Interview with Toro Rossos Franz Tost 17 Jul 2007
Apart from Spyker, Toro Rosso are the only other team yet to score a world championship point this season. Drivers Scott Speed and Vitantonio Liuzzi have retired six and five times respectively, and the team have recorded four double DNFs in nine races. Team principal Franz Tost reviews the squads struggling performance and talks budgets, Ferrari engines and those ever-present re-sale rumours
Q: Franz, can you talk us through your season so far in under a minute?
Franz Tost: We are still suffering the effects of our late start, losing nine days of testing. The car was not as competitive as we expected. We struggled to understand the car at the beginning and to find the right set-up. In Melbourne, our level of preparation was not where we wanted it to be. Nevertheless, Tonio finished the race, Scott did not because of a problem with a front rim. Both cars saw the chequered flag in Malaysia.
In Bahrain, Scott collided with Button after the start and retired. Tonio overtook Schumacher under the yellow flags and got a drive-through penalty retiring with a hydraulic problem. In Barcelona, none of the cars finished the race. Scott had a tyre failure caused by debris, Tonio had a hydraulic problem. In Monaco, Tonios race was over at Turn Three after being hit by Coulthard. Scott did his best job of the season so far and finished ninth. Montreal could have been our best race. With 16 laps to go Tonio was fifth, which would have become fourth as Barrichello still had to pit. But then he crashed into the wall and that was it. Scott collided with Wurz and also retired.
In Indy, Tonio had a good race, after we risked running him with low downforce. His race was spoilt when a refuelling system problem cost him seven seconds. Scott was tenth. In France, Tonios race ended in Turn 1after being hit by Davidson. Scott had a gearbox problem. In Silverstone, both cars made it to Q2, but no further as the drivers were unable to repeat their Friday times. Scott crashed with Wurz on Lap 30 and retired, while Tonio went out with a hydraulic problem.
Q: Tell us something positive for the rest of the year?
FT: The team is getting better all the time. Since (technical director) Giorgio Ascanelli joined us we have improved immensely on the technical side, especially in terms of the technical operations point of view.
Q: What are your top priorities at the moment?
FT: We still struggle with reliability and I hope we can get this under control from Budapest onwards. We know what our problems are and we have to make some design changes, which is why they cannot happen overnight. We also have to improve the performance of the car. Currently we are clearly behind our expectations. The main problem is downforce, particularly at the front end of the car. We will have a new front wing, but it is unlikely to be signed off before Turkey. On the mechanical side, we have some good ideas which we hope to incorporate into the car to improve its set-up and therefore its performance.
Q: What about the drivers?
FT: They need to improve. So far it has been difficult for both of them to get the most out of the car, especially in qualifying. There is room for improvement in every aspect of our team. But I believe that our group has potential and we can be successful.
Q: At the start of the year, was the car too complex for the team?
FT: We have some very good, very experienced mechanics and for them it was not a problem. However, we also have some less experienced members of the team for whom understanding the car was quite difficult at first. But the learning process is over now and everyone understands how it works, how it goes together and how it comes apart. We have no problems in this area.
Even in the first two races of the season we got three car finishes out of a possible four, which means that our team was up to the job in hand. In subsequent races, we retired because of technical failures, driver errors or collisions with other drivers. The team had to move up a step last winter and the job of ensuring the team is operating at its maximum is still not complete. We still have a way to go to perform at a level that will allow us to be successful in F1. But we have some very good ideas and I think that by the end of this season we will have made a step forward and by next year we will be much nearer to our goals in terms of how the team operates.
Q: Are you happy with your budget?
FT: We have a solid base, but in F1 there is no such thing as enough money. We have to improve our infrastructure and the team performance generally. Naturally, this is easier to achieve with more money, so we are looking for sponsors.
Q: Is this team the poor relation to Red Bull Racing?
FT: No, absolutely not. There is a positive commitment between ourselves and Red Bull Technology and we also have a good relationship with Red Bull Racing.
Q: You say you have made progress, but that has not been translated into results. Why?
FT: Because the others are moving forward as well. We have improved by three to four tenths recently, but our direct opponents, such as Williams and Honda have also improved. I go back to the start of the year when we were maybe two and a half seconds off the pace and it is very hard to close this gap. To succeed, you need to be ready from the first race and then produce a normal development programme through the year.
Q: How is it working with Ferrari?
FT: We have a fantastic relationship with Ferrari that will continue next year. We have had no engine failures during race weekends. We are very happy with our cooperation.
Q: Finally, the regular rumours that the team is for sale
FT: The rumours were annoying because it is not pleasant for our employees to read this sort of thing. The rumours are not true and are down to publicity seekers, jokers and over-imaginative journalists!