March 12th, 2014 (F1plus/Graham Keilloh).- Toro Rosso has never been any ordinary F1 team. Aside from the bit we all know - that it's the Red Bull B squad - or perhaps even because of it in part, it's always been one hard to read. And for a few reasons at the outset of the 2014 campaign the Faenza squad seems a bit harder to read even than usual.
Part of the confusion arises possibly from that Toro Rosso still seems a team in transition, of becoming one with its own aero programme rather than one, as it did up to and including 2008, that benefits from Red Bull big team hand-me-downs.
The transition hasn't been a quick or easy one, indeed Giorgio Ascanelli - leading an aero programme not reckoned to be his forte - fell on his sword in 2012 and was replaced as Technical Director by the highly rated James Key.
The briton appears still to be seeking to make sense of it all: beefing up the technical staff, overseeing investment in the facilities as well as doing his best to integrate the team's two bases in Bicester and Faenza. But by admission last year was a holding season while all of this was going on.
The team did rise a place in the constructors' table, but that in truth owed mainly to Williams' woes - Toro Rosso didn't in the broadest sense move forward to any great extent. Adding to the confusion the 2013 car seemed an inconsistent one: sometimes qualifying well inside the top 10, other times struggling to scrape out of Q1.
And as we stand now the confusion has been cranked up further, by the STR9 being one of those 2014 cars suffering a difficult birth due to the struggling Renault power unit.
When Toro Rosso switched from Ferrari to Renault for this year it seemed non-contentious; indeed it seemed sensible given it would allow greater scope for the A team and B team to cross-fertilise, to develop in unison.
But in the immediate term at least Toro Rosso must look on the decision ruefully, with the car behind where it wants to be, mainly down to a lack of running, particularly early in pre-season testing, which is related to difficulties with the power unit.
Jean_Eric Vergne will be under pressure to deliver, while Danii Kyvat enters his first season in F1.
In Jerez, as was the way for all Renault powered cars (that had deigned to turn up), it could barely complete a lap without succumbing to apparent overheating. Plus Toro Rosso had the peculiar problem that the car sounded rather odd when circulating on track, rather like a bag of bits being shaken around the place.
Things improved as testing went on. After the first two tests - one in Jerez and one in Bahrain - the team seemed well in the doldrums and was stopping only a syllable short in its press releases of saying it was all dastardly Renault's fault. But in the final four days in Bahrain the car achieved much more distance than in the previous eight with 271 laps.
Even here it's hard to judge how well the team was doing accounting for the Renault restraints, as it has more kilometres on the clock overall than its sister Red Bull or Lotus, but fewer than the similarly-powered Caterham. The chassis has been hard to read too.
It looks neat (aside from an awful nose that even raised some mirth from Ann Summers' Twitter feed), with the odd example of innovative thinking on show such as still seeking to get aerodynamic effect from the exhaust. But until the engine's at full chat and at the full extent of its torque it's impossible to know for certain how it will behave.
But Jean-Eric Vergne had good words to say about the STR9 at the end of testing: saying that he 'had a really good feeling from the car', and the team was at least bringing upgrades as pre-season went on: most notably a new (if still unsightly) nose as well as revised suspension.
Nevertheless the lap times themselves still appeared underwhelming on the face of it, around the mid-grid sort of level. A few reckon nevertheless that come Melbourne it'll be the quickest of the Red Bull pair of teams, which will be a feather in the cap. It won't stay that way however, given the A team's mammoth budget and development potential.
More broadly Toro Rosso, whatever it's been doing right, is in the same position as the other Renault teams of waiting and hoping for the power unit problems to be sorted. And also hope that by the time it happens that its rival teams aren't out of sight in the points table.