Toro Rosso drivers under pressure as team seek step forward

2011 F1 season preview

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso STR6, Valencia, 2011
Car: STR6
#18 Sebastien Buemi
#19 Jaime Alguersuari
Form 2006-2010: 9, 7, 6, 10, 9
2010 points: 13

Toro Rosso have a track record for chopping and changing drivers – will it happen again in 2011?

Their testing pace has attracted attention as they have appeared towards the top of the times sheets over the winter.

That’s an encouraging sign for the team that only finished ahead of the new outfits in 2010 – though we won’t know until Melbourne whether their apparent pace is real.

After several years of using Red Bull chassis Toro Rosso began to forge their own path on car design last year. That was a tough ask for a team which hadn’t built its own car since 2005, when it was Minardi.

The Giorgio Ascanelli-designed STR6 is notable for its ‘double floor’ and upswept sidepods, designed to maximise the airflow to the rear of the car and increase downforce.

The drivers have reacted positively to it. Jaime Alguersuari talked about challenging for points in every race, despite the team only scoring on seven occasions from a possible 38 last year.

Recent history tells us that Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi should feel a little uneasy about their position heading into 2011. Toro Rosso have never gone two consecutive seasons without changing their driver line-up.

Waiting the in the wings is Daniel Ricciardo, who impressed by settings fastest times in the young drivers’ test at the end of last year’s test.

Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, Barcelona, 2011

Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, Barcelona, 2011

It certainly helped matters that he was driving the world championship-winning Red Bull RB6, but the rest of his credentials stack up as well. He was British Formula Three champion in 2009 and missed out on the Formula Renault 3.5 title in his rookie season last year by a whisker.

Ricciardo’s already had the chance to drive the STR6 in pre-season testing and will be driving again in some Friday test sessions this year.

It’s a particularly critical season for Buemi who’s been with the team for two years.

Throughout 2010 he rarely looked as good as he had at the end of 2009, with the STR4 (read: RB5) at his disposal, and lost the initiative to Alguersuari during 2010 by the end of the year.

It’s been said that Toro Rosso is less a team in its own right and more a hothouse for young drivers that who will one day race for Red Bull and there’s more than a grain of truth in that.

The fact that they’re now required to produce their own cars could be a clue as to why they’ve stuck with the same pair this long. The more experience their drivers have, the more able they are to contribute to car development.

But that might not stop them changing their driver line-up half-way through the season again.

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25 comments on Toro Rosso drivers under pressure as team seek step forward

  1. Actually, I was thinking earlier this year that the team was unusually stable in its driver lineup for the first time since they were Minardi! But for sure, if one of the drivers fails to step up (at least compared to his teammate) in 2011, one or both will be gone come 2012.

    That said, both have been impressive at times – Buemi when he first came into the team showed a lot of promise, and Alguersuari last year at times. So they both have a decent opportunity. It’s definitely time for them to step up, though.

  2. S.J.M (@sjm) said on 12th March 2011, 13:27

    Makes sense thta they are a better outfit this year, to me anyway. Prior to last year with the ban on customer cars, they had to make their own cars from scrath (like Lotus, Virgin and HRT) but had some data from previous cars. Id expect a better showing this year as its the 2nd year of being a constructor in their own right and have a daring design about their car to raise the game from last season.

    I still wonder how long Toro Rosso will last though, will they continue as a feeder to Redbull or will the experiment be stopped and sold on? If Webber retires/moves teams/forced out at the end of this season, then I think we will see where Toro Rosso will be heading. I cant see both Drivers being in the car by the end of the year, one (or possibly both) will be out with Ricciardo in.

  3. Phildo said on 12th March 2011, 13:31

    if either driver goes; it’s surely going to be Buemi. Alguesuari showed talent last year and Buemi has shown less in his time in F1

  4. I reckon one of them will go for Daniel and I suspect it will be Buemi who makes way as he’s had more time. I’d be sad if it was from Buemi because this is the guy who scored points on his debut, showed up Bourdais by mid season 09, was taken out at the start in so many of the early races last year and led at Canada. It was only towards the end of 2010 that Jaime seemed to be troubling him so much but I do wonder if that was down to increased pressure from STR who have never been patient with their drivers and the rumour mill going into overdrive. It’s no excuse as he should deliver and I think Jaime’s failed to live up to expectation too but I really don’t like how STR seem so brutal with their drivers. I used to be a big fan but it’s turned me right off them but with a driver as hyped up as Ricciardo waiting in the wings no wonder why they may be a little desperate to stick him in the car.

    If the car is actually quite a suprise and is fairly good I wonder if that will give them pause for thought and if it’ll convince them a little more to have a consistent line up throughout the season.

  5. kowalsky said on 12th March 2011, 14:12

    the one that’s going to make way is not decided yet. Both of them have the chance to outshine his teammate.
    The expectations that ricciardo has created, reminds me of hamilton’s. We need to see him in an f1 as soon as posible. He looks like the real deal.

  6. RIISE (@riise) said on 12th March 2011, 14:39

    The title should be “Buemi under pressure….”

    Jaime is not going anywhere and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a Bourdais situation with Buemi if he doesn’t perform.

  7. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 12th March 2011, 16:00

    I can’t really see either of the current drivers at RBR in the future. A nice idea from Dietrich Mateschitz but doesn’t seem like it’s actually materialising. However, last year can’t have been easy having to design their own car so I think this year will be a fairer reflection.

  8. Oliver said on 12th March 2011, 16:40

    They may have to make their own cars but it doesn’t mean they can’t have technical input fropm RBR.

  9. Andy C said on 12th March 2011, 18:42

    I dont really understand the STR policy to be honest. They get in good potential drivers, give them on average 1 season (1.5 tops) and if they havent done a Vettel they get rid.

    Both of their current drivers are decent, and may turn out to be very good given the support and the chance.

    How long will it be before Ricciardo is in the team, and then how long with they give him before they pull the trigger on him.

    Although of course, I believe Helmut Marko is in charge of the whole program, which explains the approach.

    I think if the car is good, both drivers will be competitive this year.

    • Kate said on 12th March 2011, 18:58

      The whole system doesn’t really make sense when you think about it. Its meant to be grooming drivers for Red Bull, but out of the 6 drivers they’ve had, only Vettel has moved up. The whole idea seems to work to the presumption that there is a conveyor belt through the two teams and it just doesn’t work because Red Bull’s driver line-up is relatively stable. Even if Webber does leave this year for whatever reason, what happens next? If one of the current drivers moves up to Red Bull and suddenly becomes amazing, then what happens to the new young talents at STR? The whole B-team system is ridiculous because it only works properly if the A-team is changing line-up as often as they do – and no top team can afford to mess around with their drivers that much.

    • Pinball said on 13th March 2011, 2:50

      That is the whole purpose, see if the drivers are any good, if so promote them to the Red Bull team, if not put them into some other series. It just that Vettel to date as has been the only driver to show any promise. You can be as sure as hell that Red Bull wouldn’t be keeping Webber and Vettel on if suddenly they had a guy in Toro Rosso that was setting the world on fire. It’s all about trying to find the fastest driver.

  10. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 13th March 2011, 2:18

    Exciting pair but have a lot to prove this season.

  11. I still believe Bourdais did a far better job than Alguersuari is doing now.

  12. David L said on 15th March 2011, 11:33

    All i can say is just watch Ricciardo, he is ‘red hot’

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