Toro Rosso will have two cars starting in the top ten for just the second time this year in Mexico, but tyre regulations have left the team in a “tricky” position according to the drivers, and it may cost them a good result.
The Red Bull junior team burst on to the scene in Mexico with an outstanding run through Friday’s practice sessions, eventually finishing the day with the midfield’s quickest short and long-run simulations.
On Saturday, they converted that pace to strong grid positions of 9th and 10th, just behind midfield leaders McLaren, who secured the top midfield positions of 7th and 8th.
The only other time Toro Rosso has had two cars starting in the top ten in 2019 was in Monaco when they started 7th and 10th. This year, they’ve only started in the top ten on seven occasions.
Despite the standout result, both Toro Rosso drivers said after qualifying they were expecting a “tricky” race on Sunday because starting in the top ten means they have to start the race on the soft tyre, which has been prone to high degradation all weekend.
“It’s going to be tricky to start on the Softer compound with Sergio [Perez] right behind us on presumably the [medium]”, commented Pierre Gasly. Racing Point’s Perez gets a free choice of tyre compound because he didn’t partake in the top ten qualifying shootout.
Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat also described the race as “tricky”, but added that it would be that way for everyone.
Degradation has been a major talking point of the weekend so far, with Pirelli’s soft tyre not appearing to be an optimal race tyre. The top six drivers, from Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull, have all chosen to start on the medium compound.
Pirelli, Formula 1’s tyre supplier, said in a statement the quickest strategy for Sunday’s 71 lap race would be a two-stop using two sets of mediums tyres and a one set of hard tyres.
Toro Rosso’s head of vehicle performance, Guillaume Dezoteux, said the race would be “challenging”, noting that some of the team’s direct competitors, including championship rivals Racing Point and Renault, get to a free tyre choice at the race’s start.
“We will review all the options tonight to defend our positions and bring home some good points,” Dezoteux said.
Toro Rosso currently sits sixth in the Constructors Championship, just four points ahead of Racing Point and six points behind Renault.