Luca Furbatto is the new chief designer at Toro Rosso after joining the team on 1st December 2011. His task then was to learn as much as possible within the team before getting on with the task of designing a better STR8, unveiled on 4 February 2013.
Luca Furbatto: "In pre-season testing last year, we were able to get a first look at the strengths and limitations of the STR7. It was clear from the start that we had some issues with the weight distribution of the car and we were not able to effectively cover the entire weight distribution range, as controlled by the FIA regulations. This therefore became a point we wanted to rectify with STR8. Another fact to emerge from initial testing, was that the car appeared to be more compliant in terms of laptime sensitive compliances, when compared to other cars I have worked on and that was another point we wanted to rectify with this year’s car. A further key point was that I wanted to create a platform for aerodynamic development of the car. The rear end of the STR7 was effectively derived from the previous model, the STR6 and I felt the rear could be made much slimmer and more compact and that was another area we focussed on in designing STR8. We sought to give a mechanical infrastructure to the aerodynamic department which would be a good platform for their development work.
"The project began in March 2012 and we started with the rear end of the car- gearbox, hydraulics and rear suspension – because the production time and the testing required for these components is very extensive. We were able to issue the drawings for the gearbox parts in July and, as we prepare for our first track test, our dyno testing suggests we have a strong and reliable gearbox. The second phase was to integrate within the gearbox design a revised rear suspension, with the emphasis on making it more aerodynamic, in order to generate more downforce. When designing the chassis, again, providing a platform for aerodynamic development was an important consideration.
In terms of suspension layout, kinematics and internals those are again brand new. The STR7 was very limited in terms of set-up possibilities and with STR8 we opened up this aspect substantially, adding devices and features not present on previous STR cars. This should allow race engineers and drivers to perfect the handling and ride behaviour of the new car.
"As for the aerodynamic concept of the car, this too has changed fundamentally from the previous year. Development was rather limited in 2012 and this was because the STR7’s distinctive sidepod design, although initially looking quite good, later proved difficult to develop, so that we reached a plateau during the season. We therefore decided in early August to go down another route and at the same time took the opportunity to change the cooling layout of the car and so, on STR8 the radiators are much lower. This also allows us to drop the deck of the sidepods more aggressively. These changes mean the car actually looks quite conventional, while still retaining some of the features of STR7, because even if it is a new concept, it is an evolution based on the current regulations. We are also planning an aggressive development programme for the first part of the season, based around a very narrow rear end and low exhausts.
"From a weight distribution point of view, we believe that thanks to the architectural shape of STR8, we should be able to explore all the opportunities within the weight distribution range allowed in the rules. Initial indications on suspension compliance are encouraging and in terms of aero development, we are in better shape than at the end of last season and another positive step is that the rate of development is increasing, indicating there is further potential to move forward in terms of downforce.
"In terms of manpower, the design team has grown a little bit. Everyone remained motivated, even when things did not go so well in 2012: everybody has worked extremely hard to deliver a brand new car on time and I like to tell them that the only carry-over part from STR7 is in fact the steering wheel! For a team that is maybe half the size of a top team, that and the fact we are on-time with the project, is a tremendous achievement.
"Operationally, we continue to work with a wind tunnel and part of our aerodynamic staff based in Bicester in the UK. Over the past 12 months there has been a big improvement in communication between the various departments and we have invested in new technologies on this front, so even though we are operating on different sites, effectively it is as though we are working next door to one another. This step up in communication means the new car is better integrated than in the past. I can sum it up by saying that, twelve months ago, when work came through from Bicester, engineers in Faenza felt on the receiving end of something that was designed elsewhere, now it really feels like a co-design from different departments within the same team, which is encouraging for the future, both short and long term."