When we left the Barcelona circuit two Sundays ago, our team boss Franz Tost had said that the STR12 ought to be competitive on the famous street circuit and he wasn’t wrong.
Straight out of the box, Daniil was an impressive fourth quickest by the end of Thursday’s practice and neither driver was ever out the top ten in all sessions, apart from the Russian on Saturday afternoon, when the gods threw every bit of possible F1 bad luck at him in qualifying: traffic, a time consuming trip to the FIA weighbridge and yellow flags. Nevertheless, penalties for others meant he would start from ninth with a free tyre choice so we were optimistic for both our drivers, as Daniil had been super competitive up to that point. Going into Sunday we had enjoyed a text book preparation for this complex race, because it had been error free. The key to success at Monaco is to build up driver confidence with each passing lap and stay away from those costly barriers and that’s exactly how the three days of track action played out for us.
When it comes to dishing out points, Monaco is just another Grand Prix in terms of its importance, but the week on the Cote d’Azur is so much more. No race would ever be authorized at this crazy circuit if it was introduced today, but Monte Carlo’s role as Formula 1’s calling card to the outside world is as secure as ever. The chaotic atmosphere can be distracting for a race team trying to go about its business, but in the Toro Rosso camp, we seemed to have struck the right balance between contributing to the showbiz side of things, while allowing the drivers, engineers and other team members to concentrate on the day job.
Our Energy Station was yet again floating majestically in the harbour, just outside the F1 paddock and a steady stream of celebrities came on board, from “The Chosen One” famous football manager Jose Mourinho, to the world’s greatest motorcycle trials rider, Dougie Lampkin who left guests speechless with his skills as he rode his motorbike up and down the stairs of the Energy Station, as well as jumping over obstacles and… brave people.
At most races on the calendar, you always hope to move up a place or two compared to your grid position, but in Monaco, simply maintaining those places to the chequered flag can be considered a success, when you think that in 2003 for example, there was not one single overtaking move around the tight and twisty street track! With Carlos, we started sixth and that’s where we finished – a fantastic performance with our Spaniard having to fend off triple world champion Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. Carlos didn’t crack under pressure and brought home enough points to consolidate Toro Rosso’s fifth place in the Constructors’ classification.
We now start preparing for Canada in a fortnight’s time and a track that is sometimes described as a semi-street circuit. Yes, the barriers are close at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but it requires a very different low downforce highspeed approach. But just for a few more hours, we should be allowed to enjoy our enjoyments last weekend: Monaco is the place Daniil calls home, but on Sunday our Spanish driver could have been justified in renaming it Monte-Carlos!