After dropping Jamie Alguersuari and Sebastian Buemi Toro Rosso signaled their intentions for 2012. This was a year when occasional points scoring would not be enough, the team demanded sustained and consistent success…
Unfortunately what has transpired is that the team has struggled. Last year Williams were hopeless and with Sauber suffering with severe financial restrictions the path was cleared for Toro Rosso to show steady improvement and score 44 points en route to seventh in the Constructors’ Championship. This year however the team has struggled and has had just two points scoring finishes.
Their all new driver lineup of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne has failed to impress with both drivers struggling. Vergne has looked out of his depth for much of the year with the French rookie generally the fall guy in the opening qualifying session. Even so Vergne has shown a lot of potential at times, in Monaco I was particularly impressed by his commitment and car handling around the streets.
Those moments though have been few and far between and he has been comprehensively outclassed by his Australian teammate. Vergne finds himself, ironically, in the same position as Alguersuari did as a rookie. He lacks experience in single seater racing because of his ago and Toro Rosso will need to see the peaks that he has achieved this year rather than the troughs. He has speed and ability but his inexperience is masking this, just like it did for Jamie until last year.
For Ricciardo this year was always going to be a challenge. Even though he was Red Bull’s tester and raced for HRT last year he has little F1 experience. He has done a solid job yet only been rewarded with two points in Malaysia. His speed is impressive and he has been consistent in races but with a poor car and an struggling teammate it is hard to definitively judge the Australian.
All the Red Bull backed driver can do is race to the best of his ability and hope it is enough for his backer to take notice but with Mark Webber signing a contract extension it is clear that Helmet Marko has not been as impressed as he expected with his young charger.
Red Bull seem to expect that another Vettel will fall into their lap and outperform the constraints of the Toro Rosso and become a bone fide star. It is highly unlikely to happen like that again so instead the team should be trying to nurture their young drivers and give them the chance to perform at a high level otherwise Ricciardo and Vergne will be cast onto the scrap heap of talent that has seemed to litter the workshop of Fazena in recent years.
From the team’s perspective it is paramount that they gain understanding of their standing on the grid and have more realistic goals in the future. At the announcement of Vergne and Ricciardo Toro Rosso said that they wanted to challenge for podiums on a consistent basis. This was an unrealistic ambition for a team that lacks the funding of the majority of the grid and is almost completely reliant on Red Bull for their budget. Scoring points on a regular basis is a much more attainable goal but one that will require everyone pulling together.
With development stopped on the current car and James Key set to start working in September the team should be more competitive next year. For the remainder of this season however the focus of attention should be on allowing their drivers to take the time to get as much of an understanding of how Formula 1 works as possible and try and use this knowledge to prepare for next year when the team can look to progress from what has been a very disappointing season.