Franz Tost belongs in the list of successful team bosses, mainly because of his contribution to the development of some of Formula 1's memorable drivers.
During his 18-year tenure at Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri, the Austrian had Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, and Max Verstappen under his wing and would help them on their way to becoming World Champions.
The 2023 season was the last for the 67 year-old, as he looks to settle into retirement away from the busy F1 schedule. In an exclusive interview with RacingNews365, Tost recalls some of the great years he had at the Red Bull sister team.
It begins with 2008, the year in which Vettel took a surprise victory at the rain-soaked Italian Grand Prix. Tost is proud but, as always, also remains critical.
"In 2008 we won at Monza and on the one hand that was a great success for the team," says Tost. "On the other hand - every medal has two sides - it caused a lot of problems, because the teams and the FIA decided to change the regulations.
"We had nowhere near the infrastructure to design our own car. The car we won with at Monza was an 'Adrian Newey car' The only difference was that we had a Ferrari engine and Red Bull had a Renault engine."
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"Had two old buildings to produce a car."
The regulation change would have a major impact on Toro Rosso and how the whole operation ran according to Tost.
"Before 2009 we had two old buildings to produce a car and had to set up an aerodynamics department, purchasing department, production department and quality control department. That took a lot of time and effort, and it was obviously a challenging period," he recalls.
The investment would pay off as Toro Rosso became a stable factor in F1, although it would take over 10 years before they would win another race. This time it was with Pierre Gasly, who had been rejected by Red Bull and was on a redemption mission.
"That was the next highlight. At that time we got a contract with Honda and that was very exciting. I can remember the people from McLaren were smiling and saying to me, 'You must be totally crazy, what do you want with Honda?' I said, 'Right, you are nowhere with Honda, but let's talk about it again in five years.' In the end it didn't even take me five years, because it was clear earlier."
During this period power unit makers could still bring updates to their engines, and after their tough (and sometimes embarrassing) spell with McLaren, Tost had a simple request for the Japanese manufacturer.
"2018 was a tough season because I requested from Honda to bring an update every race, to develop the engine a very high speed. They did, even though we had to start almost every race at the back [due to grid penalties]."
"But it was worth doing it, because Red Bull signed a contract with Honda for 2019 and the rest of the story is well known. In 2019, for example, Danill Kvyat finished third in Hockenheim and Gasly second in São Paulo by beating Hamilton by a few meters to the line."
"2020 was a new milestone for the team. We were given a new name: Scuderia AlphaTauri, a fashion brand founded by Dietrich Mateschitz. He wanted to promote the brand that way and it was a very successful year with Gasly's win at Monza, as was 2021."
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