Formula 1 mid-season review: Toro Rosso
10 August 2014 – As the Formula 1 fraternity enjoys the summer break, GPUpdate.net takes the opportunity to analyse team and driver performances over the first 11 rounds of the 2014 season. In the latest instalment, Toro Rosso goes under the spotlight, along with the continuing Jean-Éric Vergne and Formula 1 newcomer Daniil Kvyat.
Toro Rosso: 6/10
Toro Rosso has had a mixed season, with the potential of the STR9 ultimately masked by reliability issues. It was one of the cars to suffer a woeful pre-season period, with Jerez essentially a write-off and the other tests not much to write home about either. Yet in the low grip conditions in Australia both drivers thrived and collected a top 10 finish for the team. Since then, the pace of the car has been sufficient for drivers Jean-Éric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat to regularly finish in the points and beat the Lotus and Sauber pair – but that's if they can make the chequered flag. Out of 22 starts for the STR9, it has failed to make the distance on nine other occasions, with problems also hindering the drivers in some of the races it completed. In addition, the team has made a few errors, with a loose wheel in Spain and an unsafe release in Monaco costing Vergne potential points – but again, the car failed. They've only amassed 17 points so far this season, but with other rivals struggling, seventh place would nonetheless merit a good year's work for Toro Rosso – if they can pull off a trouble-free weekend, a strong result to boot may follow.
Jean-Éric Vergne: 7.5/10
This is Vergne's third season in the sport and with the Red Bull programme notoriously fickle, it's time for the Frenchman to kick on. He has improved and shown flashes of speed, but sadly his performances have been frequently masked by the reliability issues of the STR9. He shot out of the blocks in Australia, but his top 10 grid slot in Malaysia was wasted by power unit problems at the start. Perennially strong in low grip conditions, Vergne excelled in Monaco and Canada, although he was unable to collect a strong result due to an exhaust failure on Monte-Carlo's streets. Low grip conditions came to his aid again in Hungary in which he ran an impressive second – and did not look out of his depth – before regressing to the mean performance of the car. There have been errors, with several first lap collisions costing him points, but this has been Vergne's most assured year yet – his mental strength, too, is vastly improved, as he coped well with adversity earlier in the season (he never sought to solely blame bad luck for his form), whereas in 2013 he crumbled. Daniel Ricciardo's performances for Red Bull perhaps paint Vergne in a different light after their two years together – in which they were frequently closely matched – although Vergne still has improvements to make, especially in hot conditions and in qualifying. But with no seat at Red Bull, the form of Daniil Kvyat and other youngsters waiting in the wings, can Vergne survive another year?
Daniil Kvyat: 8/10
There were gasps when Red Bull overlooked António Félix da Costa in favour of Daniil Kvyat but the Russian has taken Formula 1 in his stride and made the transition from GP3 with professional ease. Still only 19 at the time of his debut, his maturity belied his years as he brushed aside a lack of pre-season testing and romped to Q3 and points. He isn't overawed by the bright lights of Formula 1 and it shows on track. Tail-happy moments are a trait of the sport's current era yet Kvyat has dealt with these easily. There have been several times this year, one at Silverstone stands out, where Kvyat's STR9 had snapped sideways and seemingly headed for the nearest run-off or tyre wall. Yet he's saved the slide as if he's piloting a World Rally Car through the Finnish forests, such is his outstanding car control. He's ticked all the boxes for a rookie, with the highlight being his performance in Austria – seventh on the grid while others struggled – until the car failed. The only true moment of clumsiness was misjudging the gap in his passing attempt on Sergio Pérez in Germany. This has been an assured debut season so far, albeit at times restricted by his car's unreliability. That he's only scored points once across the last seven races doesn't tell the full story – beating Vergne should be his aim for the remainder of the year, especially with Toro Rosso marooned in no-man's land championship-wise.
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