17 July 2009 – Toro Rosso technical director Giorgio Ascanelli has thanked Sebastian Vettel for his driving skills in being able to achieve strong results, including a race win, in the second half of last season. With a new driver and significant aerodynamics update coming in Hungary next weekend, the Italian is positive over the team's chances.
With the departure of Sébastien Bourdais altering the atmosphere within the team this week, its technical director is cautiously optimistic over the Faenza-based outfit's chances of scoring top eight results. "There are several factors why our performance hasn't matched up to what it was in the second half of last season," he began to explain.
"The first is that the drivers are very important and last year Vettel matured enormously, getting over the difficult phase every young driver does, not understanding why he was fast or slow. A second factor was that, last year, within the limits of our own capabilities, we went down a different route to Red Bull Racing, particularly with suspension and the braking system that was different to their car. The third point is that we were racing in an era where the technical rules had been more or less stable for a decade, so performance levels flatten out, making it harder to come up with something new. This year, the pace of development has speeded up enormously and, as a small team, we have been unable to keep up with that."
Stressing that his praise of the man who is currently second in the championship is no criticism of Toro Rosso new boy Sébastien Buemi, the team could receive a noticeable boost at the next race. "In Hungary we have a major upgrade which includes the floor, rear wing, rear wing endplates, a nose which has had to pass a new impact test, new brake ducts - pretty much the whole damn lot! We've worked our hardest to get this modification package and to do it this year is much harder than the work we did last year."
Adding that a true performance indicator will not arrive until the car is compared with those of its rivals, can the team add to its current 2009 points total of five? "That depends how far forward the other teams have gone because nothing stays still in this sport," Ascanelli responded. "It's not as simple as saying 'last year we made a technical step forward for the second half of the year and performed well, so the same thing will happen again.' - last year, the Italian media was keen for me to puff out my chest and say 'oh yes, I am very clever and I have managed to outperform our Red Bull cousins!' but the simple answer about the end of last year is that Vettel is a great driver. I wasn't a genius last year but I don't think I am an idiot this year!"