Franz Tost reflects on his F1 career as he talks about drivers he has worked with, as some of them cherish their times with him.
After over two decades in F1, Tost has bid the sport goodbye after his last weekend with AlphaTauri in Abu Dhabi. He started his journey with Williams BMW in 2000 and moved to Toro Rosso in 2005 with whom he stayed until 2013 under two different names.
A 23 years journey in F1 and 18 years at Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri is a huge testament to his work and bond with the Red Bull family. Over the years, he has worked with several drivers which includes champions like Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen.
He has worked with race winners too where the list includes Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz. It has been a long journey which is difficult to sum-up but Tost has done so. He will remain as consultant in 2024 but only to help in smooth transition.
Reflecting on 18 years with one team –
Tost: “It was a very interesting time, I must say. I started on the 8th of November, 2005, in Faenza, and we had 85 people. It was not so easy at the beginning, but as you know, Dietrich Mateschitz said to me, look, there are two pillars: you have to first of all use the synergies with Red Bull Technology and for 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. And it worked really well at the beginning. 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 Monza, afterwards, the FIA and the teams changed the regulation. They came up with the listed parts, which meant that we had to do nearly everything in-house. We had to design the front wing, the rear wing, the complete bodywork, the diffuser, the floor, and the monocoque.
“We didn’t have the infrastructure for this, which meant we had to find the people for the aerodynamics department, designers, production, quality control and all this kind of stuff. This was a difficult time, yeah? But 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. The next biggest step was done in 2018, when we signed the Honda contract, we became this Honda works team. And 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 much earlier clear that the decision was right. And it was a fantastic cooperation with Honda, I liked it very much.
“And also a successful one. In 2019 we had two podium finishes, if I remember right, one with Donald Kvyat at the Hockenheimring and one with Pierre Gasly in São Paulo, he had a good fight against Hamilton, he just stayed ahead a few tenths or one or two tenths, something like this. And 2020, another big step when Dietrich Mateschitz decided to build up this fashion company, AlphaTauri, and he said now the team will be named Scuderia AlphaTauri, because we have to promote AlphaTauri and we were the ambassador for AlphaTauri and it was also exciting and interesting. And Pierre Gasly managed to win another time in Monza, which meant this was a really successful time. Then regulation change once more and we struggled with the new regulations. Last year’s car didn’t work and I was totally shocked. Then this year at the beginning the car did not work.
“And I just said to the aero department and the engineers they have to bring to every race an upgrade, something like this. I know some of your colleagues criticised us, saying we will lose the control about everything. And then I just said we be anyway didn’t have control, yeah. Therefore, just bring new parts and improve the performance of the car. I just want to see a good lap time and the rest I’m not interested in. And I must say it worked out well. We brought a big upgrade to Silverstone, then to Singapore, also to Austin. And we have also, as I mentioned before, a new upgrade for Abu Dhabi.”
Highlight, regrets –
Tost: “Just to pick out one highlight is not so easy, but I would say the first victory with Sebastian Vettel was really a highlight, because this was a hard fight. And it came so good together because I remember back, I was sitting with Gerhard Berger on the pit wall and we knew that it could rain on Saturday and Sunday, this was on Friday. And then 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. And we told our drivers to do as many laps as possible just to get used to the wet track. And then when the qualifying started and the rain increased, then I saw some cars going out with the intermediates and I said to Gerhard, ‘forget them, they are lost’. And they were lost.
“And then to win the race, all this together, was really was a highlight, I must say. Regret. Yeah, that last year the car didn’t perform well and this was a big shock. And we had to reshuffle the aero department. It was really difficult. Because you realise that the car doesn’t work and I went to the HR director and said that we need three, four, or five senior aerodynamicists. And this is not from one day to the next day, because they are all blocked by one year or something like this. That means we started last year in March, April, to recruit people. And they started this year, one in April, one in July, the next in September, because of the garden leave period. And this was quite tough, because I’m not the most patient person. I wanted the success is here yesterday, not in a few weeks or months.”
Drivers you worked with –
Tost: “It would be unfair to say now. Of course, Max Verstappen or Sebastian Vettel. They impressed me, but I must say also the other drivers. When they came to us, I must say, they had a very professional approach. And they worked really close together with the team. And what I liked is how they developed themselves, because this is also an important factor from the sporting side, but also from the human side. And from the 17 drivers, I have none in mind where I would say ‘forget him, he is totally useless’. They all had their strengths. And they were all good characters. And of course, Sebastian now and Max Verstappen they won so many championships that everybody thinks now OK, these were the best. They were the best, no discussion about this.
“They were the best, from the talent, from the driving skills, especially from their passion. That’s very, very important. But also from their discipline. Both of them are really disciplined. And I remember, Sebastian, he took care about everything, the nutrition, the training, he wanted to know really everything, also about the technical side. And that’s the point, they were also quite innovative, which meant they studied other drivers, they knew exactly what was not so good last year, where they had to improve. They were quite honest with themselves. They didn’t tell this to the outside, but to them, they knew exactly where they had to work. And this was quite interesting to observe. All of them were OK.”
Drivers you worked who didn’t have long F1 career –
Tost: “Yeah, Jean-Eric Vergne, I think he could have made a successful career in Formula 1, as well as Daniel Kvyat, both of them are really very, very fast. And Jean-Eric Vergne showed this also in Formula E, I think he won twice the World Championship and also Sebastian Buemi sometimes showed the good performance. He also won the 24 hours of Le Mans, so they were drivers in our team, they really had high skills. They were then sorted out because another driver was coming and we simply don’t have so many places, neither at Red Bull Racing nor at Scuderia Toro Rosso, Scuderia AlphaTauri. But from the skills, nearly all the drivers reached a quite high level.
Racing under Tost –
Daniel Ricciardo: “I’d say tremendously. I think for the team, he’s been everything, you know, obviously starting off in the Toro Rosso days, you know, that’s where I started, or my first full season in F1. You know, I remember quite vividly the first meeting I had in his office and, you know, I kind of bounced in with a smile. And I think he looked at me like… Tried to prepare me for what’s ahead. You know, it’s a serious sport and it’s a tough old world. So I think, yeah, he was very honest with me as well, but it made me… A little bit the same as with Helmut, it kind of made me mature a little quicker and ultimately grow up and I think Franz has always been really involved.
“You know, he’s in every debrief, he’ll normally speak as well in debriefs and give some analysis or advice or anything he’s seen. He’s fully involved in it. And it’s his passion. It’s been everything that’s kind of given him drive for so many years. I hope he can enjoy putting his feet up a little bit next year. I’m not sure fully what that’s going to entail for him, but I really hope he’s able to enjoy some R&R, but yeah, a lot of good memories and actually really nice for me personally to come back to the team and be here for his farewell.”
Pierre Gasly: “He’s been a big key player in my career, I raced almost for five years and I got to learn, got to know him probably better than most of the drivers. He’s been amazing with me, very honest, unique personality, very straightforward but I am massive respect for him and for the dedication and love for the sport and the passion he has for Formula 1 is…he’s given his whole life for this. He’s given his whole life for Toro Rosso and AlphaTauri, was always the first one at work and last one to leave, extremely demanding on his people but when you got someone who put such efforts, I think it can only be respectful.
“On the personal side of things, he’s always had great intentions, pushed me, tried to always extract my massive potential, try to review the races and the laps, the tyre preps, always try to make myself a better driver and that’s respectful and the dialogue with him, I am very grateful. I know he was more and more talking about skiing in the last few years, so I could know what trajectory he was going, I think he’s done definitely a fantastic job running the team like he did.
Yuki Tsunoda: “Franz Tost has been the only F1 team boss I’ve worked with. I feel I’ve been fighting for him this year. Without Franz I wouldn’t be here, at a lot of races, he’s been giving me advices even at bad moments along with good moments and happiness we share. He’s been my biggest supporter in the team and he always trust my talent, my speed and everything. Even my first season when I was struggling, he was believing that I can do it, without that kind of good back-up, I wouldn’t be able to develop to be the driver I am now, probably I would rush much more and lost the way. I think how he treated me in that time was like for me was really helpful.”
Here’s Yuki Tsunoda on missing out
Here’s link to a F1 Discord channel, join in to interact