Outgoing AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost has reflected on the key moments of his Formula 1 career as he stepped away from the sport following the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Tost has been team principal of Toro Rosso, renamed as AlphaTauri in 2020, for 17 years, overseeing two Grand Prix victories for Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel for the team once known as Minardi.
Tost will depart his role at the end of the year with Ferrari‘s former sporting director Laurent Mekies succeeding him in his team principal role.
“It was a very interesting time I started on the 8th November 2005 in Faenza,” explained Tost to the media. “We had 85 people, and it was not so easy at the beginning, but Dietrich Mateschitz said to me, ‘Look, there are two pillars you have to take care of.”
“First of all, use the synergies with Red Bull technology and second to educate the young drivers they must come to Red Bull Racing, win races and if possible championships [and] I thought to myself, ‘Okay, clear what you want boss? And this is how we started, and it worked really well at the beginning.
“We got all the material, 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 teams changed the regulation they came up with the listed parts, which meant that we had to do nearly everything inhouse.
“We had to design the front wing, the rear wing, the complete bodywork, the diffuser, the floor, and the monocoque and we didn’t have the infrastructure for this.
“Which meant we had to find the people for the aerodynamic department, designers, production, quality control, and all this kind of stuff, and this was a difficult time. 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 in 2018 when we signed the Honda contract, we became the 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 clear the decision was right, and it was a fantastic cooperation with Honda and also a successful one. In 2019, we had two podium finishes, one with Daniil Kvyat at Hockenheim and Pierre Gasly in Sao Paulo, [after a] good fight against Hamilton, he just stayed ahead a few tenths.
“And 2020 was another big step. When Dietrich Mateschitz decided to build up this fashion company AlphaTauri he said now the team will be named Scuderia AlphaTauri because we have to promote AlphaTauri and we were the ambassador for AlphaTauri.
“Pierre Gasly managed to win another time in Monza, which meant this was [a] really successful time.”
Vettel’s first win the highlight of F1 career
Four years after taking over Minardi, who finished at last in the 2005 F1 constructors championship, Toro Rosso was a race winner when Vettel drove a perfect race to win the 2008 Italian GP.
The seeds of Vettel‘s glorious maiden victory came in Friday’s practice session when unusually wet conditions made straightline speed less of a priority.
Sensing a chance of a victory, Tost told Vettel and teammate Sebastien Bourdais to get as many laps completed as possible to get used to the wet conditions in case of a wet qualifying session.
Tost‘s gamble paid off as Vettel snatched a shock pole position from McLaren‘s Heikki Kovalainen before driving a masterful race in awful conditions to win his and Toro Rosso‘s maiden F1 race.
“Just to pick out one highlight is not so easy, but I will 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,” added Tost.
“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 the surface changes in the different parts of the track and in Lesmo 1 and Lesmo 2, there is the forest 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.
“When 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, and then to win the race all this together was really a highlight.”