Tost “doesn’t trust” AlphaTauri’s engineers after disappointing start to season

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost says he no longer trusts their engineers after their car failed to deliver the expected gains in performance this year.

“During the winter months they told me the car is fantastic, we’re making big progress,” he said in today’s FIA press conference. “Then we come to Bahrain and we are nowhere.”

The team left the season-opening race in Bahrain without any points. Drivers Yuki Tsunoda and Nyck de Vries finished 11th and 14th respectively.

There were some encouraging signs of the car’s performance in practice for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix today, said Tost. However he says he “expected a much better car” after the team slumped to ninth in the championship last year.

“We struggled in Bahrain, it looks a little bit different here,” he said. “I hope that at least we [get] one car in Q3, but we have to do a lot of things to make the car faster, especially on the aerodynamic side.

“There are different programmes going on. The engineers tell me that we make some good progress, but I don’t trust them anymore. I just want to see the lap time because this is the only thing which counts.”

He summarised the AT04’s shortcoming as: “Not enough downforce, therefore the car is unstable under braking, overheating the rear tyres, washing-out at the apex, bad traction. Everything you need to do a good lap time.”

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Tost said the team needs to show it has chosen the right development direction for its car. “During the winter months we saw that, at least on the paper, on a computer, we made big progress in comparison to last year’s car,” he said. “But all these figures nowadays, as I mentioned before, I don’t trust them anymore.

“I want to see now with the next steps that we go in the right direction, that we can improve the performance of the car, that we are able to do this. There is a special design work on the floor, brake ducts and all the other aerodynamic parts.

“I think now with all the knowledge we have after the Bahrain test and after the Bahrain race, the engineers should be in a position to sort it out and to come up with new parts which improve the performance of the car.”

Tsunoda and De Vries ended today’s practice 13th and 17th respectively. Chief race engineer Jonathan Eddolls said the team sacrificed some of its running to conduct tests to better understand how the car was performing.

“A lot of analysis had been completed by the engineers between Bahrain and this event, which led to some interesting directions to try with the set-up at this track,” he said. “Saudi Arabia’s characteristics are quite different, in particular, with the requirement for a more efficient car and good performance in high-speed. In some ways, we expected this to suit our car better.”

“The focus in FP1 for Nyck was to complete as many laps as possible, given that it’s his first time driving here. For Yuki, we had a number of aero tests to complete, so we had to sacrifice some time in the garage to complete these; but they are important to help with development.”

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2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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11 comments on “Tost “doesn’t trust” AlphaTauri’s engineers after disappointing start to season”

  1. Damn, that’s a pretty brutal thing to come out and say. You’ve immediately lost the support of 80% of the team there.
    Confessing disappointment is one thing, but trust is more than just “the car’s not good enough”.
    So tin hat on, this means Red Bull are more likely to sell AT to Andretti now!

    1. I just watched the interview and he looked really fed up with the situation. They promise things and the reality is different. They have gone from winning a race in 2020 and scoring good points in 2021 to slipping towards the back of the grid. The goal for that team is to secure 5th position in the constructors, it’s not that crazy. But they’ve never managed to do it.

      While I would like to see Andretti enter the sport, I would prefer Alpha Tauri remain and improve. Maybe Tost needs to let go of some of the dead wood.

      1. Bear on mind that Key went to McRubbish…

  2. If AT wants to get better over the years, Tost will have to go. You can’t rebuild the culture after a comment like this…

  3. The engineers tell me that we make some good progress, but I don’t trust them anymore.

    Unfortunately this is exactly the time you need to trust your engineers because they are the only ones who can fix the car. There could also be a culture problem because at some companies the junior management are encouraged to tell the senior management just the good news, and that bad news should be swept under the carpet. So it may be these optimistic reports he’s been getting are because that’s what the staff think he wants to hear, or worse, because that’s what he’s told them he wants to hear.
    Legend has it Bill Gates refused to accept a memo unless it contained bad news. My third rule for fixing things is big failures cause small failures, and in this case the big failure isn’t the car didn’t perform as expected, but that he was surprised by the lack of performance. The buck has to stop at the desk of the Team Principal. Not trusting his engineers means they won’t trust him, which will delay the response to improving the car. Maybe Franz needs to spend more time talking to his staff to find out what they are doing.

    1. @drycrust Yeah, I agree. He is passing the blame back to them, which isn’t helpful. It’s not a very efficient way to run a team. Before saying they don’t tell me the truth, maybe he should ask himself why.

    2. @drycrust some of Tost’s previous comments about employee welfare – or, rather, the fact that he doesn’t really seem to care about employee welfare – suggests that he’s not the sort of boss who is interested in talking to his staff to find out what is wrong.

      I also wonder if Tost is perhaps lashing out at the technical department to draw attention away from the way in which the team has been run. For years, the strategy that has been agreed between Red Bull and Alpha Tauri revolved around Alpha Tauri buying in the maximum amount of components from Red Bull, with limited investment being made into Alpha Tauri’s facilities and their technical department shrinking as fewer components were being designed in house.

      The 2022 regulations require more components to be developed in house, yet the technical department has lost several of their more experienced senior members of staff and not really had any major infrastructure upgrades for years. Perhaps it’s not surprising that, now the regulations are placing more emphasis on a technical department that has been run down over the years, problems that were being papered over by buying in components from the parent company are now being exposed.

  4. Nothing like a motivational speech by the boss. This will just put people’s backs up rather than encouraging them. It’s an awful way to manage.

    1. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
      18th March 2023, 14:17

      beatings will continue until morale improves

  5. Dirty linen in public. What a charmer!

  6. The buck stops with the team principle even if he doesn’t have any technical duties. If the engineers don’t tell the full picture then they don’t have any respect for him which is understandable given how he is publicly trashing them. I wonder what’s like working with this man in the office away from cameras.

    This comes at a time where the new Red Bull board of direction are closely monitoring the AT situation and are seriously considering monetizing on what they consider a liability. Horner is pushing towards a move to the UK that will create new synergies for RBR.

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