Toro Rosso finishes testing as leading Renault-powered team

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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.

Lauda labels Verstappen USGP penalty ‘the worst I’ve ever seen’

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Mercedes Formula 1 non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has called the FIA stewards’ decision to penalize Max Verstappen for his last-lap pass on Kimi Raikkonen in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix as “the worst I’ve ever seen”.

Verstappen charged from 16th on the grid to take third place from Raikkonen on the last lap after a stunning fight through the field, completing the fightback with a bold pass in the final sector.

However, the stewards stripped Verstappen of P3 after he appeared to put all four wheels off the circuit when riding the kerb to pass Raikkonen, causing outcry in the F1 community.

Speaking to reporters after the race in Austin, Lauda condemned the stewards’ decision, slamming them for interfering in the late fight.

“We had meetings at the start of the year to see how far stewards should go in decisions during a race because it always says ‘under investigation’,” Lauda said, as quoted by Crash.net.

“So we complained about that and we agreed all together that the stewards would not interfere – very simple.

“If the driver goes over another and upside down, only then would they weigh in. That was at the beginning of last year.

“For six months it was OK, but this decision was the worst I’ve ever seen. He did nothing wrong.”

Lauda said F1 team bosses would discuss stewarding at the next Strategy Group meeting, which is due to be held in the next two weeks.

“These are racing drivers. We are not on the normal roads and it is ridiculous to destroy the sport with these kind of decisions,” Lauda said.

“At the next strategy meeting, we will put it back on the agenda and start all over again, because we cannot do that.

“They go too far and interfere and there was nothing to interfere with. It was normal overtaking.”