Brendon Hartley says Toro Rosso exceeded its own expectations during preseason testing and is now targeting points in the Australian Grand Prix.
With Honda coming off the back of three difficult years with McLaren, Toro Rosso was primed for a challenging start to its new partnership with the Japanese manufacturer this season. However, Hartley says the performance level showed during reliable running throughout preseason testing in Barcelona has seen the team revise its targets for the opening race in Melbourne.
“It’s funny, I drove the car day one test one and I was able to drive on the last day, so it’s been great to see how much we’ve unlocked from this STR13 and all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes,” Hartley said. “I know it’s the same for everyone in the pit lane but there’s so many people involved to get these cars working to perfection.
“I think we are really in the mix. Obviously we can’t tell you what fuel loads we are on but I think we are really in the mix for that midfield battle, which is really fierce. Like it was last year as well. It’s been a great start to the partnership with Honda so I think everyone is really positive after these test days and I’m looking forward to going to Melbourne.
“Everyone is pumped up and positive. The brief from the start of the year was that we wanted to build during the year. Toro Rosso had a really strong start to the year last year and there’s been a lot of changes behind the scenes as well to ensure that we can develop during the year.
“The initial brief from Toro Rosso was that Melbourne might be tough but actually after these test days we’ve exceeded our own expectations and we are definitely in the fight for those points.
“Obviously it’s going to be a lot of hard work and data analysis. We’ve got a lot of data from the last two weeks to improve before Melbourne. All the teams will be doing the same behind the scenes, it’s the same fight. It’s a really positive atmosphere in the team right now.”
Asked if points are within reach for Toro Rosso from the opening race at Albert Park, Hartley replied: “Our goal has to be points.
“It would be crazy not saying that going into Melbourne. It’s still hard to get a clear picture of where everyone lines up but we have to go to Melbourne with the right attitude and make the most of it and hopefully come out with my first F1 point.”