Hannah Taylor, F1 correspondent
Despite the 2012 Formula One season not beginning until 18th March in Australia, the premier class in the motor racing industry hit the headlines with the new car launches that continued today. Among those taking place at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Spain were Scuderia Toro Rosso, who were accompanied by Sauber as both teams unveiled their latest models to the world.
Scuderia Toro Rosso’s sister and World Championship winning team, Red Bull also caught the attention of particularly the British media and fans, as they launched the RB8 at their factory in Milton Keynes, UK today. However, their midfield running counterpart very much followed suit when they had their time to shine this afternoon in sunny Spain.
Before the day got down to business in terms of the characteristics and viewing of the new car, the Toro Rosso Team Principal, Franz Tost explained the purpose of the launch. “First we must know what Toro Rosso is here for… Toro Rosso is to educate the young drivers for Red Bull Racing. This is our philosophy, and within this philosophy, we do our best. The car itself, I think we made another step forward”, commented Tost.
I’m quite convinced that Daniel Ricciardo, as well as Jean Eric Vergne, will do a good job.
The launch event was covered by a female Spanish television presenter, which firstly featured speeches from not only Tost but also The Co-Chairman of the CEPSA sponsor of the event. During Santiago Bergareche’s interview, he explained the on-going relationship between the organisation and the Toro Rosso team.
“The launch of this new car and our continued support of the team is a pivotal moment for CEPSA. It represents a major leap forward in our international expansion as Scuderia Toro Rosso will carry our name around the globe while it tackles the 2012 World Championship. CEPSA is a firm supporter of Formula 1, the very highest level of motorsport, because it represents the best possible showcase for technology and innovation in our sphere of activity. We at CEPSA, believe that Scuderia Toro Rosso shares many of our values and we look forward to enjoying a successful and mutually beneficial partnership throughout the year” explained Bergareche.
The STR7 was then revealed to all from under the covers that had kept its distinguishing features from the world until today. After the very much anticipated photo opportunities with the drivers and their car, the rest of the afternoon consisted of media interviews with key members of the team.
Not only do Scuderia Toro Rosso have their new specification car to show off, but they will also be starting their seventh season in the sport afresh, following the announcement of their new driver line up. The team finished in a comfortable 8th place in the Constructors’ Standings at the end of the 2011 season. On the other hand, going into another F1 season the team took the decision to have a shake up with regards to those in the driving seats. Although the Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi has subsequently lost his main driving seat at the heart of the action, he still very much has an active role there. The 23 year old will primarily support their relative team Red Bull Racing in the role of test and reserve driver. While Buemi’s commitments will mainly rest with the current double World Champions, he will be on standby for Toro Rosso as their reserve driver when required.
Meanwhile, since Jaime Alguersuari was dropped from Scuderia Toro Rosso in December 2011, he is still yet to find a role within the F1 field whether it be in a race seat or not. The Spaniard had high hopes that his future with the team was positive, but following the appointment of their new line up which consists of former Hispania Racing driver, Daniel Ricciardo and the latest rookie to grace the F1 paddock in the form of Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne, it means that Alguersuari is still on the hunt to find employment in the field.
Although the Australian driver Ricciardo is not new to the sport having gained experience last season from the back of the field with Hispania Racing, his new Toro Rosso team mate, Vergne will be taking on a new challenge as he embarks upon the beginning of his F1 racing career. The 21 year old has some solid racing experience from other series under his belt, which includes Formula Three, GP3 and more recently in Formula Renault 3.5.
Ricciardo expressed his feelings at the launch earlier on today about stepping into a new team, the season ahead and the first test day tomorrow. “The car definitely looks sexy. And it’s a bit emotional actually, seeing the first F1 car that will be mine to drive from the start of the season. With the new nose, it’s not exactly beautiful, but I’d rather have a quick car than a pretty one. Now I can’t wait to drive it tomorrow, when I don’t think I’ll need an alarm clock to wake up to start the day."
Meanwhile Vergne appeared overwhelmed by the thought of his new venture into the F1 world. Nevertheless, the F1 rookie remains positive and is looking forward to the challenge ahead of him in 2012. “After the testing and all the work in the simulator, being here in Jerez unveiling the car, I feel like this is the real start to my Formula 1 career. It’s very exciting and the next two days are going to seem much too long, while I wait to get behind the wheel of the new car on Thursday and Friday”, he explained.
With youth being on the side of the two newest recruits to Toro Rosso, Tost remains positive that the team will grow and that the new addition in the driver line up, with regards to minimal F1 experience is not something that he sees will hinder the teams’ progress in moving up the ladder in both Championships.
“Regarding the drivers, I always say after three years we have to evaluate a driver, and therefore we decided – or Red Bull decided – to come up with a new driver line up. I’m quite convinced that Daniel Ricciardo, as well as Jean Eric Vergne, will do a good job. They were quite successful in the young driver classes, both of them won championships”, explained Tost.
As the launch day of the few remaining F1 teams got underway in Jerez, Sauber were the first to take centre stage, and Toro Rosso’s all-important unveiling did not arrive until later on in the afternoon. Finally, the most anticipated moment of the day came for the Ferrari powered team, when they got the opportunity to show off their car which will compete against other midfield teams when the 2012 season gets started. The festivities of the Toro Rosso launch took place in the paddock and pit lane at the circuit, which consisted of a photo call for the media to get their first shots of the new model.
In terms of the new STR7’s specification and additional features compared to the STR6 in 2011, there are some that have been introduced in order to comply with FIA regulations. These include; “The stepped nose, relocated exhaust exits and undercut sidepods." One key factor that the new car does share with the old one, is that it has become just the third car designed and created solely by the Toro Rosso team at its base in Faenza, Italy. Previously, the FIA brought the ruling in to prevent Toro Rosso from modeling their car based upon their sister team Red Bull Racing. The main man behind the car designs at Toro Rosso, Technical Director, Giorgio Ascanelli, explained the areas in which the 2011 chassis differs from the 2012 model. “ 2011’s STR6 was a good concept, but it did not lend itself well to running a low exhaust and was better with a high one… Therefore it was logical that as the rules have changed in this direction, we should stick with a similar concept in 2012, expanding on the ideas and its characteristics.”
Another key aspect that Ascanelli described developments on was the cooling system. “Cooling as always, plays a major part in the design of the car and we have done something which should allow even more of an undercut on the sidepods, aimed at getting a better streamlining of the rear car. In simple terms, we have made a shorter chassis, with a larger distance between the engine and the gearbox, so that the car can be thinner and more streamlined” explained Ascanelli.
Further to the areas that the team have worked hard on to improve their performance in 2012, Ascanelli also mentioned that particular attention has been paid to the Drag Reduction System (DRS) rear wing and the brakes. “We have tried to improve the behaviour of our DRS and we have a new generation of wings aimed at this, hopefully in time for the debut of the new car… We have also worked on the braking system, because we wanted to improve its efficiency, both front and rear. On paper it seems to be very strong and we will see what our new drivers will have to say about it” concluded Ascanelli.
Following a successful launch day for the Italian team Scuderia Toro Rosso, and for those who also unveiled their cars elsewhere today and last week, the real test will come over the next few days when the drivers will literally put their cars to the “test” on the track in Jerez. This testing period will offer the teams the opportunity, to see who has succeeded throughout the winter with the new design of their car, and will identify which teams need to fine tune things before the start of the new season. However, in addition to the test days this week there will be three more, in advance of the Australian Grand Prix next month.
Williams will launch their new 2012 car tomorrow morning and will join the rest of the teams taking part in the official Formula One pre-season test from Tuesday to Friday this week: Toro Rosso, Sauber, McLaren, Lotus, Mercedes, Ferrari, Force India, Caterham, HRT, Williams, and the reigning double World Champions, Red Bull Racing.