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Formula 1 2017 team preview: Scuderia Toro Rosso

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Scuderia Toro Rosso continued to battle away in Formula 1’s midfield last year and offered glimpses of a team that could move up the pecking order – but once again ailed to P7 in the standings.

Carlos Sainz Jr. remains one of F1’s brightest young talents, while Daniil Kvyat managed to recover from his Red Bull demotion and mid-season plight to bounce back later in the year.

With a young, dynamic driver pairing and a car with noted similarities to the offering from defending champion team Mercedes, can Toro Rosso move up the field this year?

DRIVERS

26. Daniil Kvyat (Russia)
55. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Spain)

CAR

Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12

ENGINE

Renault R.E.17 (may be rebadged)

TEAM CHIEFS

Franz Tost (team principal)
James Key (technical director)

MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 26: Scuderia Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost, Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Scuderia Toro Rosso, Carlos Sainz of Spain and Scuderia Toro Rosso and James Key, Technical Director of Scuderia Toro Rosso unveil the Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 in the pitlane during previews to F1 winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 26, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

What went right in 2016: Despite winding up seventh in the constructors’ championship and missing out on the elusive top-five dream, Toro Rosso had a pretty decent 2016 by most accounts. Following the decision to switch to year-old Ferrari power units, (wrongly) believing them to be better than current-year Renault offerings, to only score four less points than 2015 was good going. Carlos Sainz Jr. was a shining star yet again, and was unlucky not to hit the podium. Daniil Kvyat bounced back after his mid-season demotion and looked more collected come the end of the year, back to his former self.

What went wrong in 2016: Yet again, Toro Rosso failed to break into the upper end of the grid. The team seems to head into every year targeting a top five finish, and always falls short. It was the third year in a row the team had finished seventh, despite having a solid design team and two quick, young drivers. It was a good effort from what is a B-team, yet still some way off what is really possible.

What’s changed for 2017: The most noticeable change for Toro Rosso is the livery. Gone are the traditional dark blue and burgundy colors that made it a challenge at times to tell the cars apart from the Red Bulls. Instead, a slick blue, silver and red livery has been introduced, which has proven to be a real hit. Toro Rosso has kept a hold of technical guru James Key, who noted that his STR12 design was similar to that of Mercedes’ W08 car, while Sainz and Kvyat return once again.

What they’ll look to accomplish in 2017: The same thing the team looked to accomplish last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. And the year befo- you get the idea. Yes, a top-five finish will be the target this season. The return of on-year power units from Renault means that Toro Rosso will no longer fall far behind in the later stages of the season, so this should give Sainz and Kvyat more of a chance to fight at the front. For Sainz, the battle will be to impress the top teams so he can get a bigger seat; for Kvyat, his mind will probably be on survival once again with Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly waiting in the wings.

MONTMELO, SPAIN – MARCH 08: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 on track during day two of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on March 8, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

MST PREDICTIONS

Luke Smith: If the mantra of a pretty car being a fast car is true, then Toro Rosso should sweep to both titles this year. Somehow, I think that won’t be the case. Toro Rosso can definitely get in the mix in the midfield, perhaps even with the likes of Force India and Williams. The STR12 looks good, and the comparison to Mercedes of massive interest to the paddock. With the right car, Sainz has a chance to make his name this year much as Sebastian Vettel did with Toro Rosso in 2008 – and maybe Kvyat can remind the world that he has the makings of a very competent grand prix racer.

Tony DiZinno: The livery’s flashy, the lineup’s solid, and the James Key-penned car looks sorted for most everyone’s favorite B-team in Scuderia Toro Rosso. With the livery shift and the retention of the ridiculously good Carlos Sainz Jr. along with the experience of Daniil Kvyat, there’s a festive flair around Toro Rosso that they’re finally poised to emerge from Red Bull’s shadow. I could see an outside shot of a podium happening at least once, with a handful of top-fives and consistent top-seven or eighth-place finishes helping propel the team into the top six, potentially top five, on the grid.

Kyle Lavigne: Scuderia Toro Rosso appear to have a solid chassis, though reliability with Renault’s power unit is a big question mark. Still, one the big storylines with this team is its driver lienup, as Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat retain their seats, but both could be on thin ice. Toro Rosso has a history of moving on from young drivers who are underperforming. While Sainz Jr. did well to finish 12th in the 2016 driver’s championship, buoyed by two sixth-place finishes in the final four races, he would do well to consistently challenge to be in Q3 of qualifying along with being a regular points scorer. For Kvyat, he’ll need to rebound from a terrible 2016 season that saw him demoted from the Red Bull ‘A team’ to its ‘B team’ five races in. If he struggles in the same he way he did in the second half of 2016, Kvyat’s days as a Formula 1 driver could be numbered.

Sainz focused on 2017 duties at Toro Rosso, not ’18 seat rumors

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Carlos Sainz Jr. says he is not thinking about a possible move away from Toro Rosso for 2018, instead preferring to focus on his current duties with the team in Formula 1 this year.

Sainz has impressed during his two years in F1 so far with Toro Rosso, giving the highly-rated Max Verstappen a run for his money while they were teammates in 2015 and the early part of 2016.

The Spaniard’s performances have led to speculation that he could be due to move away from Red Bull’s B-team in F1, and was even linked with the vacant Mercedes seat following Nico Rosberg retirement last December.

Sainz admitted that he was looking at 2018 last winter, but is now fully focused on his commitments at Toro Rosso ahead of the new F1 season.

“It is something that I thought about last November, and I did an analysis and pictured it,” Sainz told the official F1 website when asked about his future.

“But once the season gets started the only thing that helps you be in a good position at the end of 2017 is to push like hell!

“You are only as good as your last race and nobody will remember what you’ve done in 2016. When a contract arrives at the end of 2017 it is not thanks to my 2016 performance.”

Sainz’s future opportunities under Red Bull’s F1 umbrella seem somewhat limited given senior team drivers Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are both locked in to long-term contracts, suggesting his next step in F1 may lay outside of his current parent team.

For now though, Sainz isn’t thinking about what he would do if the call from a big name rival came.

“This is a combination of decisions between Red Bull and myself, and a combination of interests,” Sainz said.

“I still don’t think about it! I swear I haven’t thought about the end of the 2017 season. This season is so important, but is would be so stupid for me to think about the end even before it has started, or how I would approach Red Bull, if Ferrari arrives, or Renault arrives, or Mercedes.

“Because it is not going to happen unless I deliver this season.”

STR’s Kvyat, Sainz to both run last two days of first test

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After each driver’s had a day apiece in the Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 chassis, both Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. will split time and run both days for the rest of this week’s first Formula 1 test of the year at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona.

Sainz ran 51 laps on Monday while Kvyat completed 68 today thus far, to give Toro Rosso 119 laps completed thus far this test.

Kvyat will run the morning stints each of the next two days with Sainz taking over in the afternoon.

Toro Rosso reveals STR12 F1 car with striking new livery

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Scuderia Toro Rosso has completed a busy launch week for Formula 1 by unveiling its new STR12 car that will race in 2017.

As rumored, Toro Rosso presented a car with a drastically different livery to the one that has been present for much of its time in F1, varying from the dark blue and red colors the Red Bull sister team has been known for.

Now a metallic blue becomes the primary color for the car, with silver and red highlights being used for the Red Bull branding.

Drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat were on-hand to unveil the STR12, which sported a radical new look to fall in line with the new technical regulations in F1 for 2017.

Most noticeable on the car is the addition of a ‘shark fin’ to the engine cover, something that the majority of teams have ran with for their launches so far.

The team also released a launch video showing the STR12 enjoying its first on-track test.

Toro Rosso ended last year seventh in the constructors’ championship, but suffered a dip in form towards the end of the season after sticking with 2016-spec Ferrari power units.

For 2017, the team will once again link up with Renault and use current-year engines, giving it the chance to compete throughout the campaign.

Sainz was one of F1’s unsung heroes through 2017, leading Toro Rosso’s charge following Max Verstappen’s promotion into a Red Bull seat four races into the year.

After spending the middle part of the season regaining his confidence after moving in the opposite direction to Verstappen, Kvyat looked much stronger in the final flyaways, doing enough to secure a seat with Toro Rosso f0r 2017 in the process.

The STR12 has already completed a filming run at Misano in Italy, but will hit the track publicly for the first time on Monday with the start of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

Sainz expecting ‘giant step forward’ in 2017 F1 car performance

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Carlos Sainz Jr. believes that the 2017-spec Formula 1 cars will offer a “giant step forward” in performance ahead of the first collective testing in two weeks’ time.

In a bid to make F1 cars multiple seconds per lap faster and look more radical, a number of significant changes have been made to the sport’s technical regulations for 2017.

Among them are aerodynamic tweaks that will give the cars more downforce and wider tires, both of which should amount to a sizeable gain in lap time.

“For us, every year driving the car is an incredible pleasure: the seat, the pedals, the feeling from the brake, the steering wheel. Every car has its tricks and you want to see how it is going to behave,” Sainz told Spanish newspaper Marca.

“Then yes, you get into your bubble and start to try things. And cars are getting better, but in particular, this year F1 will take a giant step forward in terms of performance: much larger tires, much higher levels of downforce.

“This year, when I get into the car, I’ll have a bit more of an itch [to race] because of that, because I know that the car is going to run much faster.”

Sainz will get his first taste of Scuderia Toro Rosso’s 2017 car, the STR12, on February 27 at the start of pre-season testing in Barcelona, Spain.