Kiwi Formula 1 star Brendon Hartley is already having a positive impact on Toro Rosso's performance just two races into the season.

While he has failed to earn a championship point, Hartley is still chiefly responsible for his team's improved showing at last weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix.

Toro Rosso signed the Le Mans winner and two-time world endurance champion partly because of his ability to help improve an engine. With the team's off-season move from Renault to Honda, a driver capable of providing quality feedback was essential and Hartley has a reputation for doing just that.

While he downplayed his role in the team's early success, Hartley acknowledges he does have a vital job to do as they continue to develop the Honda power unit.


"There are hundreds of engineers — so it is worth keeping that in mind — working on this incredibly complicated car, but in the end, driver feedback is arguably more important than real data because the driver has to make the most out of it," Hartley told the Herald.

"The driver still has a very important role in development but there are almost 500 staff at Toro Rosso — this is not an individual sport, it's very much a team sport.

"I'm a small part of that but I'm the part of that team that feels the car first-hand and has to make the most of that."

Toro Rosso's improved pace courtesy of some engine tweaks and an updated aero package was the talk of the Bahrain Grand Prix. They were able to mix it with the top cars and looked a different outfit to the one that struggled in the season opener in Melbourne a fortnight earlier.

Hartley is excited about what lies ahead with even more updates planned in the coming weeks.

"I don't know the exact strategy right now but there are definitely updates planned from Honda.

"So it obviously makes sense to incorporate those updates at the same time you make an engine change so you don't incur a penalty.

"I don't know the exact plan but there are updates planned as well as from the Toro Rosso side.

"As far as the car side of it, that is fairly unlimited.

"The development from the chassis and aero side is ongoing and really fierce.

"Generally you see the bigger updates in the first three European rounds and Barcelona — that is generally when you see the big stuff come to most of the teams."

Teammate Pierre Gasly scored a stunning fourth place in Bahrain, while both cars looked to have the pace to score championship points. Unfortunately Hartley, who placed 17th, damaged his car early in the race, which ultimately cost him the chance of a maiden championship point.

"An amazing day for Toro Rosso but a disappointing day for me," Hartley said. "I had a good start and first couple of corners but had a small contact with [Sergio] Perez in turn four. This not only damaged my front wing for the remainder of the race but I was also given a 10-second time penalty.

"We had the pace to be comfortably in the points without the penalty, so it was a bit frustrating. A big thanks to all at Toro Rosso and Honda. It has been an amazing turnaround since Melbourne which bodes well for the next few races."

Hartley will hope to make the most of his new-found speed at the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend.