As 2013 front-runners Red Bull and Lotus have struggled throughout pre-season testing, Scuderia Toro Rosso has seized the initiative and finished the winter period as the leading Renault-powered team.
With the teams that the French marque powers struggling to work with newly-designed turbocharged V6 engines, and with the management at Renault conceding that they are some weeks behind their rivals, it has been a difficult testing period for Red Bull, Lotus, Toro Rosso and Caterham.
However, following a disastrous first test in Jerez at the end of January, it appears that there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Caterham completed over 100 laps today as Kamui Kobayashi focused on long runs, whilst Jean-Eric Vergne performed well to finish in fifth place on the timesheets.
“These past twelve days have been very interesting in many ways,” Vergne explained. “I would describe today as positive and we did some good work, especially in the morning when we got through everything we had planned to do, with everything going smoothly. I had a really good feeling from the car today.”
Although the Frenchman admitted that there had been major problems over the winter, he is still confident that the STR9 will be a capable car once the issues are resolved.
“These winter tests have not been easy, but we are not alone in that. Even if there is no more testing, I know the team can work hard with our partners and fix many of these issues in time for Melbourne. The really positive thing is that I feel I have a good car, so once everything has been sorted out, I am sure we can be strong in the races.”
Vergne is joined at Toro Rosso this season by GP3 champion Daniil Kvyat. Given Red Bull’s tendency to chop and change drivers once they are no longer deemed to be capable enough, the pressure is on Vergne to perform as he enters his third season with the Italian team, especially with Antonio Felix da Costa and Carlos Sainz Jr. waiting in the wings.