Scuderia Toro Rosso can challenge Sauber and Force India in the second half of the season despite slipping to eighth in the Constructors' Championship after last month's German Grand Prix, according to Sebastien Buemi.
The Swiss driver pointed out that Toro Rosso is still on course to achieve its minimum target of finishing eighth in the championship, but believes that if the team's upgrades in upcoming races perform as expected, it could do even better.
"The objective at the start of the season was to finish eighth in the championship," he said. "We were seventh for a long time but now we have lost a place to Force India, so we are now eighth.
"It's really important that we continue to improve the car. This is the key during the second half of the season. If we can bring some new parts that work well on the car, it should be no problem to keep doing what we have been doing so far. If we don't improve the car, it is going to be hard."
Toro Rosso plans to take some upgrades to the Belgian Grand Prix, which follows the midseason break. He is confident that this will allow it to continue its consistent points scoring record, with top 10 finishes in five of the last six races.
So far in 2011, Buemi has scored 12 points, with teammate Jaime Alguersuari notching up 10. This means that Toro Rosso is only four points off the resurgent Force India in the championship and 13 behind sixth-placed Sauber.
"We have some stuff coming for Spa which hopefully is going to help us," said Buemi. "So, hopefully, we will be able to close the gap to our competitors. If we do a good job, it's still very possible to have a strong second part of the season."
Toro Rosso is continuing to expand after having to set itself up as a full constructor ahead of the 2010 season. For the previous four seasons, it had used Red Bull designs, something that was outlawed by the ban on customer cars. Although Toro Rosso was created when Red Bull took over the Faenza-based Minardi team, which first came into F1 in 1985, it effectively had to build up its facilities to be a full constructor from close to scratch. Buemi believes that the team is still developing and that it has the potential to continue to climb the grid in the long term.
"It was very difficult with the rule change, but now the team is on the up in terms of infrastructure and development. It takes a long time to get a team working properly together to use all of the tools like wind tunnels, CFD and all of that. So it will keep getting better.
"I can't say how long it will take, but we will keep getting stronger in the future compared to teams like Williams, Sauber and Force India, which have been in F1 for so many years and have big histories. Our history of development only goes back to the start of last year and it takes a long time to get the experience. But I strongly believe that it's going to keep improving."