Exclusive Franz Tost Q&A: Buemi, Alguersuari a good investment for 2010 01 Oct 2009
Toro Rosso have come a long way from their humble beginnings as perennial underdogs Minardi. With the might and money of Red Bull behind them they have scored points and even a race win at last years Italian Grand Prix. As Red Bulls junior team they are also used as a proving ground for promising young racers, who are then promoted to the frontline as drivers with Red Bull Racing. Although it means losing talent like Sebastian Vettel, as they did this season, team principal Franz Tost is at peace with this role. Here he discusses driver line-ups, the new 2010 entrants, and the future of KERS
Q: Franz, you started the year very strongly, but from the middle of the season onwards the performance has become a little flat. Can you explain that?
Franz Tost: Its true we started the season pretty well and were able to score points. Sometimes this was due to circumstance, like in Melbourne, when the collision between Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica enabled both of our drivers to move up two positions, but its also due to a car that worked well , like in Shanghai with Sebastien Buemi and Monaco with Sebastien Bourdais. In the second half we have slipped a bit. One of the reasons for that is that we changed driver. Toro Rossos initial philosophy was to run one experienced driver and at the same time build up a rookie from the Red Bull Junior team. That was in fact the reason why Red Bull acquired this team - to develop in-house drivers. But then it turned out differently. The experienced driver did not deliver the expected performance, because many times the rookie outperformed him. Under these circumstances we sat down and decided to take another Red Bull youngster - Jaime Alguersuari. He is a big talent, but to break into Formula One was a bit too early for him. We knew that fact but decided to give him the cockpit in the second half of the season to experience Formula One, so that we will have a very good driver pairing in 2010. Logically the results have not been so good any more. You simply cannot expect to score points with two rookies at the extremely high performance level that F1 has. We arent dreamers. What we are doing is investing in the future and I am sure that from the middle of the 2010 season onwards we will have two good youngsters and Red Bull will harvest the fruits of their commitment.
Q: So the driver change has fully delivered?
FT: Yes, 100 percent. Jaime has settled very well into the team. In my opinion he showed his best performance during the Singapore qualifying, and Buemi is getting better with every race as well - he managed to get into Q2. To think that we could go beyond Q2 would be unrealistic.
Q: At Red Bull Technology (RBT) all energies must be currently be concentrated on Red Bull Racing and the championship. Does that mean Toro Rosso suffer?
FT: No, not at all. Over the last years we have got only the blue prints from Red Bull Technology. The fabrication of the parts lies with us, and that also goes for this moment, whether they are fighting for the championship or not. If they design a new diffuser for Red Bull Racing we get the plans and then have to modify them to our needs, as we have a different engine in the back. And that is done in Faenza under our technical director Giorgio Ascanelli.
Q: How will the cooperation with Red Bull Technology work in 2010? From then on you are supposed to be 100 percent a constructors team
FT: We are a constructors team already now. There is no cooperation with RBT right now. The rules only allow us to get the gearbox from them - and probably some parts that are not on the parts list - but as we are designing the gearbox in-house, due to financial and timing reasons, there are no connections right now.
Q: How far along is the development of the 2010 car?
FT: Everything is going according to plan. We are working hard on it - that is the reason why Giorgio (Ascanelli) has not been at races lately.
Q: Rumour has it that Ross Brawn already signed off the plans for Brawn GPs 2010 car and that production has already started. Is that the state of affairs at Toro Rosso?
FT: The same goes for us. The chassis has been signed off, as well as the gearbox. It has to be because it is already high time. If those things have not happened yet you will be running into big trouble getting the car finished on time.
Q: Given what youve just said about the timetable for the 2010 car, do you think all the new entrants will really make it onto the grid in Bahrain next season?
FT: First of all, I dont know how many of those new teams have submitted their entry out of political motivation. I will wait and see which of them will really make it to Bahrain. I can only speak from our point of view. We have got our hands full to stay within the schedule to get the car ready and I have no idea how the new entrants will do it, as there is hardly any existing infrastructure for even rudimentary Formula One.
Q: Your Singapore result probably didnt live up to expectations. This time it seemed as though the car let down the youngsters
FT: We and Red Bull Racing had brake problems. I feel very sorry for them, especially as Ive been quite satisfied with my boys. For both of them the track was new - and the track is not easy! It has 23 corners and if, as a newbie, you lose half of a tenth in every corner that will add up to one second after one lap. Both our drivers did very well and there were significant performance gains from Friday to Saturday. The only goal that we set them was to come out of Lap One and to finish the race, or at least do as many laps as possible to get mileage under their belts. Both were unable to finish, but while they were racing they did very well.
Q: How are they different?
FT: That is very difficult to say as neither is yet at the point of expressing individual set-up demands. They are simply too busy with getting to know the track and keeping the car there. Overall I would say that Buemi is a bit harder on the brakes than Alguersuari. But in general their driving style is pretty much the same at the moment.
Q: You develop drivers, you shape them, and if they are successful, you have to hand them over to Red Bull Racing. Isnt that hard?
FT: No, not at all, because you know whats going to happen. Our right to exist stems from developing youngsters. That was the plan of (Red Bull chief) Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull when the Minardi team was acquired. To take Red Bull youngsters, acquaint them with Formula One and promote the promising ones to Red Bull Racing. When a Sebastian Vettel moves up to Red Bull Racing and turns into a powerhouse it demonstrates perfectly that our philosophy works!
Q: There have been a fair few team principal meetings lately. What are the main issues under discussion? Surely for one of the smaller teams every change in the rules could have a big impact. Is KERS still a topic?
FT: KERS for me is an important part of Formula One. I am a supporter of KERS. However, I am against the use of KERS in the period from 2010-2012. Why? Because all indications show that any KERS system is not technically mature enough yet to be used efficiently and be cost effective. The system should be developed for 2013 together with a new engine and gearbox, and that (development) should start now. For the smaller teams it should be offered as part of the drive train at a reasonable price. That is what I think should happen and that is what I am fighting for.
Q: What feedback to this demand has there been from the other teams?
FT: There are some teams who are urging the use of KERS before 2013. Now we have to see how things develop. But to make it clear again, I am all for the use of KERS in the long run but it should be planned better in terms of costs and in terms of environmental friendliness. Environmental friendliness means that it does not make sense if a KERS system is in use where you have to get rid of the batteries after every race. That cannot be it.