[F1 2018 NEWS FEATURE] TORO ROSSO: BULLISH ON FORM

Red Bull B-team Toro Rosso is feeling confident ahead of the opening round in Melbourne, Australia, with the minnow squad again targeting fifth in the constructors’ standings.

It’s a lofty goal for Toro Rosso, given it has finished seventh every season since 2014, but team principal Franz Tost is bullish in what can be achieved with Honda.

SOUNDBITE (English) FRANZ TOST,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, TORO ROSSO:
“I think we have a competitive package, we have two drivers. They are new in Formula 1, but nevertheless they have won races in the past and also championships.”

But while Toro Rosso’s driver line-up may be new to F1, it’s certainly not new to Red Bull – with both former junior team members.

Pierre Gasly is a long-time Red Bull protégé, and former test and reserve driver – the 22-year-old runner-up in Japanese Super Formula last year - and 2016 GP2 champion.

His teammate Brendon Hartley is also a former Red Bull test and reserve driver, but this year will mark his fairytale return – given he was dismissed by the brand in 2010 due to his lack of results in Formula Renault 3.5.

But a stint in sportscars, including four seasons with Porsche in the World Endurance Championship, netting him two titles and a Le Mans 24 Hours win – brought him back into play… 

… his hybrid systems experience making him an ideal fill-in, when Carlos Sainz was loaned out to Renault from the USA on last year, so a full-time F1 drive for 2018 is a dream come true.

SOUNDBITE (English) BRENDON HARTLEY,
F1 DRIVER, TORO ROSSO:
“Yeah it's huge. There were a few milestones last year: winning Le Mans, another [WEC] world championship, and then my Formula 1 debut which was already a big moment for me. This year, again, will be the first full season, which is what I've dreamt of all my life.”

Both drivers are, therefore, highly motivated to prove their worth from the outset, after short stints with the team last year.

Gasly drove in Malaysia and Japan, and then the final three races, 12th in Brazil his high point. Hartley joined from the USA, 13th there his standout result, with DNFs in Mexico and Brazil due to power unit issues.

But the potential is there for Hartley to have the edge, with his experience, pure pace, economical use of fuel and technical feedback said to be world class by team insiders. And it’s a scenario no one would have expected at the start of last year.

SOUNDBITE (English) BRENDON HARTLEY,
F1 DRIVER, TORO ROSSO:
“Making it, you know, that's part of the dream - and now it's proving I deserve to be there and getting the performance I want and hopefully a few successful years to come.”

It’s going to be all eyes on Toro Rosso, as new power unit partner Honda – and the team’s two drivers – focus on proving themselves.