A severely underpowered and unreliable Renault power unit resulted in Toro Rosso falling short of the fifth place target which was set this time last year. Toro Rosso had a very decent chassis in 2015, and it had two feisty rookies who were able to deliver some simply stunning results in terms of qualifying, race results and in the overtaking department – from both sides of the garage at various points of the year. Whilst the world now is very much aware of the arrival of Max Verstappen now, we absolutely must not forget his team mate in Carlos Sainz. The second year at Toro Rosso is arguably more difficult than the first, so it will be vital that both drivers iron out the rookie errors they made in 2015. Out of all the teams in F1 this year, the Toro Rosso F1 2016 car is the only one running an outdated power unit – a final-spec 2015 Ferrari unit, which is certainly a step up from what Renault had last year.
2014-: Toro Rosso (test then race driver)
2014 F3 Europe third placed driver
Max Verstappen’s arrival into F1 at such a young age saw the FIA react swiftly an impose an age ban from now on, as well as regulations stating that drivers need to perform to a certain degree in junior categories. We saw pretty much instantly however that these were knee-jerk reactions. Verstappen (despite pushing boundaries at times) was highly impressive and his ability to pull off brave passes (Spa), phenomenal lunges (China) and tactical moves (Monaco) impressed many within the paddock. However his qualifying was somewhat mixed, and there was the odd shunt. Now 18, Verstappen needs to deliver even more mature performances and more frequently.
2015-: Toro Rosso
2014 Formula Renault 3.5 champion
Reliability skewed the points very much in Verstappen’s favour last season but that shouldn’t mean that we should ignore Carlos Sainz as a potential future champion. Some of his qualifying performances last season were simply unreal, and moves such as his triple pass at Abu Dhabi was the sort of move expected from a multiple World Champion, not a guy with a single year worth of experience under his belt. With arguably a more reliable power unit at his disposal this year, it should be expected that Sainz will perform a bit better in terms of points than he did last year compared to his team mate.
Toro Rosso were certainly the unsung heroes of testing. Despite bringing their car out at the last possible moment because of the late switch to Ferrari power, they were comfortably the second most reliable team, being the only team other than Mercedes and Ferrari to finish any day with the most laps completed. The car seemed incredibly solid and very, very reliable.
Toro Rosso’s dire reliability last season cost them a strong fifth or sixth in the championship. The chassis may not quite be as strong as it was compared to last year in 2016, but their year-old power unit appears to be a step above what Renault or Honda will bring to Melbourne still. There is a clear quality within the driver line-up and one should feel that they will both become more refined drivers this year. Their target of fifth (again) might seem a touch unrealistic unless they manage to overhaul the big sister team but achieving sixth is certainly realistic.