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Exclusive Franz Tost Q&A: Vergne, Ricciardo impressing so far 11 Jul 2012

(L to R): Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso and Franz Tost (AUT) Scuderia Toro Rosso Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 8 July 2012 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso, at the Grand Prix Party.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 8 July 2012 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 24 May 2012 (L to R): Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso with Franz Tost (AUT) Scuderia Toro Rosso Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2012 Pit board for Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula One Testing, Day 4, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 4 March 2012 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2012 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Franz Tost (AUT) Scuderia Toro Rosso Team Principal.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 3 March 2012

The 2012 season couldn’t have got off to a better start for Toro Rosso, with rookie Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo scoring points in the opening rounds. Since that bright beginning, however, things have quietened down a bit too much for team principal Franz Tost. But rather than placing the blame on the shoulders of his young drivers, Tost believes fault lies with the slow development of the car…

Q: Franz, we have almost reached midseason, so you’ve had some time to watch your two youngsters in action. What are your thoughts on Ricciardo and Vergne so far?
Franz Tost:
So far I must say that both of them are highly skilled and both of them, so far, have shown good performance. Daniel scored points in his first race for us in Melbourne, when he finished in P9 and Jean-Eric finished in Sepang in P8, which showed that there is a lot of potential. The progress that both are making is quite promising, so I have to say that so far we are satisfied.

Q: Both have scored points but both did it at the start of the season. Why is that? From the outside it looks like the team have taken a step backwards…
FT:
We had possibilities, we had chances, but we didn’t seize them. For example Daniel started from P6 in Bahrain and couldn’t profit from it, and Jean-Eric was in P7 ten laps before the chequered flag in Monaco but finished 12th. In Valencia Daniel was in a promising position where he could have easily finished in the points before some contact cut short his ambitions. Last weekend was not exactly what we were looking for as we definitely were better in the wet. But it didn’t rain in the race and on top of that Jean-Eric had to cope with his penalty. So no points again, but both cars finished the race and mileage is all that matters for rookies. So we have definitely not taken a step backwards but our competitors are working better. Maybe we have gained two- or three-tenths of a second, but the others have gained maybe four- or five-tenths.

Q: Why is that?
FT:
Maybe they found a better solution but maybe also the development speed has not been high enough on our side.

Q: You said that with your young drivers you are looking for the next ‘sensation’…
FT:
What I am expecting is that a highly-skilled driver shows at least one sparkle. Daniel did that for me in Bahrain as it was a really fantastic performance and Jean-Eric did it in Monaco. To be in P7 as a first timer in a Formula One car at Monaco is quite remarkable!

Q: How do you think they’ll both develop over the second half of the season?
FT:
Both now have a bit more experience, they know the team better, the car better and the weekend procedure, so now I think it is up to us, the team, to provide them with a good car and make a step forward with new upgrades. Then I am convinced that we - hopefully - will have a successful second half of the season.

Q: So are you satisfied with the development speed of your two youngsters but not with that of the STR7?
FT:
Absolutely.

Q: One of your former drivers mentioned the word ‘severe’ when it came to his experience at Toro Rosso. Do rookies require a firm hand?
FT:
Are you sure that it was the word ‘severe’ that was used? I cannot remember having ever been severe! (laughs) Okay, let me put it this way, a driver has a hard time with me if he is not focused and if he is not finding the right-hand pedal. It is as easy as that. We push very hard and we do our best, but you know sometimes young drivers come into Formula One thinking that they’ve made it. And that’s bullsh*t. To come into Formula One means that you are willing to start working very hard. Everything that you’ve done before is kindergarten. (laughs) Being in Formula One you must live 365 days a year and 24 hours a day for Formula One. And if I feel that one of our drivers doesn’t do this then he runs into trouble. Then I give him trouble because either you are a professional or out you go. It is as simple as that.

Q: So looking back at the youngsters who have been to ‘school’ with you, did some not follow that principle?
FT:
Yes, because otherwise they would still be here.

Q: Let’s move on to a different topic. The vote on the Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA) was postponed for a few weeks. It has been reported that Red Bull and Toro Rosso are not in favour of the concept as it stands now. With Red Bull that’s probably somewhat understandable, but why Toro Rosso?
FT:
That is not correct. We do agree that costs have to come down - and Toro Rosso respects the RRA because the fact is that we are below the limits, from the number of employees to the expenditure. The problem that I see at the moment is that we are talking only about the RRA regarding the chassis. No-one talks about the real costs we are facing - the new engine, the new powertrain, the new aero system, and the new batteries. In 2014 the new engine regulations will come in, but no one talks about the RRA for this area even though it’s there that we will face the real costs. We at Toro Rosso say that either we have a RRA where everything is included, otherwise forget it. This is our point of view.

Q: So your point is that engines have to be included?
FT:
Well, the engines will become much more expensive than they are now. Period. On the one hand it is good to bring in a new regulation because we have to look at environmental issues and be in line with the modern car industry to eventually bring back manufacturers. So the direction is clear, but we also should think how we can limit the costs in these areas and this hasn’t been done so far. The manufacturers spend a hell of a lot of money on research and development and in the end the customers have to pay for it. We have to pay for it. It will be a question of how many manufacturers will be involved and it will be a depreciation over five years. But I expect the powertrain will be much more expensive than it is now. In the last couple of years the manufacturers really supported the teams. And because of the ‘frozen’ engine, the costs over the past few years have come down - thanks to the manufacturers. So that leaves a big question mark for 2014.

Q: How can a team like Toro Rosso catch up with the frontrunners?
FT:
The ideal world for Toro Rosso would be to be successful on the sporting side. If you are successful on the sporting side then the money will flow your way. That is our target. (laughs)

Q: That is a pretty straightforward entrepreneurial view. If your product is good, customers will follow…
FT:
…yes, it’s all about a good product that we have to provide.

Q: So what product do you want to have at the end of the season?
FT:
We should have a product with which the drivers are able to be positioned in the midfield, where they are qualifying between nine and 12 and where they are racing around nine or ten, scoring just one, two, or three points. That is the target. The frontrunners are far ahead. But the midfield has become very competitive. Sauber, Williams, Force India - and Caterham - are catching up so it is up to us to make an impact.

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