Franz Tost Q&A: Vettels team mate has to bring a lot to the table 01 Aug 2013
In 2008, Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost oversaw Sebastian Vettels maiden F1 win at Monza. Fast forward to 2013 and Tost is now playing a key role in the development of two more Red Bull-backed youngsters - Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne - who, along with Lotuss Kimi Raikkonen, are on a very short list of candidates to be Vettels next team mate (rumours in Hungary linking Fernando Alonso to the seat appear to be just that). We spoke to him about the race for one of F1's most-coveted seats...
Q: Franz, the rumour mill was working overtime in Budapest on who will replace Mark Webber in the second Red Bull car in 2014. How certain is it that one of your protégés will move over to the sister team?
Franz Tost: The likelihood is pretty high. Red Bull Racing is showing interest in Daniel (Ricciardo) and the decision will be made inside Red Bull. So there is no decision yet - but my understanding right now is that it could, in fact, be Daniel.
Q: Three weeks ago Red Bull team principal Christian Horner spoke of a three horse race between Daniel, Kimi (Raikkonen) and Jean-Eric (Vergne). Since last week it seems to be down to a two horse race: Kimi and Daniel. What happened with the third man?
FT: Well, I think that analysis has shown that Daniel is going strong so far - especially in qualifying - that he has raised his game continuously and there is still half the season go where he can gain even more experience. He must never forget one thing: he would be moving to Red Bull Racing - the three-time world championship team - which means that the bar is pretty high. To race alongside Sebastian (Vettel) you better have what it takes if you are not planning to drown. And I think that Daniel - should Red Bull point at him - has it.
Q: How did Jean-Eric take falling out of consideration?
FT: He didnt expect it that way. But he stayed calm and cool. He is positive that Toro Rosso is a good platform for his future. But lets make that clear: nothing has been decided yet, even if Jean-Eric was never really in the shortlist of Red Bull Racing. As far as I know. Daniel has 13 races more under his belt - and that does make a difference.
Q: What has the future team mate of Sebastian have to have to survive alongside him?
FT: He has to bring a lot to the table, thats for sure. Lets have a look at Seb: hes a three-time champion - at least per today - which indicates his huge talent. Hes also extremely disciplined; hes got a sharp technical understanding - probably one of the best in the paddock; he can fight ferociously - hes proven that time and again; and he is established in a winning team that he has built up with. Remember: when Seb left Toro Rosso to join Red Bull Racing, the team was in no way the winner that it is today - Seb has contributed a lot to make it happen. So if you want to be the new kid on the block you better have all these facts in mind - and show even more commitment to come at least close to Seb. That will be a rough ride!
Q: Sebastian comes across as every mother in laws dream: he is so well behaved, so accessible, so polite. But with just these qualities youre unlikely to make it to the top - there must be something under the surface; a completely different side of the same coin. What is it?
FT: His fighting spirit. Yes, he is open and honest, friendly and accessible, but behind his façade there is a massive fighting spirit and, if that sets in, his opponents have a problem.
Q: Now, youve given us an idea of what skills the new Red Bull Racing driver has to have - but what is it that he must not have?
FT: Idleness, negligence and lack of discipline! If someone wants to survive alongside a champion he has to focus 100 percent on his job. He has to live Formula One 365 days a year, because that is what Sebs year looks like. So, if you at least focus on being as quick as him you have to work twice as hard - and thats a pretty tough road for any driver in the paddock.
Q: If Daniel is the chosen one, what final words will you have for him?
FT: Very simple things. I told him that hes got six months now - if Red Bull Racing picks you - to prepare for 2014 and never forgetting along that way that in 2014 you will be the team mate of a three-time champion. Prepare mentally
Q: Thats easily said, but how would he do that?
FT: That in the second half of the season he is inhaling that amount of self-confidence that he needs to survive in a team like Red Bull Racing. A simple example: if the car is not perfect, you override it and dont lament. You work with what youve got as what you got is probably down to your own mistake - so go out and fight! You start to understand that all the others are also putting on their pants one leg at a time - even a Sebastian Vettel. That he is moving over with a high fighting spirit and not settling for a passive role. Our talks move alongside these topics
Q: That sounds like a father figure
FT: No, no, I would never call my role the father figure. Mentor - yes.
Q: Even when it comes to private issues? They spend more time with you than with their families
FT: Thank god with these two there are no private issues. Jean-Eric and Daniel come from stable private backgrounds, though funnily enough I always thought that those coming from difficult family circumstances are the better fighters, as they had to do it from an early age. Anyway, what I like are drivers who are not completely in homeostasis. There are hardly any super successful people who are fully poised as only a certain portion of disequilibrium nurtures boundless egoism
Q: Is that what you also witness with Sebastian: boundless egoism?
FT: Thank god in vast quantities!
Q: If the big step happens for Daniel, is it too early for him?
FT: It is early. He hasnt had a huge taste of success in Formula One so far - and I dont mean that in the sense of driving - but success changes you mentally. You can tell yourself, hey, I can do it. Its a mind game.
Q: You said not too long ago that you keep youngsters for two years - and then the big sorting starts. At the end of the season both will have finished two seasons - will you still keep both in 2014 should one not be moving to Red Bull Racing?
FT: Yes, absolutely. Both are very talented. Both have a future in F1. If you give them a competitive car you will find them at the front.
Q: That sounds like Toro Rosso is on the verge of becoming a normal race team by keeping good drivers - and abandoning the idea of permanently nurturing rookies. Can that be?
FT: The two are still youngsters - 22- or 23-year-olds - so you still can speak about a junior team. As I just said, they show good performance and constantly raise their level so I would always fight to keep them next season.
Q: So lets have a look at Kimi. How would a team with Sebastian and Kimi look?
FT: That would be quite a team! They are two full-throttle junkies!
Q: But weve also seen that two alpha dogs in a team can lead to headaches
FT: I would love to have these headaches! I would even skip aspirin! (laughs)
Q: So when will we have a decision do you think?
FT: My guess is at the beginning of September - after the summer break when everybody involved has engaged in final soul searching.
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