Toro Rosso manufactured a strong chassis for the second consecutive year in 2016, but a horsepower deficit left it only seventh in the standings.
Given that Toro Rosso managed to score only four fewer points than in 2015 is a testament to Jamey Key and the entire technical department of the Faenza-based squad.
Toro Rosso started the season on a strong note, with Max Verstappen‘s sixth place finish in Bahrain illustrating the speed of the STR11. Carlos Sainz Jr replicated that result only a few years later in Spain, elevating the team to fifth place in the constructors championship.
However, as races went on, the horsepower deficit of the year-old Ferrari engine became more and more evident, making the Toro Rosso a sitting duck on straights.
The Italian team scored 45 of its 63 points before the summer break, with the second half of the season proving particularly difficult for the squad.
It eventually ended seventh in the championship, losing places to both Force India and McLaren - two teams that progressively improved over the course of the year.
Toro Rosso started the season with Verstappen and Sainz Jr, who both had one year of F1 experience under their belt.
Verstappen was at his usual brilliance and could have scored another top result in Russia, had it not been for a technical failure that brought his race to an abrupt halt.
His early-season promotion to Red Bull left Toro Rosso with a major weak point, as it now fielded a mentally-torn Daniil Kvyat.
The Russian took a long time to get back into his groove, scoring points at only his two occasions since being swapped from the senior outfit. However, his feisty drive in Singapore showed that the 22-year-old he is just as good as he was last season.
In the Toro Rosso seat, Sainz Jr quietly made a name for himself after spending 2015 in the shadows of Verstappen.
Those who had analysed his debut season closely knew that Sainz Jr was very much a match to Verstappen, with technical issues being the biggest reason behind the difference in their points tally.
And the Spaniard vindicated such claims with a season where he excelled to that extent that even Mercedes once considered him as a possible replacement for Nico Rosberg.
His sixth place drive in USA was particularly stellar, given the power deficit Toro Rosso faced during the latter part of the season.
While Verstappen gained the most public attention for his wet weather brilliance in Brazil, Sainz’s equally blazing drive shouldn’t be forgotten.
by Rachit Thukral