2019 F1 Guide: Toro Rosso primed to surprise

Daniil Kvyat. Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty

Toro Rosso welcome their sister team Red Bull to life with Honda power, the junior team now on their second year with the Japanese auto giant paved the way for the complete merger.

The Red Bull-owned Faenza based outfit worked tirelessly throughout the 2018 season developing the Honda power unit, mainly for Red Bull’s sake.

They now hope to fight more frequently in 2019 without taking so many grid penalties which they were given in favour of evolving their power unit but are likely to remain the test bed for the programme.

Toro Rosso only recorded five points finishes during the last 11 races after grid penalties placed their drivers towards the back of the grids regularly.

They also have two new drivers, with Daniil Kvyat making another return to F1 alongside Red Bull junior driver Alexander Albon. However they appear to have a gem of a race car in the STR14, the striking liveried car impressive during preseason testing last month in Spain.

Team Principal Franz Tost. Photo: Peter Fox/Getty

Franz Tost, Team Principal: Like Horner at Toro Rosso’s sister team Red Bull Racing, Tost has led Toro Rosso since its debut at the 2006 Australian Grand Prix. Born in Austria, the 63-year-old briefly raced cars as a junior before managing racing teams.

Tost joined F1 in 2000, working with Williams and their BMW engine suppliers at the time.

He has also mentored many Red Bull junior drivers who got their F1 testing break with them, grooming some, such as Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly, to bigger things

This year they welcome back Kvyat who the team knows well, with Thai rookie Alexander Albon in the garage next to him.

One is assuming that the Kvyat that steps into this year’s Toro Rosso is vastly different to the one that that Helmut Marko sent packing a couple of fo years ago for simply not delivering at the highest level despite numerous chances to redeem himself.

Daniil Kvyat. Photo: Dan Istitene/Getty

Daniil Kvyat: He was cauterised by Red Bull and found refuge at Maranello sim driving for Ferrari. Last year when Daniel Ricciardo stunned the establishment with his decision to abandon Red Bull and join Renault, the energy drinks organisation had few options. Their young driver programme had run dry and Brendon Hartley was not up to the task of F1.

So Marko and co hit up their prodigal son Kvyat who was only too keen to oblige. Will the leopard change his spots and channel the undeniable raw speed into consistency and canny race craft expected of a driver with 72 Grand Prix starts on his CV. Step up Tost to see what he can do now after failing in his first attempt to tame the wayward Russian driver.

As trivial as it may sound those bigger wings could well be a curse for accident-prone drivers, not all of them are but we know who the main culprits can be. Hopefully, we get a rejuvenated and more mature young man, because he is a welcome addition to the grid and capable of doing the job as his two F1 podiums testify.

Alexander Albon. Photo: Peter Fox/Getty

Alex Albon: Much has been written how Red Bull, out of the blue, plucked the 22-year-old from relative oblivion to place him on the F1 grid with Toro Rosso. As explained above circumstances and fate smiled on young the young Thai driver.

While Kvyat was an early choice for a seat with the team, Albon was the last man signed for 2019, So much so that he missed the Abu Dhabi young driver test and only got his first taste of F1 on day one of preseason testing a month ago at Circuit de Catalunya.

The kid survived an embarrassing first lap spin, but credit to him for delivering a solid performance during his next four days in the car. Ticking all the boxes as his team brought him up to speed with the nuances of an F1 car.

Is he ready for Melbourne and the year ahead?

More testing would have served him well as would have a few FP1 sessions along the way. Of the four rookies in the field, for the start of this season, Albon is the least prepared in terms of mileage in the cockpit of an F1 car.

Readiness is also a state-of-mind, more pertinent to him is if he is able to seize the moment and establish himself as a hot prospect worth banking on for the future. For now, it is a gamble.

If the two lads can keep the STR14 on the black stuff, they could be the surprise package of this season.

Big Question: Will Toro Rosso move up the pecking order in 2019?