What’s pushing Toro Rosso up the Formula 1 grid so quickly?
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Nov 2011   |  2:40 pm GMT  |  76 comments

The performance of the Toro Rosso cars at the weekend underlined how much progress the team has made in the second half of the season. But where is the boost coming from and is there a back story to it?

Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastian Buemi both qualified in the top ten in India and Alguersuari raced strongly to another points finish. In the last five races the team has scored 29 points, while rivals Sauber in the same period have scored six and Force India 19.

Since Suzuka in particular the Toro Rosso has been making huge strides.

In Singapore the delta in qualifying from Toro Rosso to the pace setter Sebastian Vettel was 4 seconds equates to 4.1% of the lap time. In Japan where they tested the exhausts it was 3.1%, then in Korea it came down to 2.4% and in India it was 2%. Meanwhile Alguersuari drove away from Adrian Sutil in the middle stint of the race in India. So how have they done it?

They’ve done it with new aerodynamic parts like wings and floors, but particularly by getting the most from the exhaust blown diffuser in a very short space of time and this is where it gets interesting.

As I write the F1 commission meeting today is discussing among other things the degree of technical collaboration allowed between teams, it’s interesting to look at Toro Rosso, who are not allowed under the Concorde Agreement regulations to simply get a car or parts of one from sister team Red Bull.

But they are allowed to share ideas and rival teams believe that they have been getting advice on the key areas to focus on in developing the blown diffuser and this has given them a short cut to getting it right.

Most established teams now have some form of blown diffuser but it’s a fiendishly difficult thing to get right. Red Bull pioneered it with engine partner Renault last season but this season it has really come into its own and contributes a massive amount of downforce.

Even teams with huge resources like McLaren and Ferrari took their time to get it right, as you are groping around in the dark until you come across the secrets to making it work. For the midfield teams, where resources are more limited, this process can take even longer and some pointers in understanding the system and how to optimise it would save a lot of time and get quick results. Engineers say that you can go more quickly to the right answers.

This is fair enough and does not breach the current rules, but it’s a huge advantage. As to why Red Bull as a company might do it, the answer is money. The difference between 8th place, where Toro Rosso were and 6th place, which is within reach now in the final two races, is worth around €7 million.

But there is a wider game at play too, as Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has already hinted that he would consider selling a stake in Toro Rosso to the right partner. He has entered into an agreement with IPIC, the Abu Dhabi based investment company. Among other brands, IPIC owns CEPSA, the Spanish oil company and Falcon bank, which are now Toro Rosso sponsors. Such a positive growth curve in performance is bound to play well next week when the parties meet at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, if a partial sale is on the agenda.

Returning to the F1 commission meeting today, the nub of the issue is that grey and even incomplete areas were left in the rules on technology sharing in the last Concorde Agreement.

It is in the interests of the sport, the big teams and the small teams, for technology sharing like that between McLaren and Force India or Red Bull and Team Lotus. It brings the smaller teams up and makes the midfield really competitive.

For the next Concorde Agreement, due to start in 2013, all the stakeholders want clarification of how much Intellectual Property transfer should be allowed and how to regulate it. With a change of engine formula in 2014, manufacturers of powertrains will want to have a “works team” and then customer teams and it is the right moment to discuss how much further technology sharing goes in that relationship.

Inevitably among competitive people there is suspicion, but this is an area where the sport can easily sort that out, by learning from the defence industry, where there are strict protocols and guidelines in place for IP sharing and problems are avoided.

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Could A. Newey be able to assist team Toro Rosso -- offically or inofficially?


Considering that same wallet pays the bills, would Mark/Seb move over for a Toro Rosso driver so that they could jump up two places in costructors and collect the millions that go with it?

Would it be legit if they did?


I'm guessing they could IF their contracts are with Red Bull providing them a seat OR if they agreed. If it says they have a seat with RBR (which it probably does) then the only way they can move is if they agree


You don't see Webber falling back a spot or two to let a TR ahead and protect it? For 7 million euros I sure as heck would arrange that if opportunity is present and TR is within striking distance.


Constructors points go the car... so the question should be - can Webber or Vettel jump into a TR and give them a boost in the constructors title?


i doubt that they will do much better than Jaime Alguersuari 🙂


That would be the final word on 'team orders'.


good question, can he email or go to the factory and point out the direction the red bull team took compared to toro?


He certainly can send a postcard. Hello granny, please find attached a copy of my latest bedroom wall sketch of a blown diffuser 🙂


Andy, I really loved your reply....

Rlol 🙂


Very very funny indeed. lolest


...the next Concorde Agreement, due to start in 2013...

Now there's some wishful thinking! From what I've read discussions have made no progress and when you throw the FIA wanting a better cut into the mix it is hardly surprising.


Another aspect of Torro Rosso's recent rise in form is that it really amplifies the performances of Buemi and Alguersuari. If the fight to retain a seat in the team next year is as tight as I believe it to be, then these final races with a vastly improved car underneath you can really make one candidate stand out over the other. It's what you do with these opportunities that can really catapult a career... ask Vettel how it's working out for him!


Vettel won in the Torro Rosso when it was the fastest car on the grid that weekend and everyone cites him winning in a Torro Rosso like the drive of the century.

But hey, Alonso won in a Renault and Massa has won in a Ferrari!


I wasn't even thinking about his win, I was thinking about how he made the most out of the Torro Rosso when their performance began to get better at the end of 2008. 6th, 5th, 1st, 5th, 6th, 9th, 4th in the last 7 races of the season... in the Torro Rosso. Meanwhile his teammate finished 10th 7th, 18th, 12th, 10th, 13th, 14th. Vettel earned his shot at Red Bull decisively. Webber's not going to stick around forever, so this is the chance that the current Torro Rosso drivers have to shine and earn that seat.


Buemi should go, no question. Jaime is the better driver.


So it's like Lotus not being able to sell old 78s on to a private team but being able to rent out some of the design team? So team B gets a fully working "Wing car" just in time for Lotus to usher in ground effects on the 79...


This sort of article is precisely why I come here dialy. Thanks James.


I remember in the pre-season being surprised by the large differences in design approaches taken by RB and TR and thought it might be a way of testing new ideas without impeding the main team as it sought to retain the championships. I don't see anybody questioning the imput of new ideas and information since RB tied up the championships and as things stand it is not to my knowledge breaking any rules. From my veiwpoint though it does take away something from the sport from a competiveness angle as I prefer the idea of teams all the way down the grid fighting on a fairly even basis with the teams around them.

Looking how other teams have agreements in place to share technology, even personel in the case of McL secondments to FI, I don't see any undue unfair advantage gained. It would only be an issue it the cars were fighting for the same positions where there could be questions raised about the integrity of the racing. I feel owners should only have stakes in one team, with technical agreements based solely on mechanical features. With aero such a fundamental part of the car in my eyes this should be down to team personel only, with no sharing of information or parts. To me this would make financial sense for the manufacturers who want to gain maximum return for their investments whilst retaining the element of competition right down the grid.

I really hope we don't see customer cars allowed as I really feel it would see an end to a lot of teams. We would quickly end up with three or four teams with customers hiring a car for a season or so of publicity then leaving the sport. This would give the remaining teams far too much control over a supposed competition.


It gets difficult to define where aerodynamics starts and stops. Last year with the double diffusers the big teams all made really long gearboxes as this increased the working area. Customer teams got this benefit and due to the specs were pointed in an aerodynamic direction. Toro Rosso has also benefitted from new Ferrari engine maps - Australian TV got it in an interview with Franz Tost and he said as much, so this could as much be a gain from Ferrari knowledge as Red Bull.

The Toro Rosso car also has all the Ferrari engine integration requirement in terms of cooling, fuel consumption and ancillary locations - this ends up having an aerodynamic influence.






So its as if lotus couldn't sell old 78s to private teams but could lease the design team.. Team B gets a fully working "wing car" just as the 79 "Ground effects" car launches...

If you remember Hector Rebaque bought a 79 and subsequently cloned it to build his own car. Tyrell built a very similar car to the 79 but built it a bit stiffer, something Lotus might have been better off doing rather than trying to cure the 80....


So this is all well and good for 2011, but what happens in 2012 when they are stuck with periscope exhausts?

If they don't find a buyer by the end of 2011, their little ruse will have failed when they are lower-mid-pack come the start of 2012.

That said, I still love seeing the bones of the old Minardi team grabbing points here and there.

Then again, looking back to some races in 1991, if the top-10 got points, then the following would also have scored points, some semi-regularly: Fondmetal, Brabham, Dallara, Leyton-House, Minardi, Lamborghini ("Lambo"), AGS, Jordan (in their first race, no less) and Lola. But as a counter-point to my counter-point, sometimes only 10-12 cars would actually finish, which is certainly not the norm these days.


Did Giancarlo Minardi retain his 10% stake in the team when Paul Stoddart sold his controlling stake in the team?


7 Million Euro goes a long way in car development. It makes perfect sense for TR to grab 6th and bump FI and Sauber down the order.


James, Renault engines over the space of a few seasons went from a lower power and less reliable engine to more reliable and powerful when married to the Red Bull blown diffuser. Do you think that Renaults requests to the FIA a few years ago to change their engine design on reliability were also to optimise it for the Red Bull blown diffuser concept?


Good question. Don't know. Remember that any requests are seen by the other engine manufacturers and I've not heard any of them talking about this.


Would be good to know! Also one way to measure Red Bulls assistance with Toro Rosso would be to see if Toro Rosso mechanics start standing around the back of their cars on the grid to block the view of their diffusers. I attended the F1 fan forum ant the MTC earlier this year and the biggest reaction from the audience was on this subject. On the grid before the race us fans want to see the cars. Not a load of RB mechanics blocking the view. None of the other established teams do this. RB obviously bring too many personell to the GPs if they can afford to have them standing around doing nothing!


When Massa's front wing was in pieces on the Indian grid there were a grip of hands-in-pockets techs blocking the action, even as the BBC tried to get a decent shot. I've seen McLaren do it once or twice but always always always the RBR is surrounded by bodies on the grid. It just seems weird what with telephoto lenses and the angles photogs can get around the track. What are they hiding eh?


You must have some blinkers on if you don't see other teams doing this...


I don’t know – there are many up to date (and crisp) photos of the RB rear end online, albeit taken while the car is moving. I sometimes think with having the mechanics standing around the car they are trying to create a “mystique” about the cars design. A bit of showmanship, or distracting from where people should really be looking – the front.


wonderful article. thanks james.


Does Toro Rosso employ junior Red Bull technical personnel, similar to the McLaren/Force India arrangement?


When Toro Rosso do well it's "what are they getting from Red Bull?"

Yet when Force India do well their technical partnership with McLaren is rarely brought up. At least not to the same extent. You mention it briefly in this post, but their rise up the order has coincided with their deal with McLaren.

Perhaps it's because of Red Bull being involved in the ownership of both teams.


Perhaps the English are happy to look the other way with McLaren/FI because McL is an English team...


perhaps - but the McL & FI case seems to be more about McL spreading their cost rather than them really wanting to drag FI up the rankings.... McL would have no real direct benefit - whereas the more money TR & RB get in via the prize money the less they require from Red Bull Drinks company sponsorship.

besides, i dont think James can be accused of being bais to one or any other team in his reporting - its just an interesting story.


Surely if Torro Rosso had access to Red Bull "know how" they would have been good out of the box at the start of the season and not made great strides through it. After all Red Bull did quite well last season if I recall!!

The problem with making rules is that you have to be able to police them to be able to decide they have been broken.

Ferrari seem to be looking at Red Bull very closely eg flappy front wing and have publicly stated that they may have to look at some Red Bull developments to improve their own car.

Ferrari and other talking about "copying", Torro Rosso allegedly getting tips, is there a real difference here that can be proven that it breaks the rules.

Out of curiosity James do teams directly employ photographers to look closely at the oppositions cars in the paddock and on the grids or do they just get photos fropm various accredited photographers??


at the Indian GP, mr Newey was blatantly standing in front of the Ferrari checking out the new wings ferrari have been bringing to the tracks.

i t was part showmanship but clearly every team does recon on every other teams car


Newey strongly suspects Ferrari got one (or part of one) of their RBR wings after a previous crash - he's probably curious to see how much of it has now appeared in Ferrari's 'new developments'!!


There is a story that part of Webber's front wing never came back after his Monza crash. Horner denied it when I asked him


I think Newey just stands there and laughs quietly to himself because he spots the flaws in the design...


Though that thought is amusing I rather think that Adrian Newey is THE ONE guy really able to admire a good aerodynamic design and also a guy who is taking whatever ideas he can get out of others' designs ... and who would or even could blame him for that?


Yes teams employ photographers

I don't think there's anything wrong with an engineer helping another to save time and point him to the areas to focus on. It's an advantage to having a second team


This is a bit worrying.

If they are allowed to share ideas, RedBull could have both teams at the top and since the money are split between teams in the order they finish in the constructors championship, RedBull can make a lot of money.

I'm sure it will not be the case and I'm just talking non-sense.


There maybe more prize money, but there would also be more costs if the A team took a wrong direction in design.


Other teams can get a b team if they like...


This is the world or Formula 1 mate, winners are grinners.


Yes while the rules may be clear, it is still very grey area as to exactly how they are interpreted. If for example 3D CAD models are transferred to another team that is the next best thing to actual components, and together with test analysis can show designers/engineers exactly where the aero benefits are to be gained. Members of a team giving advice to another is one thing, but giving what amounts to be explicit design features is quite another. I think it might be quite hard to police, but I doubt it would be a problem in the first half of the season as no leading team would want to give away secrets at that point. Of course improving a teams ranking has obvious benefits to the value of the team and it's drivers come the end of the season.


yet another reason i despise RB... Would someone ie Mercedes hire back Rory Byrne so we can put those chappies back in their place


I think I know what you meant, Eric 🙂

For sure Rory Byrne used to be more than a match for Adrian Newey, and it would be great to have him still around.

Without anyone at Byrne level around, Newey reigns supreme and currently unchallenged - which is not so good.

However, I can understand Rory well enough - he had left nothing to prove, he is not exactly young any more, so he stepped aside to let some younger blood in. If they couldn't exactly fill his shoes is not Rory's fault...


I posted that, mostly, tongue in cheek! Of course RBR have done a superb job.... They have done all the right things, in addition to superb timing, with the engineering staff and rivers perfectly in sync.


Look, I have a proverbial Mercedes Star "tattooed" over my heart, but kudos to RBR for getting it right. So they are giving advise to their sister team, big deal. How about Mercedes getting their butt into gear and develop a faster car? RBR took a dog of a car and turned it into a dominating world championship winning car... Mercedes should follow suit, but I doubt that Rory Byrne, as much as I admire him as I do Adrian Newey, will be the way to go... Despising a team on these grounds is shaming me as a Merc fan.


What Red Bull has done is such a honourable gesture!

This is a good direction for teams to follow because it will reduce the chance of a single dominated team like what Ferrari used to do.

The way I see it, Ferrari is like Microsoft and RedBull is like Google. Both were dominant in their own era, but one is willing do good when they are on top.


He's still retained on a consulting basis (from time to time) with Ferrari.


Ouch. Quite hatefull.

You think Rory knows anything about blown defusers? There would be a learning curve for him in a big way. And he would be behind the game already, not understanding the system and how to optimize the limitations of implementation on 2012 car.


We? Are you working for Mercedes? And how do them sour grapes taste?

Chill bud, who said Mercedes has a god given right to be winning always?

RBR do a better job, they deserve it.


It seems fair enough to help out a sister team with ideas and concepts. I guess the grey area is how much info they share. And why wait till the end of the season? If they'd got a bit of advice earlier on, they could have been challenging Mercedes.


Hello James,

I'd like to add that amongst the companies IPIC owns is Aabar. Which in turns owns Brawn F1.

Would Toro Rosso really be in such a different position to their current one?

Love the website.


The 3rd car option would help to solve that issue perhaps?


3rd cars are a horrendously bad idea.

All they would do is push the Mid-Field teams further back down the grid & put the smallest teams out of buisiness.

Not to mention the fact that when we have a year like this with a dominant team, That team having a 3rd car would just see the championship ended earlier with that car taking points off other teams drivers.

Also as seen in other series which have 3-car teams it often brings in 1 driver who's sole objective is to take points off other teams.


But why did not this happen from the beginning of the season? You think that Mateschitz decided to lure a buyer and only after this to make his second team more competitive?



If TeamA uses a friendly, "separate" company to "design and build" a given part and that company then also sells the same part to TeamB (but no-one else), would that then get around the ruling that TeamA and TeamB cannot "share" parts ? Or would the FIA see right thru it and block it ? Basically, couldn't a supplier of a diffuser (and the related tech) be treated no differently to an engine supplier ?


Red bull used to do this with their Red Bull technology company supplying to RB and TR. afaik it was outlawed for the 2010 season.


Hey James, This is great stuff. To a lesser extent don't you think this kind of pointing to the right direcion takes place all the time. At the local pubs. After work. And then if a team really seems to be behind the 8 ball, they go out and hire a engineer from another team. I mean the guys who change teams don't get amnesia when they walk out the front door for the last time.


Good conspiracy theory. 😀

I think they (may) give secret of blow diffuser in middle of race instead of the beginning because blow diffuser will not be use in next year car, so they give it to sister team for another €7 million with out fear it leak to the competitor.

Perhaps it 's not big hint as STR still slower than top team.


James, wouldn't any information from RBR about how best to use the blown diffuser on STRs car ultimately fall into Ferrari's hands as it is their engine and exhuast system in the STR isn't it?


How would this possible resource sharing impact upon the RRA? It could be seen that having two separate R+D departments, sharing ideas and each maxing the RRA budget, goes against at least the spirit of that agreement.


Well since the engine is such a huge part of the blown diffuser, and since Toro Rosso use Ferrari lumps wouldn't Ferrari(team car) benefit from what may be coming from Red Bull to Toro Rosso?


Ferrari have given them some maps which have worked well,


Never underestimate Georgio Ascanelli.


Off topic just to comment on an important component, engines:

De-freeze the engine development and then we would see who makes the ultimate engine. This would probably attract engine manufacturers once again, although the costs could rise steeply. But it would be a real F-1 with several engine manufacturers. What about BMW, Honda or Toyota back in just as engine suppliers. I hate to see a Formula where there are 4 different engine badges for 12 teams. If the Renault unit is updated, automatically 3 teams get the update! I know in this modern F-1 aero is everything and although 3 different teams have the same power unit, look at the standings board and it says a lot, RBR at the top, Lotus Renault in the middle and Team Lotus quite down the order. This only means how things have shifted. Engines are no vital parts anymore, it's the aero development. You can police the engines but it is almost impossible to apply the same on aero parts. Until the rules are cristal clear.

Adrian Newey Jnr

How much of the relative outperformance is due to other teams saving resources for next year?

For example Sauber might have given up on this year and be working on next year. Don't forget this year's preparation was impacted by last year's funding woes.


James would like to know your thoughts on Redbulls car advantage and how much this is down to one man?

It seems the press like to make one man hero's - but is this really the case? What part does someone like Adrian Newey have? Does he come up with the ideas and the team design it - or the other way round?

No disrespect to Adrian Newey - but how much is it the man vs the team of brains?


It's a team effort these days. Rob Marshall is chief designer, he's key as is the team of aero geniuses who come up with stuff in the windtunnel

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