If one had to pick a team that became, in the first part of the season at least, the personification of the rollercoaster that is F1, it would have to be the Scuderia Toro Rosso (STR).A change in power unit decision saw a quickly prepared car for the longest season in F1 history. That would be the least of the major changes for the much-loved fan favorite team in 2016.
ALL SYSTEMS GO:
STR started the season with Spanish driver Carlos Sainz and the “kid wonder” Max Verstappen who both immediately got into the swing of things, with a double points finish in Australia, bringing up the last two points paying positions.
As the team rolled on into Bahrain, the Dutch driver brought home the STR in a strong 6th place, ahead of the more fancied teams, which in hindsight was a precursor for the year to come… but more on that later. Sainz however found himself on the end of a retirement, which be bounced back from in China, with a strong 9th place just behind his teammate. The significance of China was not just their finishing positions, but the fights with Mercedes, Ferrari and their bigger sister Red Bull.
Russia 2016 and the infamous “Torpedo-gate” fallout would change the 2016 landscape for STR. The race itself saw a non-finish for both cars, but it was the going-on’s with their former driver Daniil Kvyat in the RBR that would prove to be the bigger issue for the team.
A collision between Sebastian Vettel and Kvyat saw the Russian face a tirade of criticism and the extraordinary decision was taking to move him back to STR and replace him with Verstappen in a Red Bull team swop.
Kvyat went from villain to hero as many F1 fans and pundits supported him, during what was a difficult phase for the young star.
OLD FRIENDS REUNITE:
Sainz and Kvyat had started their professional racing careers together and their reunion at the Spanish Grand Prix saw STR bring home a double points finish with Sainz in a magnificent 6th place and Kvyat in 10th. STR had double reason to celebrate as former driver Verstappen took the win to become the youngest man to win an F1 race.
Kvyat’s “other” home race, like so many drivers is the playground of Monaco. Unfortunately luck did not favour the Russian as a crash with Kevin Magnussen saw him retire. Sainz on the other hand brought the STR home in 8th place.
The Canadian Grand Prix saw Sainz power his way from 20th to 9th which, considering the nature of the Montreal track, was as good as a win in his books. Kvyat meanwhile continued with a difficult run of form ending the race 12th.
Not having any major team shifts for the rest of the season the STR results were:
Austria: Sainz 8th Kvyat – Retired due to mechanical failure
Silverstone: Sainz again 8th while a happy Kvyat brought the car home in 10th
Hungary: Sainz in what must have felt like his customary 8th place wth Kvyat in 16th
Germany: Sainz 14th and Kvyat 15th in a race which saw the lower speed of the STR catch them out
Belgium: Sainz 15th and Kvyat retired
Singapore: Sainz 14th after being hit by a flying Force India and Kvyat a happy 9th
Malaysia – Sainz P11 and Kvyat P 14
Japan – Sainz P 17 and Kvyat P13 both suffered from the STR’s speed deficits compared to their rivals
USA – Sainz P6 and Kvyat 12th on a day in which the Spanish driver staked a claim for driver of the day
Mexico – Sainz P16 and Kvyat P18
LAST THROW OF THE DICE:
Brazil saw a rain dance of note work for Sainz as he crossed the line in 6th place following one of the most bizarre races in F1 history. Kvyat finished P13 after the stop go nature of the race did not suit him
Abu Dhabi was a curtain call to forget as both drivers retired from the race, ending this chapter of F1 for the STR as they, and the other teams march to a new look F1 in 2017.
With both drivers confirmed for 2017 (unless a Rosberg style announcement is made), STR find themselves enjoying the perfect balance of youth and experience. The 2017 boost in engine power should see this team challenge for a podium or two in the not to distant future.
(Images Courtesy of F1 Media)