Scuderia Toro Rosso’s formidable Technical Director Giorgio Ascanelli has his say at the launch of the Italian team’s new STR6 in Valencia, Spain, on Tuesday, February 1.
It’s the team’s sixth season, does that make it a critical year?
It doesn’t mean particularly anything, apart from the fact that it is yet another season and we have to do well.
What’s your take on the new rules and regulations?
The first one that has to be mentioned is the fact that we are running on Italian rubber. Pirelli comes and joins Formula One and makes its return for the first time since 1991, which will probably mean more things to do and a more exciting scenario, given the changes which Formula One has gone through in those past 20 years. This has an impact as there is a change in the rule in that the weight distribution has been fixed in the regulations, just to avoid over-expenditure. So we might have some surprises in relation to the behaviour of different compounds on different circuits.
What about the other changes and their potential effect on the racing?
The changes in the regulations are effectively in three categories: the first, improving safety as we normally do, second is to reduce downforce in order to make an overtaking manoeuvre more easy and the third and most apparent thing is the return of KERS, which is effectively a system to grant a boost to the driver when he elects to use it and the adjustable rear wing which means that if a trailing car is following within a reasonably short time [a threshold has yet to be defined] then the trailing driver is allowed to operate a variation in the geometry of the rear wing, in such a way that the downforce and drag are knocked down. This should equate to a speed differential at the end of the straight of about 10kph, changing according to different circuits. But that is more or less it.
Might this have the effect that overtaking becomes a little too easy?
This speed differential should allow about one and a half car lengths to be gained by the trailing car in such a way that overtaking becomes easier, but not too easy. Although I believe that the show we offered in 2010 has been a good one, I think we can look forward to 2011 producing something even better.
Last year’s car was the first designed completely in-house. Going into the second year of self-sufficiency, have the team been more adventurous on the design front?
Last year we didn’t have a wind-tunnel, the CFD was not mature enough to define the car. Therefore, we did not change very much apart from those elements linked to the change of regulations between 2009 and 2010. This year the tools which design the car in its performance aspect, which are again the wind tunnel and CFD, are more mature, which means that although we are still learning how to make the best of them I think we have started using them properly. The change in rules has led us to make some changes and, yes, we think we have been a little bit more ambitious than last year. That might be just a presumption, based on logic, but we think we have chosen an ambitious way, because it did make sense to stay conservative, as otherwise we couldn’t possibly achieve a better performance this year than last year, because in a straight fight, we are still characterised by the resources that put us in ninth place [last year] and nothing better than that.
What about this year – are you aiming for one better?
For this year, we have to aim for eighth place, because that is our target and I didn’t think that was possible if we had gone with some sort of conventional car. It’s an ambitious way, if it doesn’t work that will be my responsibility and I am going to take it, but I think it’s not like me, not like Franz [Tost], not like anyone at Toro Rosso to sit here and accept what our position is. My expectations are to do a decent year and we have to have the target to be eighth – we are good to get ninth but we have to do better. And at the end of the year, we have to bring back an eighth place. And we will try to fulfil our mission at the end of 2011 to have a 2012 which is even better.
The drivers are more experienced, so are we expecting more from them this year?
The drivers are young and enthusiastic, even if experience is not their forte. Sébastien is coming into his third season now and we are at the point where we can expect to get something back. The growth of Jaime has been impressive: let’s still keep in mind that Jaime will turn 21 on the Wednesday in Melbourne and he is effectively already in his third season. Yes, it is true to say that, in 2010, they did not have the best chances because of their lack of experience, but I think the car was not better than them. I think they deserved the car and the car deserved them more than anything else. Hopefully we are going to deliver a better car and hopefully they are going to improve in their job. And of course this will give us a better package for the future. The Red Bull strategy of following young talents and bringing them into Formula One as a sort of nursery has got its best expression in Sebastian Vettel, who won the championship after starting with Toro Rosso. Hopefully the same will happen with Jaime and Sébastien – but not just yet, though!