The final race prior to the summer break proved to be a difficult one for us and, for only the third time this season, Scuderia Toro Rosso came away empty handed in terms of points. Our technical director James Key explains how the weekend unfolded.
We knew there were a couple of elements to the Hockenheim track that increasingly wouldn’t suit us as well as other teams, primarily the long straight in sector 2, as it is quite power dependent on the engine side. Those teams running 2016 specification engines have picked up rather well over the last few races and that could be seen very clearly at a track like this one.
We brought a new aero update to this race, which appeared to work okay, and we hope to get more out of it in the upcoming races. Over the weekend we were learning about it and its major elements seemed to do what they are meant to.
We had a lot of test items to run, so that most of FP1 was taken up with evaluating the new parts, because we also had some additional new parts to prove inside the car. Even at that point, it was clear we had a bit of work to do. In FP2 we had reasonable pace although we were not where we wanted to be. Sector 3 at the end of the lap in particular was problematic, which might have been related to tyre temperature and indeed a few teams had that problem. There was work to be done there to improve our lap time. We knew sector 2 was tricky, so in order to see if could balance our sectors a bit more, we tried running less rear wing to take drag off the car, which of course took downforce away as well. Nevertheless, the long run pace, particularly with Daniil, looked quite reasonable. We therefore felt that we could be in reasonable shape if we could sort out sector 3.
FP3 went okay although we began to see the clear advantage that the Mercedes-engined cars had, so it was a very tight fight with Force India and Williams and also with McLaren. This meant it would be tough in qualifying and we would have to see what we could do. Unfortunately, when it came to qualifying, Daniil’s good form over the weekend up to that point, didn’t come through for some reason. He had some troubles on his last run in Q1, which meant he missed his lap and that put him out. It was a surprise and it meant we were quite compromised as regards his grid position. With Carlos, we didn’t have a good session: sector 2 was poor and it was there that we lost around half a second to our competitors, we also lost a bit of time in sector 1, although by then we had a car that was very competitive in sector 3. We ended up 13th, but that became 16th on the grid, as he got a penalty for holding up another competitor during qualifying. It meant we would start really low down the grid and have it all to play for on Sunday.
It was a tricky race. We made a reasonable start with both cars, having gone for a three stop strategy, even if a two stop was the predominant choice, as we had to try something different. A three stop seemed slightly safer for the tyres and it was difficult to tell if the Soft or Supersoft was the best race tyre. In the first two stints, Carlos got caught twice behind Massa and he found it difficult to get past. He couldn’t break free and ended up losing time to the guys ahead. We also had problems at the first pit stop with both drivers: it was related to wheel nuts not coming off as quickly as they should. It’s strange as we had not seen that problem before and we have to look into it. The drivers lost a lot of time and it meant that in the second stint, they ended up behind the traffic they had moved ahead of earlier. After that, it was a case of managing the traffic and trying to get through it. It wasn’t enough and although it’s only the third time this season we didn’t score points, it’s the first time that we failed to score because we didn’t perform well enough, rather than because of a problem on the cars. A deeply frustrating weekend.
We are going to sit down now before the break and carefully go through a plan of how we will go about tackling the last part of the season. We still have some car developments to come and we must make sure we can address some of the issues we had in Hockenheim. We can do that and we also need to make a better job of compensating for some of the weaknesses on our car.