Toro Rosso’s technical director, Giorgio Ascanelli, has enjoyed more than his fair share of triumphs at Monza, enjoying the taste of victory for Benetton, Ferrari and, of course, Toro Rosso.
He answered a few questions at the race track where he made his F1 debut as race engineer for Gerhard Berger at the Italian Grand Prix of 1987, starting with his now traditional growl of “You’d better speak up, because I’m very old and very deaf!"
We hear Toro Rosso has a three-year development plan in place – what does that mean to you?
GA: The new Concorde Agreement imposed upon us the requirement to become manufacturers. It was a nice puzzle for us to find a wind tunnel, calibrate it, buy a CFD cluster, and hire about 60 engineers in the space of four months – I think we got lucky because all of that happened. Now we’re learning to use our tools and, I have to say, we are a happy team.
Spa represented the team’s best qualifying since becoming a manufacturer – is that a sign of progress?
GA: It’s over-rated! I think Spa was a good [qualifying] result but at the end of the day, I have to be objective and recognize Fernando [Alonso], Jenson [Button], Adrian [Sutil], Paul [di Resta] and Michael [Schumacher] would have been ahead of us if they didn’t have misunderstandings with their teams or with the circuit. We were sixth and eleventh; I think we would have been happy with eleventh and twelfth, that’s probably our true value – which is better than seventeenth and eighteenth as we have been in the past.
'We are focussing on STR7... we will introduce something new in the next few grands prix'
Will there be more progress this year, or are you winding down development on the STR6? How do you strike the right balance between this year and next?
GA: We have now stopped the development of the [STR6] and we are focussing on STR7 but, as we are a small team, we will introduce something new in the next few grands prix because there’s something in the pipeline. I would say the strongest part of a Formula One team nowadays is the time to market, and the strongest guys have got a very short time to market. We’re not that clever yet but we’re trying. This has the consequences that probably we will feed something in the latter part of the season, because we have not been able to do as much to translate the concepts and ideas of our studies into facts.
There’s been a few rumours about the team maybe one day setting up an office in Abu Dhabi?
GA: Do they make good pasta in Abu Dhabi? I have never been bothered about what’s going to happen in the future in any of the teams I’ve worked with over the last 28 years and I’m relaxed about the future now. What I can say is that Mr Mateschitz and Red Bull, over the last two years, have promoted the expansion of Toro Rosso in Faenza and a new facility [in Faenza] will be ready in the next two years.
Is there space in Italy for a team that is not Ferrari?
GA: One of the difficulties is the fact that the market [for technical staff] is not as alive as it is in England. Our wind tunnel is in Bicester [Oxfordshire, UK] which was a deliberate choice. It isn’t easy to make a car by fax but nowadays it’s easier with satellite connections and having that melting pot of technicians within 150 miles is a large advantage. But I think there is certainly more space in Italy and I would be happy to see it used.