Tost: Toro Rosso's 2008 will be difficult to match 09 Mar 2009
Toro Rosso's 2008 season will be tough to better. Not only did they clinch a maiden pole and race win, but they eventually finished sixth in the standings, ahead of sister team Red Bull. With the now experienced Sebastien Bourdais and promising rookie Sebastien Buemi in the STR4's cockpit, however, team principal Franz Tost is hopeful their past glories will stand them in good stead for the season ahead...
Q: Franz, how does Toro Rosso at the start of the 2009 season compare with the start of 2008?
Franz Tost: This year is already looking great as we are five races ahead of schedule, given that last year we did not get to race the '08 car until the sixth round of the season - in Monaco! But seriously, with the continued support of Red Bull, Scuderia Toro Rosso has grown in several ways in the past 12 months. The team is bigger, having expanded its facility in Faenza and we have taken on more staff. The 2008 season was good in terms of our on-track performance, which, it's fair to say, exceeded our expectations, with our biggest ever haul of points, a pole position and a win. It's going to be tough to live up to that this year. While the rules have changed, within the team we can rely on a good level of stability, as all the key players on the technical side have been in place for some time now and so understand how to make progress. The other element of our package that remains the same is the support we receive from Red Bull Technology. And right from Red Bull Racing's first test in Jerez it appeared that the car was competitive straight away and that Adrian Newey and his team had come up with a very promising package. The car looks good and shows very promising performance. This year marks the third year of our collaboration with Ferrari, which, on both a human and technical level, works very well and it goes without saying that having an engine that won the 2008 constructors' world championship can only be a good thing. As for our driver pairing, in 2008 we effectively started the season with two F1 novices, but this time, Sebastien Bourdais has 18 grands prix under his belt, and this year's rookie, Sebastien Buemi, has shown well in winter testing.
Q: How will the rule changes, technical and sporting, affect the team?
FT: At Toro Rosso, we support the cost-cutting initiatives instigated by the FIA and FOTA. These are a good thing for a small team like ours, as for example, the reduction in the use of wind tunnel time and Computational Fluid Dynamics has had a minimal effect on our work. In terms of manpower, it means we have not had to let many people go, allocating test team staff to other roles within the company. As everyone feels the effects of a worldwide recession, it is only right that Formula One is seen to acknowledge this and act accordingly, to allow the sport to flourish in a more sensible and less extravagant fashion than in the past. Looking at the major changes to the technical regulations, these do have a downside for us, because historically, whenever rules have changed significantly, it is always the bigger, more established teams who have the technical resources and experience to react quickly in adapting to those changes. It was the long period of stability in the rules which allowed Toro Rosso to be so competitive last year.
Q: Your driver line-up?
FT: I mentioned the benefit of consistency in our technical line-up and we also have a level of consistency in our driver line-up, as Sebastien Bourdais tackles his second season in Scuderia Toro Rosso colours. In 2008, he produced some good performances in the races and in qualifying, but he was also unlucky at times. We expect him to benefit from the experience he gained last year: he knows the team, the circuits and the F1 environment and this will allow him to tackle the season with confidence. He will also surely enjoy the return to slick tyres, which better suit his driving style. As for the other driver, Buemi, who comes from the Red Bull Young Driver programme, he has shown himself to be naturally talented with plenty of speed and, more importantly he is a quick learner. Having invested in his early career Red Bull is keen to see him progress at the top level of the sport. He faces a steep learning curve, but we should not forget he is still very young - he even makes Vettel look like a veteran!
Q: What are the team's targets for the year?
FT: All race teams should have the same targets: to win every race they enter! Of course, this is not going to happen and even matching our 2008 showing will be difficult, as the sport enters a new era. Therefore our target has to be to leave every race track on a Sunday night, knowing we have done the best job we could. The results will then depend on how everyone else has done.