Toro Rosso shocked by "huge step forward" in Bahrain

Toro Rosso didn't expect the "huge step forward" delivered by the updates it brought to the Bahrain Grand Prix, according to driver Brendon Hartley.

Toro Rosso shocked by "huge step forward" in Bahrain
Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso STR13 Honda
Brendon Hartley, Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13
Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso STR13 Honda
Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso STR13 Honda
Pierre Gasly, Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13
Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso STR13 Honda
Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, in the garage as Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso STR13 Honda, is returned by engineers
Pierre Gasly, Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13

Hartley and teammate Pierre Gasly were eliminated in Q1 at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, in which the team would score no points – but both drivers then fared much better in Bahrain qualifying.

The Kiwi came up just a tenth short of advancing to the final qualifying segment, while Gasly put the Honda-powered STR13 a shock fifth on the grid.

Hartley said a new aero package was responsible for the performance step, and that the gains actually caught Toro Rosso by surprise.

"The fact we've brought so much performance is really, really encouraging," Hartley said.

"I think the estimate from Toro Rosso of the performance from the upgrade was quite small - and it ended up being a lot larger than they estimated, which is also fantastic. It's normally the other way.

"I had the feeling this was going to be a stronger track for us anyway, compared to Melbourne. But I wasn't expecting the performance increase from the upgrade that I had on the car today.

"I don't think anyone in the team expected us to take such a leap forward, to be one of the leading cars of the midfield. Obviously it's a tight battle still but it's an incredible effort.

"In Melbourne we were not there. Okay, yeah, I qualified 16th, but that was more or less where we were, we saw the pace in the race. That was where we were.

"We really made a huge step forward."

How they line up for the Bahrain GP...

The update, according to Hartley, was a new floor as well as "parts on the brake drums".

While Gasly had the new package throughout Friday, the Kiwi tried it for the first time in Saturday practice, and immediately felt its impact.

"Really big [difference], actually. Straight away this morning. I think my first lap I already commented how much better the car felt, so that was really encouraging from the first lap of this morning."

Gasly said Toro Rosso "expected less than a tenth" from the new aero package, conceding that "maybe it looks like it's working really well, so maybe we need to analyse a bit more deeply the impact".

However, he felt the biggest difference from the Australian GP had to do with set-up.

"The main thing is on the set-up," he said. "We have changed quite a lot our philosophy. Melbourne is really special, so bumpy, and you need to change the set-up massively for that track.

"Here we came back a bit closer to what we had for Barcelona, found some good or interesting directions for the set-up, and just felt super comfortable with the car from FP1."

He added that his Q3 effort was the best lap of his short F1 career thus far.

"I didn't know we'd get through to Q3 but it worked out and after I got through I just managed my best lap in Formula 1 in my first Q3.

"Just great timing! I was really happy about it."

Additional reporting by Oleg Karpov, Scott Mitchell

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