Double DNF for Toro Rosso caps off bad weekend for Red Bull

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The return of the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend was masterminded by billionaire owner of the Red Bull brand, Dietrich Mateschitz. As the owner of the defending world champion team and its sister squad, Toro Rosso, it was intended to be their big weekend to impress.

Instead, not only did the main Red Bull team flounder and score just four points, but Toro Rosso’s weekend also went badly as both Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat retired from the race.

It had all started so well for Kvyat. On Saturday, he qualified in seventh place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton, only to drop back off the line down to tenth place. He then became embroiled in a battle with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo for position, and pulled off a remarkable overtake on the Australian.

Ultimately, it wasn’t to be though. Kvyat suffered a failure on his right rear wheel that sent him off into the gravel, and he was forced to retire from the race.

“I’m obviously disappointed with how today turned out, especially because everything was working so well this weekend and it seemed like a promising race,” the Russian explained. “Our pace was strong, our updates and also tire management worked well.

“The start was difficult, I lost a few positions but I managed to get a position back. From then on I was able to push hard and it looked like we could have a strong result. Around lap 26 I saw my rear right tyre blow up and I was forced to stop.”

Teammate Jean-Eric Vergne ran outside of the points for the majority of the grand prix, and eventually retired from the race due to a problem with his brakes.

“I have struggled with the brakes from the beginning of the race,” he said. “It’s difficult to drive the car with such a considerable rear locking. It’s not good for tire life and for the balance in general so it was really a tricky race. I was doing my best to finish it at least but in the end I just could not bring the car to the checkered flag.

“Problems happen, it’s a shame that they occurred here but the new aero package is working well and we have a good car to face the next grand prix in Silverstone.”

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.