The Scuderia Toro Rosso team enters its fourth season in formula one. The success of last year, including a maiden victory courtesy of a superb effort from Sebastian Vettel at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza leaves much expectation for the Italian team based in Faenza.
Team principal Franz Tost praised in the teams achievements in 2008 but was cautious of the season ahead. He said, "Normally you go to a race to win races, but we must be realistic. Last year with Sebastian Vettel, I think Sebastian himself and also the team did a fantastic job. We also had a car with which you could win races."
Like many of the F1 teams this year, cost-cutting is vital and team elected to show off their 2009 car at a test track in front of the world's press instead of in a glitzy remote setting.
However despite the global downturn the team is not cutting back in the key areas that actually make the car go well. In fact the contrary is true, Tost revealed that the team will expanding its workforce this year.
Tost commented "We will add staff in the design department as well as the aerodynamic department, but all the rest of the departments are quite full with people. So this is fixed so far."
"Currently in Faenza we have 178 people, and at the end of the season, beginning of 2010, I assume we will have around 250 people," commented Tost.
"This year the cars are new and we hope we are prepared as well as possible and I hope that we will have similar successes to last year." he added.
Scuderia Toro Rosso was formally Paul Stoddart's Manardi team and has competed in F1 since 1985. The team was sold by Stoddart in November 2005 after a claimed 41 approaches to buy the team. He accepted the deal with Red Bull which he considered the best opportunity for the Manardi to progress further.
The STR4 will again be powered by a Ferrari V8 powerplant and technical support for the team will again be handled by Red Bull Technology. The Ferrari customer engine in the Toro Rosso worked well in 2008 and the team's performance improved dramatically from a shaky start as the season progressed.
Bourdais returns to the team for his second season in the pinnacle series of open-wheel racing. This year the IndyCar (CART/Champ Car) four-time champion will have has his teammate Sebastien Buemi. Buemi a former F3 Euro Series and GP2 driver had already secured a role in sister team Red Bull as the test / reserve driver in the 2008 season. This was in no small part due to a good showing in a 2007 test session where the young Swiss driver beat F1 regular Rubens Barrichello in the RB3 amongst others.
Bourdais likes the new car as a start point but stresses there is work to be done, he said: "I think the basis is quite strong; it seems to be a fairly balanced car, obviously when you have so many things to go through, it's like every new car. You put it on the race track, and it seems like it's not too bad.
In a slightly more optimistic tone he added "So it's an encouraging start, but we definitely have a lot of things to try and balance adjustments we want to do, so it's going to be quite a hectic session for the whole team."
Tost stresses the continuity the team has, he said: "In 2008 our performance exceeded our expectations. It's going to be tough to live up to that this year. Within the team we can rely on a good level of stability, as all the key players on the technical side have been in place for some time now. Further stability comes courtesy of the input of Red Bull Technology."
Sebastien Bourdais completed the first proper test with the STR4 today following a shakedown at the Adrian circuit last week, covering over 80 laps.
Tost said Toro Rosso was left encouraged by the car's early signs.
"So far I must say we are quite happy with the car," he added. "The car looks nice - normally a car which looks nice is also fast. And fortunately - I don't want to say too much, but from the reliability side it looks good because Sebastien did a lot of laps.
Having released the car later than many of their competitors the Toro Rosso team have some catching up to do.
"With the set-up, we have already found some new steps forward, and I am convinced that after the four days testing here in Barcelona we will go - I don't want to say 'well-prepared', but quite prepared for Melbourne." Tost said.
As would be expected, the car is very similar to the Red Bull Racing RB5. The chassis produced by Adrian Newey has put in a good testing performance in Red Bull guise and it would be fair to assume the same would be true of the STR4.
Tost said "If the basis of the car is good, and it looks like that - Adrian Newey and the team at Red Bull Technology have done a very good job - then it is easier to work out on the track. If the car doesn't work well then you are struggling. And we hopefully won't."