‘It was not so easy at the beginning’ – Tost reflects on 18 years in charge of AlphaTauri
Franz Tost made his final appearance as AlphaTauri’s team boss – formerly known as Toro Rosso – at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to conclude an 18-year spell full of highs, lows and everything in between.
It was in 2006, following Red Bull’s first season, that the drinks company added another team to the grid, with Tost enlisted to oversee operations during a time that allowed plenty of technology sharing between the factory and sister outfits.
More than 350 Grands Prix later, the Faenza squad have two wins, five podiums and over 800 points to their name, while also serving as the proving ground for future world champions in Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen.
Reflecting on the journey and where it all started ahead of his retirement from the sport, Tost said: “It was a very interesting time, I must say. I started on November 8, 2005, in Faenza, and we had 85 people. It was not so easy at the beginning.
“[Red Bull co-founder] Dietrich Mateschitz said to me, ‘Look, there are two pillars: you have to first of all use the synergies with Red Bull Technology, and second, to educate the young drivers – they must then come to Red Bull Racing, win races and, if possible, also championships’.
“I thought to myself, ‘OK, it’s clear what you want, boss’, and this is how we started. We got all the materials, the cars from Red Bull Technology, and maybe it worked a little bit too good, because in 2008, when we won at Monza, afterwards the FIA and the teams changed the regulations.
“They came up with the listed parts, which meant we had to do nearly everything in-house. We had to design the front wing, rear wing, complete bodywork, diffuser, floor and monocoque. We didn’t have the infrastructure for this, which meant we had to find people for the aerodynamics department, designers, production, quality control...
“This was a difficult time, it was a challenge, and I must say I liked it. I learned a lot in this period and I would not like to miss it.”
He added: “The next biggest step was done in 2018, when we signed the Honda contract and we became this Honda works team. I think nearly the whole paddock smiled about this.
“McLaren people came to me and said we are totally crazy to work together with Honda and I said, ‘Gents, wait, we talk in about five years about this’, but it didn't take five years, it was clear much earlier that the decision was right.”
While Tost namechecked podium finishes with Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly in 2019, and victory for the latter at Monza a year later, as fond memories from that successful Honda period, it was Vettel’s aforementioned win at the Italian venue that remains the Austrian’s favourite.
“Just to pick out one highlight is not so easy, but I would say the first victory with Sebastian was really a highlight, because this was a hard fight,” added Tost, who will be replaced as Team Principal by Ferrari Racing Director Laurent Mekies, while former FIA F1 Executive Director Peter Bayer has stepped in as CEO.
“It came together so good because I remember I was sitting with [team co-owner] Gerhard Berger on the pit wall and we knew that it could rain on Saturday and Sunday – this was on Friday.
“I said to Gerhard, ‘I don’t understand why all the others are not going out’. It’s wet and Monza under wet conditions is not so easy because a) the surface changes in the different parts of the track and b) at the back of Lesmo 1, Lesmo 2, there is the forest and the water is not just going away.
“We told our drivers to do as many laps as possible just to get used to the wet track and when the qualifying started and the rain increased, I saw some cars going out with the intermediates and I said to Gerhard, ‘Forget them, they are lost’, and they were lost. Then to win the race was really a highlight.”