Exclusive Q&A - Franz Tost on STR retaining Ricciardo, Vergne 02 Nov 2012
Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost could be considered Formula One racings Sisyphus - the moment he has brought a young driver to full bloom he has to hand him over to his Red Bull masters and start all over again. His two new 2012 stars - Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne - have so far delivered the expected results and so have been retained for 2013. Tost insists this was always the plan, as a one-year stint will never show a rookies true colours. So this season was a warm-up year and 2013 - with the help of new technical director James Key - should see his more experienced drivers lift the team back into the midfield
Q: Franz, Toro Rosso have confirmed the same driver line-up for 2013. That suggests you are satisfied with your two youngsters?
Franz Tost: Well, to tell the truth it was always meant that Daniel and Jean-Eric would stay with us for two years, as it takes time to settle into Formula One, to get to know all the tracks, to get to know the whole team. Remember, these are all very young guys who have to swallow a lot of new things in a very short time to even get started. There are so many factors that are completely different to all the other series they have been driving in before, and those factors they do already know they have to manage to a much higher level. Suddenly they have four or five engineers around their car craving information, they have to comply with sponsor events, they have to be eloquent with the media - that all takes time. That is why you have to give them two years.
Q: Was there ever some sort of benchmark which, had one of them fallen significantly below it would have marked the end of their Toro Rosso race career?
FT: No, there has never been a benchmark and I was always prepared to have both of them for two years, because Red Bull wouldnt have them selected them in the first place had they not shown a learning curve. Both have won championships in lower series, so the pace gene is there. How they really will develop in Formula One we will see at the end of 2013.
Q: Can you tell us about the strengths and the weaknesses of Daniel?
FT: Daniel is very strong in giving technical feedback - he is able to give very precise information what helped us several times this year to get a better car setting. A small shortcoming would be that he could be a little more aggressive in the race. He knows that and is working on it. At the last couple of races his efforts showed results, as he has almost always been in the points.
Q: What about Jean-Eric?
FT: For him this season came a bit too early. He had the disadvantage of 11 races less experience compared to what Daniel already had under his belt. And small margins make a huge difference on the grid. When you have almost all the cars within a just a few tenths, mileage really does matter. I will give an example: he knows the track from the simulator, but how to go over the kerbs - at what angle - can only be learnt from the real thing, in the car. These are all things that you only learn by doing them. Jean-Eric did a very good job so far and if you look at the data he has been able to bridge the gap to Daniel, especially in qualifying. I would say right now they are almost even, so I am really looking forward to the development in 2013.
Q: You have recently signed James Key, formally technical director of Force India and Sauber. How did that come about?
FT: I know James from the time when he was the data engineer for Ralf Schumacher and we always kept close contact. As we realized that we were stumbling technically, we knew that we had to build up a stronger technical side - build up a stronger department - and it was then that we ran into James Key. He was our desired candidate and we had to hurry up as he was about to sign with another team. He then settled for us. He has moved to Faenza and from what I can see so far I am very confident that he and his staff will be able to deliver a good car for 2013 and beyond.
Q: There is still no formal budget cap, or whatever you want to call it. What does that mean for a team like Toro Rosso?
FT: A budget cap is one of those things (laughs) It always depends on what amount you are talking about
Q: Bernie Ecclestone reportedly threw the figure of US$250 million into the discussions
FT: Ha, we are far away from that, but I have to say that we have sound finances to be able to deliver a good car with our budget in 2013 - so there should be no excuses from our side in this respect. Concerning the other teams, I cannot say anything about it.
Q: Why is it still so difficult for Toro Rosso to close the gap to the midfield? Has that something to do with the inexperience of your drivers and thus a factor that has to be accepted?
FT: This was probably an issue at the beginning of the season, but now I have to say that our two boys did a good job. Our car has some deficits that you cannot eliminate quickly. I would say to close the gap to the midfield we have to make good on the technical side - to simply get a better car onto the track.
Q: So is it a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down on the season?
FT: Well, I must confess I am not entirely satisfied. The performance of the car is not on the level I would want it to be, or that I had expected. The car is to slow. Period. We definitely have to sort that out because next year we should have drivers with enough experience to get somewhere with a good car, preferably at the front of the midfield.
Q: So what is the goal for 2013?
FT: To eliminate the gap to the midfield - and finish in P6 or P7 in the races - and then to get ahead in the constructors championship
Q: to get a nice sprinkling of TV money
FT: I dont think about the money - I just want to have a team that is performing and then all these puzzle pieces will fall into place.
Q: So to summarise, you have bagged James Key and you have two drivers you consider to be huge talents - so the signs bode well
FT: They definitely do - now we have to go out and grab the chances.
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