Scuderia Toro Rosso could have the speed to fight for a top 10 position in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, according to driver Sebastien Buemi.
The Swiss showed good speed in practice on his first visit to the track last season, making Q3 but being unable to take part in the top 10 shootout because of a crash in Q2. He hopes that the track characteristics, and recent upgrades to the car that allowed teammate Jaime Alguersuari to come within one tenth of a second of making Q3 in Singapore, will allow the team to be competitive.
Toro Rosso introduced its version of the exhaust-blown diffuser at Monza, bringing in further improvements in Singapore, and Buemi is confident that Suzuka will play to the strengths of the STR05.
"This circuit should suit our car a little bit better than what we saw in Monza and Singapore," said Buemi. "Since Monza, when we had the lower exhaust, we seem to be more competitive. In Singapore, I didn't put anything together in qualifying, but Jaime did and was close to Q3, so it may be possible here.
"It depends on the other cars – Force India say they are bringing some updates so we can't be sure where we are – but if it stays like Singapore we have the chance to be around P10-P12."
Alguersuari will test further tweaks to the exhaust-blown diffuser package during Friday practice, an upgrade that Buemi hopes could optimize the effectiveness of the recently introduced design concept.
"The car is basically the same as Singapore, but we have some things in the back of the car that might bring some performance – but it's going to be really small. We will test this on Friday to see if it is worth it. We are trying to get the maximum out of the exhaust and work on it – it might be good. Jaime is going to test it on Friday and I am going to test some other things."
Toro Rosso has not scored a point since the European Grand Prix at Valencia in June.