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Franz Tost Q&A: Toro Rosso wary of Haas threat

24 Feb 2016

Toro Rosso and their two young chargers played a starring role last season, but they face challenges on several fronts in 2016 - not only from using older-specification Ferrari engines, but also from rival outfits including new boys Haas, who have made an impressive start in testing. Team principal Franz Tost explains why it might be a year of two halves for his squad, why the current STR11 might be revised before Australia - and what the future might hold for his current drivers...

Q: Franz, on the evidence of last year you have two diamonds in your cockpit with Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz. What are you going to with them this season?

Franz Tost: I personally will be very friendly to both of them because both are fast - and if drivers have a good relationship with the right-hand pedal then they are my friends! But let’s be serious: the team has to be well prepared to be able to provide both with fast and reliable cars. I think I can say that we have come out with a car that is competitive - that the STR11 is a car with a lot of potential. We are very happy with our new engine partner Ferrari and both our drivers came up with very positive comments about the drivability and the power of the engine. The team also has improved as we’ve been working on procedures over the winter like assembling the car or pit stop training - so we should be well prepared for both our high-skilled drivers!

Q: So it isn’t a situation that could also read: incredible talents, reasonably good car and second-hand engine?

FT: I wouldn’t use the term second-hand engine for the first half of the season because I don’t expect such a big difference in the first half - the second half of the season is another story because the new engine will be developed by Ferrari and I don’t know how much advantage this new engine will bring.

Q: So speaking of the new engine, the beneficiaries will be Ferrari, Sauber and Haas - and Toro Rosso will stick with the 2015 engine?

FT: Yes, this is currently the plan. And of course we will try to make the most out of it.

Q: Both Red Bull teams declared that 2016 is sort of a transition year engine-wise - but is there any end to the transition situation in 2017 before somebody pulls the plug?

FT: It is always the question of how much you get out from this so called ‘transition period’. I hope from our part at Toro Rosso that we will achieve our goals, that we improve the performance of the complete operation - and then it becomes unimportant what you call this period. What’s important is whether you are successful or not.

Q: If you look at your competitors, in 2015 Sauber, McLaren and Manor all finished behind Toro Rosso in the championship. It seems likely that Honda will get its game together - and with Sauber having a new-spec Ferrari engine and Manor a Mercedes engine, where do you see Toro Rosso? Fighting for tenth place with new entrant Haas, who also have a new-spec Ferrari engine? Could that be a scenario?

FT: That would be a horror scenario! But I haven’t thought to this end - and I never will!

Q: So then it boils down to the potential of your car? How do you rate that from three days running?

FT: It is better than last year. The aero data show that we made a step forward - and then it is up to us to keep the development curve on a high. And then it becomes a question of how much resource we will have over the season - and how much resource our direct competitors have.

Q: Whom do you consider your direct competitors?

FT: Force India, McLaren, Sauber and also Haas - especially at the beginning of the season.

Q: Max Verstappen is probably the hottest commodity on the driver market. What do you see for his future?

FT: First of all he has a contract with Red Bull.

Q: For how many years?

FT: That is confidential.

Q: But for more than just another year?

FT: For sure. Red Bull invested a lot of money to bring him into F1 and I think Max is happy with that partnership. He is now with Toro Rosso - what will happen in the future I don’t know yet. The normal step would be to move him to Red Bull Racing - one of the best teams in the pit lane. The future will tell.

Q: If you could risk a look into the future of Toro Rosso, how would 2016 ideally turn out?

FT: Finishing fifth in the constructors’ championship.

Q: That would imply that you are pretty satisfied with what your team, your drivers and your car have achieved over the last three days…

FT: Yes, I am. Because our times are real and not manipulated by low fuel and an unusual tyre choice. Our target for this first test is to find out where we are with the cooling and we have to see where we are in terms of reliability - last year we lost many races because of reliability issues. Then we have to understand the tyres in multiple long runs - and make sure the drivers get confidence with the new car and tyres. They are still young - both only in their second season. This is the first test. At the second test we will come up with new parts - and then we will have a look at the ultrasoft tyres, the softs and the medium to get a clearer picture about how they behave with our car. And then we are in Melbourne! And there we want to do well. Just ask Max and Carlos!