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Franz Tost Q&A: Toro Rosso have a lot to offer a manufacturer

14 May 2015

Eyebrows were raised before the season when Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost set a target of P5 in the constructors’ championship - especially as the Italian team were entering the campaign with the youngest and most inexperienced driver line-up in F1 history. But after five rounds Tost’s aim is starting to look all the more achievable, and with a possible tie-in with Renault in the offing the Austrian sees no reason why the squad can’t one day become regular frontrunners…

Q: Franz, looking at Toro Rosso’s season so far, the first two races were pretty sensational: both rookie drivers in the points and the best start to a season for Toro Rosso. Then you had two races with reliability issues, before a fantastic Barcelona qualifying session that gave a hint of the true colours of the chassis and the drivers. Was that all a bit too good to be true?

Franz Tost: No, not too good at all - it was what we had expected. What came after these first two races was rather unexpected and Barcelona was a super showcase of what our car can do - if we only had more pace. Our aim is to finish fifth in the constructors’ championship. And the reason I set this goal was my belief that we have a good car, that we have two good drivers and that the team has made a good step forward. The first race would have been even more sensational had Max (Verstappen) not retired. He was out on the prime tyres and was controlling cars behind him with option tyres. If he could have finished the race on option tyres it would have easily been a sixth or seventh place. A technical failure put him out.

Q: (Technical director) James Key seems to have done a great job with the car…

FT: …yes, he did a great job. It was last year’s work as it takes time to build a good car and build up a good team.

Q: So is it the power unit that is letting you down with the results? Again it was very visible last weekend that whilst the one-lap pace for qualifying was superb, the race pace saw a dramatic drop…

FT: Yes. But we all know that Renault is working very hard so I hope that we will get power units that are more reliable and have more power.

Q: But you are already on your fourth and final power unit…

FT: Yes, the fourth engine was fitted into the cars Friday night.

Q: Teams have been discussing the possibility of increasing the engine allowance to five. But as nothing has been confirmed, you will probably get penalised at every race from Monaco onwards…

FT: If we change an engine, yes. But that will depend on what we have to change: a complete power unit or just parts.

Q: Isn’t that frustrating? You have a good car, you have super promising drivers - and if you change the power unit you get penalised to the very end of the season…

FT: These are the regulations!

Q: What do you imagine the car is capable of with another power unit?

FT: That is very theoretical - but I am pretty sure we would show better performance.

Q: What was new on the car for this week’s?

FT: We changed something on the floor and the front wing. Bits and pieces, but nothing major as the car is working well and because we are a small team we don’t have the resources to make major changes.

Q: Your two young drivers - Verstappen and Carlos Sainz - have been stunning. They demonstrated their talent again in last Saturday’s qualifying session with P6 and P5 respectively. Did you expect that much from them?

FT: I expected it from them because otherwise they would not drive for us. They both have shown that they are capable of being in the Red Bull driver pool. We had a tough winter to prepare them, but we successfully managed it as the first races have shown. I always said that if we give them a fast and reliable car they will always finish among the ten best - otherwise we could never have targeted P5 in the constructors’ championship. Yes, there will come a crash period, as you cannot expect from such young drivers to have a flawless season, but we are prepared for that.

Q: Your new nickname is ‘kindergarten cop’!

FT: Ha, it doesn’t matter what they call me. As long as my youngsters score points that’s fine with me! (laughs)

Q: If you had to predict their future, what do you see?

FT: The future in F1 is almost impossible to predict. What I can say right now is that both are highly skilled and committed - and very disciplined. If the environment comes together to open a window for winning races they will win races. They have all the traits for success.

Q: I was speaking with Carlos Sainz and he said getting to Formula One racing is 10 percent luck and 90 percent hard work. Is that so?

FT: In Formula One you are not lucky or unlucky. You are able to do it or not able to do it. It’s funny: there are always the same drivers who are lucky and the same drivers who are unlucky. But it doesn’t work that way: you have to make the right decisions. The best teams will always go for the best drivers - and it is up to the driver to be the best. He might not sit in the most competitive car, but we have 19 races and at least in one, two or three of these 19 races he has to sparkle - like our two guys did in the last qualifying session. This is the moment that top teams keep an eye on a driver.

Q: Daniil Kvyat has had a pretty tough time at Red Bull Racing so far. Helmut (Marko) said that he has not yet ‘arrived’ and that certain media are already putting a question mark next to his name…

FT: It takes time to mature in an F1 car. That is why I say that I want to work with drivers for three years - and then hand them over. Daniil had only one year with Toro Rosso. He is facing car troubles and is simply not as experienced as Daniel Ricciardo, who was with us for three years and had half a year with HRT. Daniil is a very highly skilled driver and I am convinced that if his car is reliable he will be very fast. He will have a successful future. He is very, very skilled - he has the champion gene.

Q: Do you recommend that your drivers do not read the media?

FT: Yes, because it can distract and destabilise a young driver - and consumes time. I tell them to go to the fitness room instead!

Q: What is the current state of affairs regarding the possibility of Renault taking over Toro Rosso? Have real negotiations started and is there a deadline for such a deal?

FT: Renault wanted to present their brand more - that was the starting point. A yellow/white car with big Renault letters! No problem - they can do this with Toro Rosso. But at the moment (Renault Sport boss) Cyril (Abiteboul) said that their main problem is currently to sort out their reliability problems and not painting a car. And before that is sorted out they will not think in the direction of either taking over a team or branding a team. That can change in the next couple of weeks and months.

Q: Some people say that right now no team that is not a manufacturer team can win a championship…

FT: Correct. That’s the way it is right now. And Toro Rosso have a lot to offer a manufacturer. We have a proper infrastructure, we have a good technical team, and we have a lean structure. We want to finish in P5, and the next step would be to work together with a manufacturer or to become a manufacturer team - to become a real front-runner. There is no timeline on that - when (it happens), Red Bull and Renault decide.