Scuderia Toro Rosso's technical director Giorgio Ascanelli says Sebastian Vettel's absence this year has been felt at the Italian squad.
Vettel gave Toro Ross its first victory last season at the Italian Grand Prix, as he helped the Faenza-based squad beat sister team Red Bull Racing in the championship. This season, however, Toro Rosso has managed just five points while Red Bull is fighting for both championships.
Toro Rosso will introduce a major upgrade at next week's Hungarian Grand Prix, hoping that it will lift its performance significantly. But Ascanelli concedes the team has been missing Vettel, who he reckons was making a big difference last year.
"That depends how far forward the other teams have gone, because nothing stays still in this sport," said Ascanelli when asked if the upgrade will put the team in a point-scoring position. It's not as simple as saying, 'Last year we made a technical step forward for the second half of the year and performed well so the same thing will happen again.'
"Last year, the Italian media was keen for me to puff out my chest and say, ‘Oh yes, I am very clever and I have managed to outperform our Red Bull cousins,' but the simple answer about the end of last year is that Vettel is a great driver.
"I wasn't a genius last year, but I don't think I am an idiot this year!"
Ascanelli also said that, despite both cars being designed by Red Bull Technology, the Toro Rosso and the Red Bull are quite different.
"There is a view that the only difference between our car and the Red Bull Racing one is the engine, but that is inaccurate," he added. "It involves the engine, gearbox, clutch, hydraulic system, water, oil and electrical systems; and all this on top of the actual aero parts in terms of bodywork. A further complication is that, although we have not run it, our car was designed so that it could incorporate the Ferrari KERS system and that is very different to the one used by Renault, around which the RB5 was designed. Therefore, we are not in a "cut and paste" situation when it came to getting the parts. It was not a case of getting a drawing from Red Bull Technology and simply manufacturing it.
"The two cars might look the same but if you try and fit the bodywork from one on the other, it would not fit. The rear suspension is also different because, in order to maintain the same wheelbase, it needed a different arrangement."