiple times during practice, most notably in Russia where he had to be transported to a hospital for precautionary checks.
In all, it was a strong season for Toro Rosso with statistics hardly showing the true picture. Red Bull’s juniour squad finished in the same position in the standings as last year, but with over twice the points scored.
Had a more powerful and reliable engine been mounted on the back of the STR10, the team would have probably fought with Force India and knocked on the perches off Red Bull at more than just a couple of occasions. Maybe that’s why they had set their sights on fifth in the championship in the first place.
by Rachit Thukral
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