Red Bull B-team Toro Rosso began the season with so much promise. Its much-admired STR12 unveiled in Barcelona, with many in the F1 pit lane dubbing it a “jewel of a car” given its detailed aerodynamic styling.
… and striking, new, lighter-blue livery.
At a shakedown test at Misano, expectations were high for a strong year – fifth in the constructors’ championship the aim with Renault’s current-spec powerplants replacing Ferrari’s one-year old units.
SOUNDBITE (English) FRANZ TOST,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, TORO ROSSO:
“I’m more confident this year and I think that we have the ingredients together to achieve this goal.”
Toro Rosso also had two talented drivers motivated to prove their value to Red Bull – Daniil Kvyat, who was demoted from the brand’s top team, Carlos Sainz, who was overlooked for Kvyat’s seat.
SOUNDBITE (English) JAMES KEY,
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, TORO ROSSO:
“We don’t often get that level of driver stability and experience in one hit – and having Dani and Carlos both of them rated extremely highly continuing with this team for this year is a really good thing for us.”
Sainz was the star performer, scoring in nine of the first 14 races, his best fourth in Singapore. Kvyat, though, struggled – earning points at just three of the 15 races he competed in.
But in September, rumours were rife Sainz was heading to Renault, as a deal sweetener, with Toro Rosso wanting to break its power unit contract – and switch to Honda from 2018.
SOUNDBITE: (English) CARLOS SAINZ,
F1 DRIVER, TORO ROSSO:
"I know there's a lot of rumours going around now and a lot of things being said. From my side, I prefer to stick to my standards, to focus on the weekend and don't comment too much about them.”
Sainz duly switched to Renault from Austin onwards, the Spaniard on loan from Red Bull – while Kvyat was dropped from Malaysia, Red Bull reserve Pierre Gasly replacing him for all but one of the remaining rounds.
But with Gasly Red Bull’s only young driver ready to step up to F1, Sainz was replaced by Brendon Hartley – a former Red Bull reject whose career was reignited by a stint with Porsche with whom he won Le Mans and two World Endurance Championships.
In the last three races, Hartley retired twice with engine-related issues but finished one-place ahead of Gasly in the final race in Abu Dhabi.
Next year, though, there’s a lot of uncertainty at Toro Rosso, with Gasly and Hartley a still unproven driver line-up – and Honda joining as power unit partner. The jury’s out until winter testing, at the very least.