Toro Rosso launches the STR13 in Barcelona

"It’s an exciting time for Toro Rosso"

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By Olivier Ferret

26 February 2018 - 09:44
Toro Rosso launches the STR13 in (...)

The highly anticipated first collaboration between Scuderia Toro Rosso and Honda, the STR13, was unveiled this morning, just before the first day of pre-season testing got underway at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit. The cover was pulled off our 2018 challenger by our driver pairing of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley. The STR13 sticks with our striking blue, red and silver livery, but makes history as the first car produced by Toro Rosso featuring an exclusive engine partnership with Honda.

Franz Tost

“I am really looking forward to begin this new season and enter a new era for our team, working together with Honda. It’s an exciting time for Toro Rosso because we have not had our own engine supplier before, so to partner with a manufacturer, with the history Honda has, will be great. We also have two accomplished rookies for the 2018 season. They are not completely new because both Pierre and Brendon drove a handful of races for us last year, but this will be their first full season in Formula 1. Both drivers come to us as champions, as Pierre won the 2016 GP2 (now F2) Championship, while Brendon is a double World Endurance Champion and 24 Hour of Le Mans winner. I’m convinced that if we provide them with a competitive car, they will be able to perform at very high levels. We have been working very hard on the STR13, and I’m happy we do not have to wait too long to see it running. The season has begun… Ganbarimasu!”

Katsuhide Moriyama

(Chief Officer for Brand and Communication Operations, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.)

“I am delighted that our new car is here and ready for the start of winter testing, having been designed and built to a very tight schedule. That is a tribute to the dedication of the Honda and Scuderia Toro Rosso personnel who have already learned to work very well together, developing the STR13 chassis and RA618H power unit package over the short winter months. Now we have just eight days to evaluate our work on the track, in order to be ready for the coming season. We appreciate the warm support from the fans and hope they enjoy watching us compete in this year’s championship.”

Q&A with Franz Tost: “There’s a lot that’s new for our team this season”.

Franz, sum up the key elements to Scuderia Toro Rosso’s 2018 season.

FT: There’s a lot that’s new for our team this season. First, we get to work with a new technology partner, Honda. Right from the start, they had a positive approach and we are proud to work alongside people from such a great company. Our car features a new power unit and, along with our driver line-up of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley, everything is in place for us to tackle the 2018 season. We always give our all and I’m sure that if we stay focused and work together, the team can achieve the success it deserves.

How are you finding working with Honda so far?

FT: The cooperation with Honda is important to us, as it is the first time in the history of Toro Rosso that we are working in a partnership together with a car manufacturer. It changes a lot, and it was very satisfying to see our engineers and our concept group sitting together with the Honda people, suggesting ways to improve the packaging in the chassis and so on. Honda has a great reputation around the world and specifically in motorsport, with a long and very successful racing history. We have established a close relationship and they have made big steps forward. I lived and worked for a year in Japan so I know a bit about their culture. Working together involves completely different methods to those used when working with a European company. We introduced our engineers to this new culture by organising seminars in our factory, so that they could get a better understanding of the Japanese way of thinking. I think this has helped a lot, because what I have seen so far is that the cooperation is effective and already at a high level.

You are known for getting to the office very early in the morning. That must be useful for dealing with the time difference to the Honda people in Japan!

FT: Yes, I like to be at my desk around 6.30. I can do a lot of work where I need to be concentrated and to have the time to reflect on everything. First of all, I look at the e-mails that have arrived during night. Especially, as for our Honda friends in Japan as they are eight hours ahead of us, I can immediately answer them in the morning.

And finally, a word about your drivers before their first full season of F1?

FT: I am happy with both of them: Pierre was the GP2 champion two years ago and last season he finished second in the Japanese Super Formula. He also performed really well with us in those final races of last year, as it wasn’t easy to jump in such a complicated car and race. As for Brendon, he had already enjoyed some success with Red Bull back when he did the Renault World Series, where he was very competitive in races and qualifying, showing a good speed. More recently with Porsche, he won the Le Mans 24 Hours and he is also a double world champion in the World Endurance Championship. I’m convinced that if we provide them with a competitive car, they will be able to perform at very high levels. We have been preparing them for this year, with a lot of simulator work, and both have spent plenty of time at the factor familiarising themselves with everything over the winter period.

Q&A with James Key: "A building period with a new partnership"

How did you approach the STR13 project?

JK: There were several challenges but none that were by nature unfamiliar to us at Toro Rosso. The most obvious is that we have had a change of engine partner and there were also a few minor regulation changes on the aero side, a few clarifications on suspension and so on, which all had an effect on how we approached these areas. Fundamentally, it’s been a case of adapting what you know to the regulations as they came out, which is pretty much the normal process from one year to the next. The most visible new element and one of the most talked about, is obviously the driver head protection with the Halo. That was a fresh challenge because there was no reference data from previous years to base anything on. We therefore started from scratch on how to integrate it into the chassis. The very tough requirements for its structural integrity and that of its mounting in the chassis were quite a challenge to ensure that we were on top of it. One of the reasons Halo looks like it does - which is one of the things that’s been a bit of a topic of conversation - is that it has to be incredibly strong and to withstand the enormous loads it is intended to resist, you’re not necessarily going to have this beautifully faired-in component. It’s going to be something that’s a bit raw. It’s very much a structural item rather than a styling exercise. The Halo has been designed to a very strict set of mechanical and structural integration requirements. The load testing that you have to be able to apply to the Halo is absolutely huge so that was a big challenge.

For the rest of the car, other than engine, it was a case of taking what we knew and either completely rehashing it or refining it, depending on whether it was a strength or weakness from last year, while also applying the lessons learned from the first year of these new chassis regulations. So the 2018 car is a bit of an evolution in some areas. However, we have completely redesigned a lot of the areas at the back of the car and the way the suspension works because that was something which was not a strength in 2017, but we identified those concerns and addressed them in the 2018 car.

The aero side is, in some areas quite different to the 2017 car, in others it’s an improvement of what we had. Aero is an area where there is a great deal of work in progress at the moment. It’s something that was OK for us at the beginning of last year, but then we did not develop to the level we really wanted to be at by the end of the year. Some aero development is an obvious evolution of last year and some is completely new and that will be an ongoing process in 2018. There’s still an awful lot to find within these chassis regulations. We’ll likely have a very different-looking car come mid-season compared to where we start the year, aero development is a major focus for us at present.

Let’s come to the biggest change of all - the engine.

JK: We’ve had several engine changes in recent years so dealing with it is something we’re good at. Although the timing was later than you’d like it to be, it was not so much of an issue to try and adapt the car to it. Over the years, we’ve learned well how to have that flexibility within the team. The installation side of the engine to the chassis was generally OK. Certainly, we’d have made a few different decisions had we been able to do it in more normal time scales, but it hasn’t been something that’s fundamentally changed the cars architecture and the installation itself is very tidy. Honda has produced a very compact, very easy to work with power unit. That was a welcome discovery when we first began to get the CAD data through and started to have technical discussions with them. It also meant we could redesign our gearbox in a way that allowed some of the rear suspension internals to be better installed, so there were several benefits to the installation itself. That was a positive thing. In terms of working with Honda, it’s of course a new experience. I personally worked with Honda years ago and enjoyed that period, but it’s a new experience when you have a new engine partner that’s not based in Europe, so you can’t just pop over and visit and have a chat around a CAD screen. It has to be a much more structured form of communication. We have a much bigger time difference to deal with, which can also be something that you need to carefully account for. Another important aspect of this partnership is that it’s a "works" engine deal, which is a fantastic opportunity for us and a good opportunity for Honda to work with a new and different team in the era of these power units. For us, it wasn’t just a case of installing an engine and discussing all the plethora of details that go with that - the software, the electronics, even the garage layout, the operation of the engine itself, the cooling systems - it was also being able to be much closer to our engine partner and have some genuine influence over certain items. For us it’s been a big challenge in that respect, to move on to a new engine supply as a "works" team and get involved to that level, but it’s been a great experience so far. To sum it up, Honda have been a breath of fresh air to work with.

Pirelli has introduced an even softer tyre this year. Is that something you take into account at the design stage?

JK: Yes, because the combined effect of continued development on the aero side and on the power unit, along with more grip from softer tyres means the speeds are going to be greater. Therefore, you’ve got to ensure that is a part of your prediction for loading conditions for the car. You also have to consider that it might bias the way in which you need to set up the car and the way in which your suspension geometry might need to adapt a little bit to a range of tyre compounds that are, on average, softer than last year. The tyres are super critical of course and if there is a change of that magnitude, then there is a bit of work there which you need to do."

How would you sum up the year ahead?

JK: It’s going to be a building period with a new partnership, but we’ll mature as the season progresses and we are taking it one step at a time. I expect that as the season goes on so our package will become increasingly competitive. We have short and medium term plans in place to get where we wish to be and we are working on those in detail now – where we are in the latter part of the season will I hope be representative of where we can be, and form the basis of where we need to go next.

Q&A with Pierre Gasly

You’re about to start your first full season of Formula 1. How does that feel?

PG: It’s a big year ahead and I’m super excited about it all, starting testing and then the first race isn’t that far away. I just want to smash it for the 21 races that we have ahead of us.

How are your approaching the season?

PG: I always want to be the best and try my hardest. It’s true that this is F1 and, even if in the last few years I’ve been fighting for wins, podium finishes and titles, this year that might be a little bit more complicated! But it doesn’t change my aim of always doing the best I can with the equipment I’m given.

A year ago, you were the reigning GP2/F2 champion, but there was no room for you in F1.
Did you ever think the opportunity to be a Grand Prix driver had passed you by?

PG: No, I never lost hope and I always believed in hard work and the fact my results would speak for themselves. Winning races and taking the title in the GP2 championship in 2016, I knew one day it would pay off for me. I was quite calm about it last year and I felt that if I concentrated on my goals, having a good season in Japan it would come. I always believe in myself and as long as you put in the work, you get your reward.

You are working with Honda this year and last year you raced for a Honda team in Japan.
Was that something that can help you now?

PG: Any experience of working with a different team is useful and I did learn a bit about the Japanese way of doing things, but this is a completely different set-up, so it’s not a big advantage for me.

What do you think of the halo?

PG: I think we will all get used to it. From inside the car, it doesn’t change much for us.

What do you expect from winter testing?

PG: Brendon and I have four days each and I hope we can manage good mileage and maximise our time on track, getting through a lot of work. We need to find the right direction to work in and get comfortable with the car. Having Honda with us is also a big change and we just need to get plenty of track time to be ready for Melbourne.

The French GP is back on the calendar this year...

PG: I never went to see the races at Magny Cours, but I remember watching it on television. It’s the perfect moment to come back. So to have it in my first full season is great. I’m really looking forward to the energy and the atmosphere from having a home race.

Q&A with Brendon Hartley

You squeezed four Grands Prix into a very busy 2017, now what do you expect from 2018?

BH: I’m looking forward to a lot of new challenges and I’m particularly excited about the first event. Australia isn’t a home race for me, but when I was back in New Zealand, every second or third person I met told me they were coming to watch in Melbourne. So I’m hoping to see a lot of New Zealand flags there. Generally, I’m looking forward to the whole season as this is something I’ve dreamed about my whole life.

First impressions of working with Honda?

BH: What is very clear from all of the meetings we’ve had so far is they are working very hard. I have to say there’s a lot of positive energy around the factory about this partnership with Honda and it is a huge opportunity for our team. I’m also really looking forward to meeting Honda’s sushi chef!

You almost made it to F1 several years ago, but it didn’t happen.
What is different for you this time?

BH: I tested F1 cars but when it came to the racing I wasn’t up to it. But endurance racing gave me a lot of the experience I needed and let me grow as a driver. I was able to work alongside top professional team-mates, in a team as big as any F1 team, driving a very complicated car and taking part in fierce racing. I feel that at 28 I’m a lot more prepared than I was at 18.

What do you think of the halo?

BH: F1 cars are sexy and an aerodynamicist’s dream, but the halo looks like an add-on rather than an integral part of the car. But I understand the safety aspect and, from working with it in the simulator, it won’t change much for us when we are driving.

You’re only the ninth New Zealander to race in F1. What does that mean to you?

BH: There’s a huge history of motor sport in New Zealand and the reaction back home since I’ve been in F1 and even before that in LMP1 has been incredible. I get huge support. There are a lot of New Zealand drivers competing at the moment at a very high level and it’s been referred to as something of a golden era for New Zealand motorsport. I am aware of our history in the sport and I’m very proud to be flying the flag once again.

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