#TheXtraLap Toro Rosso: Test team or midfield contender?

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Toro Rosso had a brand new driver line-up for the start of 2019 Formula 1 season with experienced Daniil Kvyat and newcomer Alexander Albon teaming up.

During pre-season testing in Barcelona, it looked like the team has the potential to become a strong midfield team. With Albon making a few mistakes but that is normal for someone who hasn’t even tested an F1 car so he had to learn. Kvyat has grown in the last few years and his experience seems to uplift the team.

Australia. A strong start of the season on Saturday with both drivers making it into Q2. Albon being the better one, starting in 13th while Kvyat had to start from 15th. Sunday was a race of 2 faces as Albon struggled a bit and finished outside the points in 14th, Kvyat had a fun race and finished in 10th, scoring the team’s first point of 2019.

Bahrain. The second race of the season and again both cars made Q2 but got stuck in it. Again, Albon was the faster one. He qualified in 12th while Kvyat qualified in 15th. Sunday was a case of “could’ve been” as Kvyat got spun by Giovinazzi and came home in 12th. Albon had a solid race and again, points for the team, as he finished 9th.

China. It was a bitter Saturday for Albon as he crashed in FP3 and wasn’t able to join qualifying due to extensive damage to the car. Kvyat however, made the best of it and qualified in 11th. Strangely enough, on Sunday, the tables would turn again. After contact, Kvyat had to retire from the race with too much damage but Albon had an awesome race as he finished 10th.

Baku. The race with the long straight but the first signs of Honda doing its job were spotted on Saturday. Albon couldn’t get out of Q2 with 12th but Kvyat showed the potential speed of the Honda by qualifying 6th. Sunday in Baku and it didn’t go as planned as a collision meant that Kvyat had to retire. Albon made the most of it but missed out on points when he finished in 11th.

Spain. Almost every team had updates and upgrades but it turned out a bit status quo on Saturday when Albon qualified in 12th. Kvyat did make Q3 but 9th was the best he could get. On Sunday, Albon gained a position by finishing in 11th, just outside the points while Kvyat finished where he started in 9th.

Monaco. The small streets of the principality would show the drivers with the most guts and both drivers made it into Q3. Kvyat got to start from 8th on the grid, just 2 spots in front of Albon in 10th. Sunday turned out to be a day of great points as Kvyat crossed the finish line in 7th, just 0.624s. clear of Albon in 8th. 10 great points for Toro Rosso.

Six races done and what were the signs at that point?

Both drivers have managed 3 points finishes so far and although Kvyat had 2 DNF’s, his race skills look promising and more mature. Albon however, is doing above what was expected at the start of the season and is keeping Kvyat very honest during races.

Canada. Spirits were high, coming into Saturday but, once again, Q2 was the best the drivers could get as Kvyat qualified in 12th and Albon in 14th. On Sunday, it was Albon who had to retire after sustaining collision damage but Kvyat finished 10th so salvaged a point.

France. What turned out to be a bore-fest, already started on Saturday when Kvyat qualified in 16th but had to start from the back, due to exceeding number of PU elements. Albon didn’t do much better and qualified in 11th. No points were given on Sunday when Kvyat finished 14th and Albon 15th.

Austria. At the RedBullRing, it wasn’t a great Saturday for the team as Kvyat got stuck in Q1 when he qualified in 18th and Albon didn’t make Q3 as he qualified in 13th. On Sunday, both drivers had a difficult time to get the car to work the way they both liked. Although it was an awesome race to watch, there were no points for the team as Albon finished in 15th and Kvyat 17th.

England. It was a mixed Saturday because Kvyat couldn’t get out of Q1 and had to start the race from 17th while Albon managed to get all the way into Q3 and got to start from 9th on the grid. Another Sunday where the tables turned. This time it was Albon who went backwards to finish outside the points in 12th but Kvyat showed great pace and managed to finish in the points in 9th.

Germany. Ups and downs this season so far as this time on Saturday, it was Albon who couldn’t get out of Q1 and qualified in 17th. Kvyat did slightly better and qualified 14th. How strange things can turn out was proven on Sunday, thanks to one crazy race. A double points finish for the team and also a podium. Albon got up to 6th at the finish line but Kvyat had the race of his life when he crossed the line to finish in an epic 3rd position.

Hungary. The team was back on earth on Saturday as both drivers couldn’t make Q3. Albon was the better one in 12th and Kvyat took 13th after qualifying. Sunday proved to be a great day as the race itself was awesome. Both drivers even battled from one corner to the next but at the finish, Albon took a point by coming home in 10th but Kvyat lost out and finished down in 15th, being lapped twice.

Now it’s the summer break so what did we learn so far?

The team started out with a new line-up so expectations were dimmed but both Kvyat and Albon made the best of it. The team is consistently in Q2 and have a better race pace than in qualifying trim. Kvyat is racing much more mature and is thinking more before he acts.

This smart racing earned him 3rd in Germany. Although Albon has made a few mistakes along the way, he did progress at a high rate. His progress hasn’t been un-noted by Helmut Marko and during the summer break, word came out that Albon was making the switch to Red Bull and Gasly would return to Toro Rosso.

Now let’s see what both drivers can do at the “other” team. If Toro Rosso keeps their development up, I see no reason why they couldn’t hang on to 5th in the championship and maybe even fight McLaren for 4th at the end of the season.

#MsportXtra

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