Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

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Ryan Gault

Ryan is one of those people who follow every sport going, from football to speedway and golf to ice hockey. He has followed Formula 1 for as long as he can remember, which just so happens to be the 2001 US Grand Prix, Mika Häkkinen's last ever win. Since then he has followed the tribulations of the greatest Swiss team since he heard about Grasshoppers Zürich, Sauber. Currently studying Journalism at the University of Huddersfield, while also attempting to write about TV and Eurovision.

Where the Toro comes to rest - Toro Rosso's collisions with Caterham show where their true pace lies


Vitaly Petrov temporarily into 10th in Valencia
Credit: Caterham F1

There was a brief moment during the European Grand Prix that the impossible could happen. After Jean-Éric Vergne had deliberately swerved into Heikki Kovalainen, the resulting Safety Car had helped put the Finn’s teammate Vitaly Petrov in 10th, in the points, all on merit. For the first time in three years Caterham were on the verge of living up to its many promises, finally having a car capable of challenging the midfield.

Over the shoulder

It was just unfortunate the two cars behind Petrov were both race winners in 2012. First Nico Rosberg took 10th, and that was quickly followed by Mark Webber a short while later. And then, just to make sure he had no further hope, he collided with Daniel Ricciardo and was forced to pit for a new front nose.

They should be up there challenging with the midfield by now

The final finishing position was 13th, further boosting Caterham’s hopes of finishing 10th in the Championship for the third year in a row. But it isn’t where they want to be, they should be up there challenging with the midfield by now, they should have been there arguably last season. They are gaining pace, without a doubt - for two races this season Heikki Kovalainen has managed to get up into Q2 on merit, although still he is unable to qualify higher than 17th.

Race pace has been more positive; holding the likes of Jenson Button and Sergio Pérez behind him for large parts of the Monaco Grand Prix a particular highlight. This, although beating more established cars is starting to be a common occurrence (although usually due to the misfortune of these cars, take Felipe Massa in Valencia, who was swiped by Kamui Kobayashi, who was even behind Charles Pic), still highlights the slow progress by Caterham since it joined in 2010, a tactic similar to a tortoise trying to reach Everest’s peak.

Fall from grace

They are at least heading in the right direction, and the incidents between the two Caterhams and the two Toro Rosso’s is highlighting the decline of the Italian outfit. The dismissal of Buemi and Alguersuari seemed somewhat harsh, considering a relatively successful season for the team, 8th in the championship was their highest finish since 2008, and they both find themselves out of Formula One for the foreseeable future, with Buemi driving for Toyota in the endurance series, and Alguersuari stuck in the dead end jobs of the Pirelli test driver and 5 Live commentaries.

Better than those before them?
Better than those before them?Credit: Peter Fox/Getty Images

The replacements of Vergne and Ricciardo were both massive prospects for the future, with both drivers arriving with a heap of endorsements on their shoulders. Ricciardo had, at least, experience in Formula One, with a decent showing for HRT towards the tail end of last season, frequently beating the experienced Vitantonio Liuzzi and on occasion, the Virgin cars.

But it was Vergne who came in on a wave of hype. Proposals of him being good enough for a Red Bull seat at his young age of 22, a rising star with huge talent. It may be the car, but he has so far been embarrassed by his team mate in every department bar one. He can’t seem to qualify, his temperament is certainly in question now, but his four points he scored in Malaysia are so far better than Ricciardo’s two 10th place finishes. He would have scored more in Monaco if not for a catastrophic decision to move on to inters which cost him a lot of points.

They have effectively replaced Williams in that strange limbo

They aren’t perfect yet, and are struggling to guide a poor car into the points. They have potential and Ricciardo is certainly showing much more of it right now than his team mate. But Toro Rosso are slipping, no longer are they a real threat to the midfield teams, they have effectively replaced Williams in that strange limbo between the midfield and the backmarkers, and like limbo, it isn’t a comfortable place to be in.

Behind the curve

Vergne out on his own, or falling backwards?
Credit: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Ahead of them, the midfield are pulling away, Williams and Sauber have race wins and podiums under their belt and could continue with that trend, Force India have looked strong in a number of races and it is only a matter of time until they get themselves a podium. And behind Toro Rosso, they find Caterham, slowly, closing the gap towards them.

They aren’t the team they were in 2007 when Vettel and Liuzzi finished 4th and 6th in China. They aren’t the team they were in 2008 when Vettel got pole and won in Italy and they aren’t the team they were from 2009 to 2011 when Buemi and Alguersuari showed promise that the future was looking good for the Red Bull franchise. Now they look uncompetitive for the most part, racing amongst the Caterham cars for the majority of the time, and the rest of the time racing amongst themselves hoping to pick up the scraps when the big teams falter.

In time Vergne and Ricciardo will improve, they both have a future in Formula One. No matter their early races, they still have clear talent that will compete at a decent level in the sport. But for Toro Rosso they are stuck in a state of limbo which is far from pretty. And the perfect white canvas has green and yellow staining the sides, and Toro Rosso are drifting helplessly into the depths.