TORO Rosso have released the first image of their Honda-powered STR13 car, just hours after an unauthorised image was leaked on social media.
The team’s new challenger was unofficially revealed in a blurry picture taken from a grandstand and posted on Twitter from the team’s filming day in Italy, where the car took to the track for the first time.
Toro Rosso subsequently responded with a picture of their own and the message: “Why settle for a leaked photo, when you can have an original.”
New engine suppliers Honda tweeted: “People leak photos, we leak better ones. See you at testing @ToroRosso.”
The 2018 challenger features the same distinctive blue and red paint scheme as last year but the team have swapped Renault engines for the Honda units discarded by McLaren. The first image released, which shows Brendon Hartley driving down the straight at a wet Misano, reveals a nose similar to that of parent team Red Bull and wing detailing above the halo, but little else can be gleaned.
The car is formally set to be presented in the hour before winter testing begins at Barcelona.
It is the third year in a row in which Toro Rosso embarked on a new season with a fresh engine partner after running Ferrari power in 2016.
The team have also changed drivers for 2018 for a line-up of 22-year-old Frenchman Pierre Gasly and 28-year-old New Zealander Hartley.
Although the pair drove for Toro Rosso during the final races of 2017 following the axing of Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz’s departure to Renault, Gasly and Hartley will be the least experienced line-up on the grid. Between them, Gasly and Hartley are yet to start ten F1 races or score a single point in the sport.
Coupled with their switch to Honda following three years of painful ignominy for the Japanese manufacturers following their return to F1 with McLaren, the team, owned by Red Bull, have been predicted to struggle in 2018 by many F1 pundits.
However, the team themselves insist they are confident they can make their mark this year courtesy of their exclusive union with Honda. They finished seventh in last year’s standings after being pipped by Renault for sixth at the final race.
Mercedes, Ferrari (February 23), McLaren (February 24), Toro Rosso (February 27) and Force India (TBC) are yet to officially unveil their cars.
F1 CARS REVEALED: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
Haas remain the lone American-based outfit in Formula 1 although much of the work on their 2018 car will have been completed at their factory in Banbury, Oxfordshire. Powered by Ferrari engines, the VF-18 — the first of the 2018 cars to be revealed — will be driven by an unchanged line-up of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen. With both drivers in the final year of their existing contracts, a critical season awaits.
After a deeply disappointing 2017, Williams’ new car has undergone more changes than most between seasons with the team describing their new charger as ‘significantly different’ to its predecessor.
The FW41 is also considered to be the first car designed by Paddy Lowe, the former Williams technical chief who joined the Grove outfit exactly a year ago, long after the FW40’s design had been signed off. In January, Williams became the last of the ten teams to confirm their 2018 driver line-up when they named Sergey Sirotkin as Felipe Massa’s replacement.
Red Bull R14
Unveiled in a dynamic ‘launch livery’ — the RB14 immediately caused a stir on its unveiling — and when it became the first of the 2018 cars to hit the track at Silverstone a week before the start of F1 testing. Stung by their slow starts in 2016 and 2017, which left them playing catch-up to Mercedes and Ferrari, Red Bull fast-forwarded the launch of the RB14.
Expected to be one of the strongest on the field aerodynamically, its ability to challenge for wins and titles in 2018 is likely to be ultimately determined by the strength and reliability of its Renault engine — the glaring weakness, in Red Bull’s opinion, of their package in 2017.
Alfa Romeo Sauber C37
This is the first car revealed by Swiss-based Sauber since their ‘’strategic, commercial and technological’ alliance with Alfa Romeo was announced — a tie-up which will see the iconic brand return to F1 for the first time in 33 years. The partnership is part of Sauber increasing their relationship with Ferrari, and the C37 will be powered by the Italian manufacturer’s new engines, having settled for year-old power units in 2017.
Sauber are also fielding a new driver line-up for the second successive season. While Swede Marcus Ericsson enters his fourth year with the team, Formula 2 champion and Ferrari protégé Charles Leclerc will take part in his first season in F1.
Hopes are high for a big step-up in performance from the Renault outfit in 2018, their third full season as a ‘works’ outfit following their buyout of the Lotus outfit. But perhaps the most intriguing question is how Renault will compare to Red Bull and McLaren this year when running identical power units.
The RS18 faces a big battle against the RB14 and MCL33, although a confident Renault say their new car will ‘continue the team’s upward performance trajectory’, describing it as a ‘progression and refinement’.