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Toro Rosso frustrated, encouraged by first 2017 F1 test running

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Scuderia Toro Rosso technical chief James Key says the team was both encouraged and frustrated by its performance in the first Formula 1 pre-season test in Barcelona this week.

Toro Rosso launched its 2017 car, the STR12, last Sunday, with a design similar to that of defending champion team Mercedes and a striking new livery catching the attention of the F1 paddock.

The team had hoped to put the new car through its paces over the four-day test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, only for issues to limit the running of drivers Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. Kvyat was able to complete just a single lap on the final day of the test due to an engine issue on his car.

Toro Rosso managed a total of just 183 laps in Barcelona, less than any other team, leaving Key frustrated.

“The week has been both encouraging but also frustrating with the missed running time,” he said.

“However we will now plan our recovery for next week and hope to make up for lost ground.”

Team boss Franz Tost echoed Key’s sentiments, saying: “We arrived in Barcelona at the start of the week with a wonderful new livery and we were quite excited to start the new season. We were hoping to have completed many more laps than what we’ve actually done during this first pre-season test.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t complete our program because of some reliability issues. Therefore, we are missing some data, especially regarding the softer tires.

“Having said that, when the car has been out on track we’ve got a very promising feedback, so we just need to keep working hard with our partner to sort out all the reliability issues.

“Both Carlos and Daniil have got to grips quickly with the STR12 and are gaining confidence rapidly. Their impressions has also been generally quite positive.

“All in all, it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride to begin with, but we are confident that we will get everything under control next week during the second test in order to be ready for the first race of the season in Australia.”

Toro Rosso will resume running in Barcelona on Tuesday with the start of the second pre-season test.

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.