Toro Rosso revises Melbourne ambitions after testing boost
Brendon Hartley says Toro Rosso has revised its ambitions for Formula 1’s season opener in Melbourne after a stronger-than-expected showing in testing.
The Honda-powered squad enjoyed a largely trouble-free pre-season, completing the third-most laps of any team behind Mercedes and Ferrari across Barcelona testing.
Hartley ended Friday’s final day of running with the seventh-fastest time, although teammate Pierre Gasly put Toro Rosso third on the timesheets on Thursday.
Explaining that the Faenza-based squad had initially expected a "tough" start to the year, Hartley said progress had been so encouraging that the team could now target points finishes from the outset of the 2018 campaign.
“Everyone’s pumped up and positive,” he said. “The brief from the start of the year was we want to build during the year.
“Toro Rosso had a really strong start to the year last year, and there have been a lot of changes too to ensure we can develop during the year.
“The initial brief was that Melbourne might be tough, but actually after these test days we’ve exceeded our own expectations and we’re definitely in the fight for those points.
“The goal has to be points. I think Haas, Renault, McLaren are all looking very strong as well. But I think we are in there somewhere.”
Hartley re-emphasised that Toro Rosso's new engine partner Honda delivered on the "high expectations" he had of the Japanese firm prior to testing.
Asked if he felt the reliability of the Honda units had silenced its doubters, Hartley replied: "I would have thought so.
"When I went to the factory a month ago, everyone was really optimistic and positive about this new partnership with Honda.
"I saw how hard everyone was working, so I had high expectations coming here and they've delivered. The partnership is off to a flying start."
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