2017 expectations vs reality
With Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat starting the season for Toro Rosso, the team were expected to fight for sixth spot in the constructors after the steep decline of McLaren in winter testing.
The team were hopeful of posting their best finish in the constructors' yet, especially given that Sainz had been on the improve and looked to be a driver many other teams wished they had.
Obviously, though, Kvyat continued to prove to be inconsistent and was subsequently dropped with six races to go. And then Sainz left the team to join Renault on a one-year contract with four races remaining, given Renault the edge they needed to leapfrog Toro Rosso in the standings.
Both new drivers Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley showed encouraging signs in the last few races of the season, but they too had their handful of races severely hampered by engine reliability issues. If it weren’t for these issues, then Sainz and Kvyat could have potentially posted more points for the team, however, out of the 20 races in the 2017 season, only nine of these saw both drivers finish the race. Disappointing to say the least!
Development record and constructors’ performance
After a superb 2015 season which saw the team finish in seventh in the constructor’s championship with 67 points, the junior Red Bull team remained consistent in 2016 with yet another seventh-placed finish and 63 points.
This season, however, Toro Rosso were expected to rise further up the standings, mainly due to the predicted drop of McLaren, who finished just ahead of them in 2016. It seemed like they were destined to finish in sixth, occupying the position for 19 races, but a mid-season driver switch which saw the team’s premier driver Carlos Sainz jump shit to rival Renault saw the team’s hopes dashed.
With Pierre Gasly being called in to fill Daniil Kvyat’s seat for the rest of the season after the Russian was dropped by the team after the Singapore race, along with Brendon Hartley replacing Sainz after Japan, the team would go on to score only one more point over the remainder of the season, that coming from a one-race stint from Kvyat in the USA.
In the end though, a sixth-placed finish in the final race from Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg was enough to see his Renault team leapfrog Toro Rosso with 57-points, a lead of just four points.
Driver head to head
With four drivers occupying the seats for the team this season, it’s only fair to compare the two drivers from the start and the two from the end together.
Out of the first two drivers, Sainz was a class above Kvyat. In the qualifying battle Sainz edged Kvyat out 8-6, but all other factors turned out far more convincingly in Sainz’s favour. The Spaniard won the race-day battle 6-1, with such a low numbers stemming from the reliability issues of their Renault-powered engine. As for points scored, Sainz finished well ahead of Kvyat again with an impressive score of 48-4.
For Gasly and Hartley, who finished the season off for the team, it is almost impossible to compare them, given they jumped into their seats mid-season and both failed to register a point for the team, with Hartley only finishing two out of the four races he had for the season. Gasly recorded the highest placing out of the two with a 12th-placed finish in Brazil.
Best & worst weekends
The Australian and Spanish Grand Prix were the only two grands prix which saw both drivers (Sainz and Kvyat) for Toro Rosso finish in the points. On both occasions, Kvyat finished in ninth place, whilst Sainz finished in eighth and seventh, respectively.
The best performance of an individual driver for the team was Sainz’s fourth place in a drama-filled Singapore Grand Prix, which saw a whopping eight retirements in the treacherous conditions.
By far and away the worst performance was at the Canadian Grand Prix where both drivers retired from the race. Sainz had a collision with Romain Grosjean before he careered into Massa on the opening lap, ruining any hopes of bringing the car back to the pits in one piece. Kvyat, on the other hand, succumbed to yet another engine failure on the 58th lap, easily making it the team’s worst weekend of the year.
Looking to 2018
With their 2017 engine suppliers Renault opting to supply McLaren with their engines for 2018, Toro Rosso has instead made a deal with Honda for next year. And they would hope that both drivers can finish over nine races, unlike this season.
Unfortunately though, the expectations for Toro Rosso in 2018 will be subsequently lower because of the change to Honda, who in their two previous seasons as McLaren's engine supplier have failed drastically, with a wealth of reliability concerns at the heart of the problematic supplier's long list of issues.
Couple this with two fresh-faced drivers who weren’t able to salvage a single point this season, and the expectations for Toro Rosso should understandably be a lot lower than previous seasons.
If the engine turns out to be as good as Honda have touted it to be in 2018, then the team could very well be competitive amongst the midfield runners. However, it’s unlikely they’ll finish higher than seventh in the constructors’ based purely on the inexperience of Gasly and Hartley.