Exclusive Franz Tost Q&A - P6 the target for Toro Rosso 06 Feb 2013
After starting the 2012 season with points finishes in the first two races, Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost saw his squad slip back down the order. On the eve of the new season we caught up with the Austrian to talk about Toro Rossos unchanged driver line-up of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, the influence of recently appointed technical director James Key, and why hes set the team an ambitious target for 2013
Q: Franz, you have Daniel and Jean-Eric in the car again this season. What do they have to do to be here again next year?
Franz Tost: Both drivers showed good performances last season and both have stepped up. The important thing is that we can give them the car to perform. Both have shown in the past that they can win races and championships and I am convinced that both Daniel and Jean-Eric have what it takes to develop into successful Formula One drivers.
Q: Mark Webber is on a one-year contract at Red Bull - does that mean that you have to deliver a successor at the end of the season?
FT: That we dont know. This is pure speculation. Lets do the season and then lets see - first what Mark Webber is up to, secondly how our drivers develop and thirdly what kind of Red Bull youngsters will appear on our radar.
Q: If you could combine the best of your two drivers, what qualities would you take from whom?
FT: Daniel is technically versed - he has a huge understanding of technical processes and gives superb feedback. Jean-Eric is more aggressive in the car and also in the race. If you could combine these qualities, yes, then you very likely would have a top driver.
Q: Who of the two has the advantage taking into account what you just said?
FT: The season will tell! Last season Jean-Eric bagged more points than Daniel but Daniel had a slight advantage in qualifying. So it remains to be seen, always assuming that we can give them a competitive car.
Q: You just said that Jean-Eric is the more aggressive driver and that Daniel is the more technically versed. What is easier to adopt?
FT: Ah, I was saying that Daniel is technically-versed - I didnt say that he is not aggressive enough. He also has his strong moments in the car. What is easier to adopt? That is a matter of personality - you cannot generalize that.
Q: Okay, what would you say is more important?
FT: Well, you have to be technically versed to be successful in Formula One, but you also have to demonstrate that sort of aggressiveness that helps you overtake a competitor without losing the car. It is a learning process. No driver joins Formula One as a complete driver so this is what I say: to get into Formula One is one thing, to establish yourself in Formula One is another, and to be successful in Formula One a third. The important thing is that a driver has the potential to develop, that he is willing to deal with technical matters, that he is able to learn in the cockpit and cope with the environment around him, and then filter the important things that will bring him forward. There is no universal rule that fits all, so our job at Toro Rosso is to point out crucial things and then it is up to the driver to derive the maximum out of it and use it to his advantage. To learn the crucial things in the shortest possible time, thats what it takes.
Q: To be fair, last season you perhaps didnt have the car to let your youngsters shine. What about in 2013?
FT: Last year we had a car that was good at the start of the season, but we lost out on development in the course of the season. We have done a very detailed analysis of where it went wrong last year - in what areas our car had deficits - and hopefully have learned from that 2012 experience. I am pretty sure that we have a much better car now and will be able to give our two guys a much better chance to compete.
Q: Youve had James Key as technical director since last September. Do you feel an upward trend?
FT: Yes. James Key has built a very good technical team around himself and the method he is working with fits my philosophy. I am sure that his direction is the right one for us, and that if we keep working as we do now we will be successful.
Q: Key has a lot of F1 experience with a few different teams
FT: He was with Jordan when I met him - he was the data engineer of Ralf Schumacher - and stayed with the same team through its many metamorphoses. Then he switched to Sauber and for whatever reason he didnt feel so much at home there, and then he came to us. Hopefully hell be a fixture in our team for the next couple of years.
Q: This year we see evolved cars, but next year everything will be brand new. Is the technical development moving too fast for the small teams?
FT: True, this season we have the old rules but nevertheless we have to develop the car until the very last race. We didnt manage this last year and, if you do not manage that, you will be handed down mercilessly. What this means this year is that you are looking at a double burden: first to keep up the development of the 2013 car and then to find the perfect time to start the 2014 programme. We have started already and what can I say? It will be difficult and complicated - a real challenge as well, from the technical side as well as from the economic side. The 2014 car will be technically immensely complicated - the turbo charger, the cooling systems, the new gearbox, the new monocoque - and the race strategy we are used to will be thrown completely overboard. My prediction: it will be a very expensive year!
Q: When the big teams are talking about these aspects they mention running two development teams. Is this something that makes you pale with envy?
FT: That is simply a reality that you have to accept. They are the top teams and have to work in this way. Our battle cry is efficiency! (laughs) We cannot rely on 600 employees - we have around 300 - and in peak times we add 30 contractors for the production facility. So we have to be efficient to the bone and sometimes you are better off and more flexible than with a huge headcount. I feel that we have a good situation with our technical department and that we are on our way.
Q: As a team, what are your objectives for 2013?
FT: To do better in the constructors championship. The goal that I identified for us is P6.
Q: How did that go down with your team? Did people take deep breaths?
FT: Yes, they indeed breathed deeply! (laughs) It is in our hands to get the best out of what we have - so lets get started!
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