Q&A with Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost 03 Feb 2010
Transforming themselves from Red Bulls junior team to a fully blown independent Formula One constructor is a difficult task for Toro Rosso. But team principal Franz Tost remains hopeful of a successful 2010 season and is targeting eighth place in the standings. Whether its because of his ambitious and skilful young drivers, Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, or whether its down to the strong debut of the STR5, its clear Tost is a confident man
Q: Franz, what are your first impressions of the STR5?
Franz Tost: So far Ive had very positive impressions. Its true that on the first day we struggled a little bit with the gearbox but the team around (technical director) Giorgio Ascanelli was able to fix it. On the second day weve been able to do a good number of laps and my impression about the car is quite positive. We will continue with our test programme as planned and expect no further interruptions.
Q: Could 2010 be a bit of a harder season for Toro Rosso now that you are building the car on your own?
FT: This process started one and a half years ago. In 2008 we were already building the monocoque in-house in Faenza. We had also established the design office and had started to design the engines packaging and the gearbox. That was logical because for years we have run a Ferrari engine, while Red Bull Racing have run a Renault engine. So what is happening now is not such a huge difference, but nevertheless we have had to bring in new people. We have increased the number of employees in all areas, not just in the design department but also in the aerodynamic department and on the manufacturing side. We are building up our capacity in most areas and have bought a couple of new machines to produce all parts in-house. It is still an ongoing process. To build a good Formula One team takes time as you have to find the right people and components to fit with what you already have.
Q: Why did it take so long to confirm Jaime Alguersuari as your second driver?
FT: Well, for me and Red Bull, it was always clear that Jaime would be our second driver in 2010. We started a programme with him last year and it was clear that he would also race this season with us, otherwise it wouldnt have made sense to start with him at all. We consider him to be one of the most skilled Red Bull young drivers and therefore the decision was easy. It took some time because of some minor contractual issues.
Q: Did you want to keep him on tenterhooks?
FT: No, not at all. Everything that has been written about over the last few months is purely winter gossip. If there is nothing to write about people tend to read too much into things. There has been no testing - thats the important thing for drivers - he hasnt missed anything.
Q: You said that Giorgio Ascanelli fixed the gearbox issue of test day one. Is it likely to occur frequently?
FT: No, it doesnt look that way. All I can say is - hopefully not!
Q: How do you expect your two young drivers to manage this season?
FT: In the past few weeks they have done a lot of physical training. I expect that Sebastian Buemi, as it is his second season and he knows all the tracks by now, will make another step forward. I guess for Jaime the first races will not be so easy because the tracks are new to him, but from Hungary onwards he knows them all, and it is then when I also expect some steps forward from him. In general I would say that I expect both drivers to run in the points.
Q: So youre not expecting miracles right away?
FT: The important issue is that you can see that a driver is constantly improving his performance - race to race. And thats not only limited to his on-track performances, but its about how he interacts with the engineers, how he communicates with the media, the whole package of what a drivers life is. I am convinced that Jaime can do a good job and I am also convinced that he is a skilled driver.
Q: What are your objectives for this season?
FT: I hope that we will finish around eighth place in the constructors championship. As for the rest, we will see.
Q: How much support do you still get from Red Bull Technology (RBT)?
FT: As we have a different engine and drive train, there is no particular support for us. And contrary to what people believe, they have never built parts for us. In the past weve got the drawings from RBT but the parts have never been fabricated in Milton Keynes. They have always been either fabricated by us or through suppliers - not at Red Bull Racing.
Q: Whats your opinion on the new points system?
FT: I think it was a good decision. The difference between first and second places is now seven points. That should hopefully eventually increase overtaking manoeuvres. We will see if it delivers,
Q: What are your thoughts on Michael Schumachers comeback? You once worked with Willi Weber, so must know him very well...
FT: To be honest I am very much looking forward to seeing him on the grid. He has been a good friend for a long time and I admire him for being a very special driver, with some passion for Formula One. I am really anxious to see him fight with the youngsters. The number of fans watching races on television will dramatically increase because of his comeback, and that is exactly what we need in times like these.