Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri, Miami International Autodrome, 2023

Rookie drivers ‘need three years minimum in F1’ – Tost

2023 F1 season

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AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost says new Formula 1 drivers need at least three years to prove they can compete at the top level.

Tost, who will step down from his position at the end of the year, has overseen a succession of newcomers at Red Bull’s team for junior drivers over the last 18 years. For the majority of that time the team was known as Toro Rosso.

The team’s current drivers are Yuki Tsunoda, who is in his third season of F1, and Nyck de Vries, who had only made one start as a substitute driver before embarking on his first full-time season with AlphaTauri.

“Yuki is doing a really good job,” said Tost. “You can see his learning curve is going up very good, I must say.

Franz Tost, AlphaTauri Team Principal, Baku City Circuit, 2023
Young drivers experience a ‘crash period’ says Tost
“And Nyck, as I always say, if a rookie is coming to Formula One, he needs minimum three years to understand what’s going on here.”

De Vries is one of only two drivers yet to score a point this year, along with fellow rookie Logan Sargeant. Tost says he needs to be given time, and that even future champions such as Sebastian Vettel had rough periods early in their careers.

“It’s as I always say [it’s] the learning process and the ‘crash period’ because if the drivers don’t crash, they don’t know the limit. This is a credit you must give them, otherwise it doesn’t work.

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“There was no driver not crashing. I remember back to Sebastian, maybe in the first races came back in the first lap, most often without the front nose. It’s part of the game.”

Formula 1 has reduced the available practice time for drivers in recent season. Just three years ago each round featured four hours of practice. Now a regular round has three and the six sprint events have just an hour each.

Speaking at the first sprint event of the season at the Baku City Circuit, Tost said the cut in practice is especially tough on rookie drivers.

“We have free practice one and then you go into the qualifying,” he said. “And that’s problematic for the young drivers. For the rookies to get most out of the track, and of the tyres in the qualifying. That’s really a difficult exercise.”

Reports emerged yesterday claiming Red Bull reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo had recently had a seat fitting for Tost’s team, who he raced for in 2012 and 2013, prompting speculation over De Vries’ future. However RaceFans understands this seat fitting was done much earlier and Ricciardo is not under consideration to replace De Vries. Liam Lawson, who currently races in Super Formula, is expected to be the next driver in line for any seat which may become available.

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Toro Rosso and AlphaTauri drivers

DriverToro Rosso / AlphaTauri debutCareer progression
Vitantonio Liuzzi2006 Bahrain Grand PrixDrove for Red Bull before Toro Rosso.
Dropped at end of 2007.
Scott Speed2006 Bahrain Grand PrixDropped mid-2007
Sebastian Vettel2007 Hungarian Grand PrixDrove for BMW Sauber before Toro Rosso.
Promoted to Red Bull at end of 2008.
Sebastien Bourdais2008 Australian Grand PrixDropped mid-2009
Jaime Alguersuari2009 Hungarian Grand PrixDropped at end of 2011
Daniel Ricciardo2012 Australian Grand PrixDrove for HRT before Toro Rosso.
Promoted to Red Bull at end of 2013.
Jean-Eric Vergne2012 Australian Grand PrixDropped at end of 2014.
Daniil Kvyat2014 Australian Grand PrixPromoted to Red Bull at end of 2014.
Demoted to Toro Rosso four races into 2016.
Dropped late in 2017, then returned in 2019 and dropped again at end of following year.
Max Verstappen2015 Australian Grand PrixPromoted to Red Bull four races into 2016.
Carlos Sainz Jnr2015 Australian Grand PrixReleased to Renault late in 2017.
Pierre Gasly2017 Malaysian Grand PrixPromoted to Red Bull at end of 2018 but demoted to Toro Rosso after nine races.
Released to join Alpine in 2023.
Brendon Hartley2017 United States Grand PrixDropped at end of 2018.
Alexander Albon2019 Australian Grand PrixPromoted to Red Bull after 12 races.
Yuki Tsunoda2021 Bahrain Grand PrixCurrent driver.
Nyck de Vries2023 Bahrain Grand PrixDrove for Williams before AlphaTauri.
Current driver.

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35 comments on “Rookie drivers ‘need three years minimum in F1’ – Tost”

  1. AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost says new Formula 1 drivers need at least three years to prove they can compete at the top level

    Well, easing them into “the groove” would be easier if Domenicali dropped the pig-headedness about those short form races.
    Just take a short format race, and put all the next-gen drivers in last years car.
    Entertainment for the crowds, with the prospective drivers getting race practice in an F1 spec car.

    Oh, and Domenicali can drop the current setup without too much embarrassment.

    1. That’s what Formula 2 is. Also, F1 cars are bespoke machines. The cost of running a one year old one is astronomical. It’s not a realistic proposition.

    2. Sprint races/qualy should have 1 rookie driver in each team. Those sprint weekends would be more meaningful and have a purpose.

  2. The flip side to this is if every rookie gets 3 years, then you get less rookies in F1 in the first place.

    1. Jimmy Cliff
      12th May 2023, 9:38

      The reason of fewer rookies is that drivers have ever longer careers. Fernando, Lewis not retiring causes less seats to be available.

      With the extreme restriction on testing and further reduction on practice make it harder for rookies to get a seat as with the pressure for results teams often choose an older experienced driver than an unproven rookie. Certainly with the budget cap in place – the impact of a more crash prone rookie is greater than it was 5-10 years ago.

      Raikonnen, Bottas, Vettel all extending their careers outside top teams or the likes of Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Perez being drafted back in instead of rookies.

      So rookies needing more time are/will not be the reason of less rookies – it are the experienced drivers that cause that by staying longer (too long) in F1 for a variety of reasons.

      Maybe the FIA need to make a rule that a F1 driver can maximum be 10 seasons in F1. Yes I know it is questionable and has negatives but it does have 2 important upsides:
      1) Removes the pressure and actually desire to get into F1 as early as possible – so more time for young drivers to develop themselves in junior series. You could add that minimum age for F1 is 21 instead of 18.
      2) It ensures that F1 seats open up on regular interval which helps support the junior series – it would drastically reduce the chance that the F2 champion can’t get a seat in F1

      Potential added bonus is that some F1 drivers might choose to take a break from F1 to do racing in other series to than return later back to F1 as they didn’t do 10 years yet in F1

      1. It’s also the lack of new teams as well. Less teams, less seats etc…I plotted the trends and ‘new drivers’ per year has been on a steady decline since F1’s inception. This is partially why seats in junior categories are so monumentally high in cost. Demand has risen, supply has dropped. I don’t think a limit should added. That’s all artificial and messes up the sport. You can’t have a sport that boots out potentially the best drivers in favour of rookies. So many downsides.

        F1 is just F1. The only solution is an alternative to F1 or more teams.

      2. Do we want to create a goal of having more rookies?
        I am unconvinced. F1 should be reserved for the 20 (or 22, 24, 26…) best drivers in the world. If a 40+ year old is among them, then he should be in one of those seats, regardless whether it is a top seat or a backmarker seat.

        That is not to say that you should never allow drivers to mature. Maybe a rookie can outperform a Magnussen, Hulkenberg or Perez in a couple of years. In which case, they would be a better long-term choice.
        But still, F1 is not a development program, it is a battle for performance.

        1. Do we want to create a goal of having more rookies?

          No, it’s the team’s business who they hire. The FIA can set some minimum requirements, but other than that it’s no business of theirs, nor of the commercial rights holder. The talk about F1 having ‘the best drivers in the world’ is just the spin Ecclestone put on it. It was never true, and it doesn’t need to be. There are plenty of excellent drivers across the different series and there’s no need to put one down to elevate others.

          That said, as viewers we can be a bit disappointed that the turnover rate seems to have slowed down so much. Especially because this isn’t just try at the very top, but also in the midfield, where teams have put a huge premium on experience, without all that much to back it up.

          1. Let me rephrase then.

            The aim of each team should be to hire the best 2 drivers that are available.

  3. He might be right but I still expected De Vries to do better. Being behind Tsunoda is fine, he did seem to improve. But last year De Vries impressed by not making a mistake and therefore showing up Latifi. The start of this year is littered with mistakes.

  4. While Tost is correct in his reference words (which I’ve read/heard him say quite a few times over the years on different occasions), De Vries is still under threat if he continues at the current rate.
    Should he get replaced, his replacement most certainly wouldn’t be Ricciardo in any case, mainly because of AT’s purpose, not to mention he’s said he wouldn’t return only to make up numbers in lower positions.
    The seat-fitting report that came up yesterday was misleading in the first place, so I never bought into that as an indication.
    Additionally, while De Vries’ sacking would more realistically happen after the season than during, if it were to happen sooner & Lawson were to become his replacement, I wonder who’d replace Lawson in Super Formula for the remaining season.
    Everything’s only theortical & speculative for now, but a valid consideration because of possibility.

    1. @jerejj there are some sites that have pointed out that Ricciardo is listed as one of the potential reserve drivers that Alpha Tauri can draw on for 2023, as Red Bull and Alpha Tauri share their pool of reserve drivers.

      Those sites have suggested that Ricciardo does appear to have had a seat fitting at Alpha Tauri, but that was because Liam Lawson could not attend the Miami GP due to other commitments. There are also at least two Super Formula races which will clash with Formula 1 races this year – so, given Ricciardo is also a reserve driver for Alpha Tauri and is already attending races as a reserve for Red Bull, it looks like they’ve decided that he can also double up as a reserve for Alpha Tauri for the races Lawson can’t cover and the seat fitting was for that contingency instead.

  5. De Vries has been a disappointment, certainly – expectations were high given his record in other categories and of course his excellent debut for Williams last year.

    I am not sure Tost’s “three-year” rule is particularly persuasive – if you look at the most recent crop of F1 rookies to have made a decent fist of things (e.g. Norris and Russell, who both debuted in 2019), it was clear early on that they were likely to do well. For those who are just making up the numbers, it’s usually pretty clear within the first year or two.

    Also, poor Sebastien Buemi.

  6. “Rookie drivers ‘need three years minimum in F1’

    That is, of course, unless you are Max Verstappen..

    1. His first 3 years were littered with driving errors also….

      1. Jimmy Cliff
        12th May 2023, 9:52

        Was that any different with Vettel, Lewis, Alonso etc – it is exactly the point that Tost makes – rookies need time to find the limit and finding the limit means sometimes crashing.

        What made Max, Lewis, Vettel, Alonso etc different from your normal rookies is that they always showed great promise of speed and quickly learned from their crashes.

        It also makes a difference what car you drive – if you are at the back you always struggling with the car but there is maybe less pressure, if you drive a top car there is huge pressure but less struggling with the car.

        1. Alonso, Lewis etc… had full testing programs. Max is a bit of an outlier.

      2. @S:
        I read that a lot here on the board. But it is simply untrue. Also, you’re only just claiming it without facts. Just repeating it doesn’t make it true either. I’m not saying the kid was faultless, but you’re framing him to look like a liability which is just ridiculous.

        1. I did say “littered with driving errors” – not “full of crashes and obvious incompetence. A true danger to everyone on and off the track.”

          Well done for taking a simple sentence and painting your own picture over it, though.

      3. Red bull don’t mind mistakes as long as there’s speed; when speed is lacking you have a problem, even more so at red bull.

    2. Jimmy Cliff
      12th May 2023, 9:42

      ““It’s as I always say [it’s] the learning process and the ‘crash period’ because if the drivers don’t crash, they don’t know the limit. This is a credit you must give them, otherwise it doesn’t work.”

      This was spot on from Tost and also applies to Max, same as it applied to Alonso, Lewis, Vettel etc.
      All had more crashes/incidents in their early careers – it was also the period where they were under huge pressure to show their potential so they can stay in F1.

  7. I do so not agree with this. They either perform on par at the end of their first season or they should leave immediately. I am fed up with all these mediocre drivers. This is supposed to be the pinnacle of Motorsport. School time is over.

    1. Yes but who could replace them?
      The grid already has THE 20 best drivers in the whole wide world.
      Ummm doesn’t it. Dash it all I’ve been conned or misled again 😭

      1. Admittedly there is a funnel issue at this moment in time. At the beginning of the process more children need to get an equal chance to perform motorsport. I thought the F1 academy would take care of that but that turned out to be a rather non inclusive women only thing. Missed opportunity as far as I am concerned. I would firstly tackle the financial injustice and then the gender issue or both at the same time. Nowadays we certainly are not presented with the best drivers in the world but a sub set; the best drivers amongst the quite rich families (with an exception here and there). This needs to be addressed and will simultaneously up the overall level of what we are being presented at the moment.

  8. Piffle.
    That’s more than 70 races. Some newcomers are stinking up the back of the grid well before the end of their first season, still making dangerous moves on other drivers or crashing for no good reason and ruining races for everyone else.

  9. For whatever reason (definitely not Honda), Tost seems determined to convince himself that Tsunoda might some day turn out somewhat better than he has been up to now. Three full seasons with today’s number of races is, as @bullfrog noted, over 70 races. That’s longer than the careers of various WDCs. It’s also a luxury Tost and his Red Bull bosses didn’t afford Albon, Hartley, Bourdais, Speed, Liuzzi, Alguersuari, Buemi, or Vergne.

    1. Albon’s situation is different: he was dropped quickly from red bull, understandable: he was being demolished by verstappen despite, according to his toro rosso performance, he should’ve been much closer, which means in % terms he was extracting far more from the toro rosso, so they sent him back and he did well again. Vergne got 3 years I thought, but I believe he should’ve been promoted to red bull instead of kvyat.

    2. Oh, and btw, I say it’s understandable cause I constantly saw verstappen doing it all alone those years, and wanted them to get a decent 2nd driver, like perez is now, but even last year was already decent enough imo, I thought they did well demoting\firing both albon and gasly when they underperformed at red bull.

  10. So I guess according to some he must also be a mick schumacher fan, because some of us were arguing he deserved a 3rd season based on his performance, and got told that we only defend him because of the surname, yet tost thinks the same, although he didn’t mention him.

  11. Untalented hacks may take 3 years to develop, but genuine talent comes in and takes over. A great example was Michael Schumacher, he was impressive on his first drive, he had 2 teams desperate for him to drive for them, he went on to win frequently. He didn’t need 3 years because he had talent. Even Ralph was good to go pretty quick. Hamilton walked in to a great team and was a championship contender. True talent doesn’t need 70 races to figure it out.

    One problem I think exists today is the nanny nature of super rich kids being given way too many chances. F1 needs to dump more drivers mid-season, so only the truly competitive drivers remain. If you haven’t beaten your teammate in the last 5 races, all else being equal, out the door so a new young pup can beat that teammate.

    It’s a competition all the way through the grid, you are either on it or gone. A perfect example was Ricciardo, a proven race winner, once he slumped in form McLaren kept him for the entire season, whereas they should have cut their losses and gambled on an intermediate new driver until Piastri could race. Higher driver turnover means only talent survives. Right now it’s high paychecks for the team and severe underperforming hacks circling around aimlessly.

    1. You make a great point regarding the Schumachers and Hamilton.
      They went pretty much straight into strong teams – meaning opportunities to show their abilities were presented to them almost (if not actually) immediately.
      Contrast that with most of today’s newer drivers who have unbreakable ties to a specific team or manufacturer and get stuck in their worst cars at the back of the grid. Good drives go largely unnoticed, and certainly aren’t sufficiently respected, due to the relative lack of team competition throughout the pack and the almost complete lack of media time they get.

      Tsunoda is often bashed here, but maybe the car is only capable of 11th. In which case, he’s maximising it….

      Speaking of the comparison between Ricciardo and Piastri, it seems that the situation (and results) are worse now – so what has really been gained by turfing out their most experienced driver?
      Ricciardo in a Red Bull was winning – yet Ricciardo in a McLaren was talentless and wasting a seat, apparently….
      Funny how that perception perpetuates when drivers are stuck in poorer cars…

    2. @jasonj but, on the other hand, how many of those drivers would have looked quite as good as they did if they had to compete in the current environment, where the ability to test a car is now significantly more limited?

      Would Michael Schumacher have looked quite as good as he did if Jordan had not been able to able to rack up a large amount of mileage in private tests at Silverstone, followed by further private test sessions with Benetton at Silverstone before he raced for them?

      As an aside, if the managers of the time had taken your attitude, Michael might have never been given the opportunity to become a Formula 1 driver. If you look at the Formula 3 paddock at the time, the managers there – Eddie Jordan included – thought of Michael as one of the better drivers in the field at the time, but he wasn’t considered exceptional when compared to Frentzen or Wendlinger (the latter beating Michael when in German Formula 3 and the former being tied with him on points). Similarly, in sportscar racing, the contemporary attitude was that Michael didn’t really stand out relative to Frentzen or Wendlinger either – there wasn’t much clamour for Michael to be given a test in Formula 1, let alone a seat, based on his junior career.

      1. But, once Schumacher was given a temporary seat, he maximised the opportunity, smashed everyone’s expectations and never looked back. He quickly proved himself and continued to do so (until his return from retirement)

        Let’s not also forget, those options were available to a lot of other drivers at the time, all things being equal, a star had arrived. Same goes for Hamilton, a lot of mileage, like his contemporaries had as well.

        These days or this era, all the young drivers have/had the same restrictions (except Stroll perhaps) as each other, so all things being equal…

        Honestly, I doubt the current crop are very talented at all, they are marketed as talented, but it’s clear some are well below competitive level against their barely average teammates. To find a standout star a few gambles and chances have to be had. By locking in 2 year contracts for rookies is never going to sift through the talent pool to find the best, each team is stuck with average and worse, which makes it dead easy for old talent to appear to perform well. Some of the current drivers don’t even seen to want to be there, they just landed there because of deep pockets and it’s a cool image. We need hungry desperate to perform at their peak drivers, not clumsy smash happy narcissists that are more interested in social profiles than driving.

        1. All well and good to say that – but how many opportunities are today’s drivers actually given to excel?
          Teams monitor every detail and control everything the driver does down to the nth degree – young drivers are given less freedom to show their individual talents than ever, I would suggest.
          When you have no control over your actions, how can you appear to be better than anyone else who is forced into following the same sets of instructions.
          Remember – teams study data to find pace now, not driver input. In the past, however, the driver gave more valuable feedback than the sensors and computers did, because that’s all there was.
          It’s not that the drivers are less talented now, but simply that they are relied upon less and given an equivalent reduction in freedom. If you think they all seem untalented, maybe the answer is that it’s simply not their fault, but instead the circumstances they are placed in.

  12. A lot of people talking about drivers turning up and performing from eras when there was a huge amount of testing permitted. There’s no learning behind closed doors anymore.

    These days, especially if you’re not coming directly from F2, the tyres are so niche in F1 and I suspect as much as anything it’s tyres that take so much adjusting to rather than the cars or formula. De Vries may simply have performed so well last year because it wasn’t a track that required tyre much management.

    I definitely agree that potential and strong performances should be obvious well within 3 years. Well within the first year even. It’s the consistency that can take time. Tost didn’t say what the 3 years were needed to achieve. I’d accept 3 years to become a well rounded competitor but not 3 years to show ability.

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