And so it begins, our fourteenth season in Formula 1. Much has changed since 2006 within the sport and within the team, but Scuderia Toro Rosso’s core values remain the same and we travelled across the world to Australia for round 1 of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship with the same sense of determination, enthusiasm and excitement as always.
In fact, for Team Principal Franz Tost and our two drivers, Alex Albon and Daniil Kvyat, the long long trip to Melbourne from Italy was broken up by a stop-over in Tokyo. On the weekend before the Australian Grand Prix, we joined our colleagues from Aston Martin Red Bull Racing as they put on an F1 show run display in the heart of the Japanese capital.
Our drivers also took part in a fan forum and a press conference. It was an opportunity for Alex and Daniil to experience for the first time the commitment and enthusiasm of our Japanese fans. Toro Rosso has always had a following in the Land of the Rising Sun, but ever since we teamed up with Honda, it’s gone through the roof. Thousands of fans applied for tickets for the event but only a lucky few hundred could be fitted in.
First weekend of emotions
Thursday at the track was tinged with sadness, with the shocking news that Charlie Whiting, the FIA Formula 1 Race Director had died suddenly overnight in Melbourne. Charlie was liked and respected by everyone in the sport to which he had dedicated his life for over four decades. Our cars carried a tribute message to him during the race. Our drivers completed a lot of laps during the 8 days of pre-season testing and that theme continued during the three hours of free practice at Albert Park on Friday, with both men doing impressive distances, completing more than an actual race distance each.
In Qualifying the mid-field was so close: the slightest imperfection can see a lap good enough for eighth on the grid leave you in eighteenth place. Moving on to Sunday and just a few minutes into his first Grand Prix and Alex had made up a couple of places, but after then he had a more complicated afternoon, having to watch his brake temperatures and, along with many others, delayed behind an Alfa Romeo. Anyway, all in all he had a good first GP weekend and has learned a great deal from the experience. As for Daniil, he celebrated his return to F1 in fine style, going from 17th on the grid to tenth at the flag, to open our points score for the year.
From Australia to Bahrain…
What was clear from our trip down under is that the STR14 has plenty of potential and now it’s up to us to exploit it to the max. This was the first race run with the new aero rules, aimed at improving overtaking and there were eight more passing moves on track than in the 2018 race.
One thing that never changes in Melbourne is the enthusiasm of the crowd and the extent of the show they get to see. At some Grands Prix outside Europe the fans are lucky to get one support race to watch. Here in Albert Park, apart from the 20 F1 cars, no fewer than 138 cars were on track at some point, in a wide variety of racing categories, not forgetting the incredible air display from the Royal Australian Airforce and its F/A-18A Classic Hornet flying at speeds of up to 1000km/h!
In just a few days, it will be time to leave Faenza again and head for round 2 in Bahrain. The Sakhir circuit might lack some of the razzamatazz of the Albert Park street track, but it will provide the teams with a more accurate picture of their cars’ performance on a “real” circuit.