They may not even be the primary team in the Red Bull operation, but when it came to all-around eventfulness, no team on the grid topped Toro Rosso in 2017.
As has been the case for several years, Technical Director James Key once again designed a car capable of mixing with the best of the midfield, and yet as impressive as their fourth-straight P7 in the constructor’s standings is, it might be the least remarked-upon aspect of their season.
Starting the year with Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat in the car, the team scored top-10 finishes at six of the first eight races, but the real story was undoubtedly the uncertain futures of drivers and team alike. It all culminated around the Singapore GP with Sainz signing for Renault (albeit initially after 2017) and Kvyat being shown the door, while engine suppliers Renault were dumped for the freshly divorced Honda.
By the US GP neither Sainz nor Kvyat was with the team, instead it was Pierre Gasly and surprise replacement Brendon Hartley occupying their seats, albeit with little success as the team’s engines began to fail at an alarming rate. The subsequent war-of-words between team principal Franz Tost and Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul only added to the drama, alas it was to no avail as the team saw the French outfit pip them to sixth in the championship by a mere four points.
Heading into 2018, the team looks vastly different than it did at the start of the year. Both drivers and engine supplier have much to prove – Gasly and Hartley whether they can do better than Kvyat, let alone Sainz, and Honda whether they can get an engine to last for at least a whole race weekend. In any case, if Toro Rosso want to keep their run of P7s going, they’ll have to perform next year much better than they ended this one.
Pierre Gasly & Brendon Hartley
Driving in just six and four races respectively of the season, giving a fair assessment of either Gasly or Hartley remains impossible at this point. Certainly it didn’t help that their joining the team coincided with the team’s late-season engine woes, and there was rarely a race one or the other didn’t fall victim to its unreliability. Still, given the pedigrees of both drivers in other categories, a continuation of the team’s general excellence will be expected in 2018, assuming Honda gets its act together.
Ever since being dropped from Red Bull prior to the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, Kvyat has felt like F1’s equivalent of a dead man walking. In 2017, that foreboding came to fruition when he was dropped first after the Singapore GP, and then for good after Austin. Whether or not a return to the senior team was ever on the cards, the problem for Kvyat was that he was never able to temper his erraticism, and incidents like his outburst with the stewards in Canada and back-to-back crashes with Sainz in Austria and the UK made him a headache simply not worth the time. That said, on pure pace he was still a match for Sainz in their time together, and one has to think if he could get his head screwed on straight, he could find himself on the grid in the future.
Carlos Sainz’s rating will be given in the Renault Review
2017 WCC Position: 7th – 53 points
2016 WCC Position: 7th – 63 points
Best Finish: 4th (Carlos Sainz, Singapore)
Average Finish: 11.04
Q3 Appearances: 7
Engine Change Grid Penalties, Last Six Races: 110
Highest Qualifying Position: 6th (Carlos Sainz, Monaco)