Franz Tost, AlphaTauri Team Principal, Baku City Circuit, 2023

Why the head of Red Bull’s finishing school has chosen to move on

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After 18 years in one of the fasted-paced sports in the world, Franz Tost’s time in the Formula 1 paddock is coming to an end. But his legacy will continue to be felt for many years, as many of the current and retired drivers have benefitted from his guidance.

Among those he introduced to the series are two multiple world champions. Four-times champion Sebastian Vettel and two-times (for now at least) winner Max Verstappen both flourished under his guidance. Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz Jnr and Daniel Ricciardo all went on to become race-winners. Others enjoyed success in WEC and Formula E after their time under Tost’s tutelage.

“I will not be in the pit lane anymore,” revealed Tost, 67, last month. AlphaTauri will therefore have a new face at the helm for the first time since it was bought by Red Bull and entered into F1 in 2006 as Toro Rosso.

Tost is the second longest-serving team boss in F1 today, his longevity exceeded only by the man at the helm of Red Bull’s other team, Christian Horner, who took up the reins of the top team in 2005. Current Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies will replace Tost, returning to Faenza after nearly 20 years away, having originally worked at Minardi before it became Toro Rosso.

Vettel won with Tost before Red Bull’s first victory
Red Bull’s goal for its second team was always to mentor young drivers and train them to become future world champions, something Tost holds close to his heart. However, when asked about his personal highlights from his time in charge, it wasn’t either of the team’s shock wins he chose, but the progress they made from their unpromising beginnings in 2005.

“When Dietrich Mateschitz [co-founder of Red Bull] called me and said, you go now to Italy,” Tost recalled, “when I came there and saw what it looked like – because I couldn’t believe that this is the infrastructure for a Formula 1 team – and then to build a team up.

“It was not one [single] highlight as such, no, it was a fantastic time to build together with the team Scuderia AlphaTauri, and at the beginning Toro Rosso, in Italy, especially Emilia Romagna and Faenza.

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“It’s a fantastic area. You have really good people there, you have enthusiastic people there. They have passion for F1, they like to work. And it was a real pleasure to build everything up together with these people.

Verstappen made his F1 debut at Tost’s team
“It’s not one highlight. Of course you will see now someone can say the two wins in Monza were good. But no, it’s generally everything.”

Naturally Tost also got a lot of satisfaction from watching those who passed through his finishing school go on to better things and bigger successes.

“Mateschitz said you have to educate the young drivers and then if you see that Vettel won races and championships, the same with Verstappen or with Daniel Ricciardo, Sainz and Gasly – so that’s good to see. Now Yuki Tsunoda is developing and then Nyck de Vries will also get there. This is a good feeling for the team.”

The death of Mateschitz in October last year, following a long illness, prompted leadership changes at the soft drink giant. However Tost said his departure is not a consequence of Mateschitz’s passing.

“I discussed this beforehand also with Dietrich already, that we are looking for a replacement,” he explained. “This has nothing to do with the passing away, which was, of course, a big shock for me because we were quite close.

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“This decision was beforehand. It was not from one day to the next. I said ‘in the next years’, and I made it clear [that by] 70 I will not be any more on the pit lane. This is what I made very clear.”

Gasly delivered their second win in 2020
Tost has a reputation for not suffering fools gladly. However he has demonstrated his ability to cultivate young talents, most recently with Tsunoda. The newcomer to the grid in 2021 showed flashes of speed but a lot of rawness and a tendency to let rip on the radio.

Red Bull took the decision to relocate Tsunoda to Italy to help him perform better closer to Tost and the team. He was then under close supervision at Faenza with most of his working days scheduled heavily by Tost.

Tsunoda detailed his regimented schedule during the 2021 season: “From nine o’clock, gym session to 11 – which is an experience I never had – 11 to 12:30 was engineer meeting and lunch and having also English lesson… Three to 4.30 is again engineer meeting and 4.30 to six is again gym session.”

His schooling at Tost’s team appeared to pay off. His performance started to take an upward trend, his irate radio messages became less frequent and his driving style more controlled. His latest team mate De Vries is five years older than him but with his greater F1 experience Tsunoda is leading the way.

Tsunoda admitted he was “surprised” by the news of Tost’s retirement. “Hopefully, we can end the season in a positive way for him. We need lots of development, but we have an aggressive plan to do it.”

“I’m feeling really kind of appreciative to him that he trusted my speed in the last three years,” Tsunoda added. “He was always supportive next to me. I’ll try to make it up for him in the next races.”

Tost’s final race will be the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November. He won’t step away completely from the sport – he will remain at the team in 2024 in a consultancy job. But he also plans to spend his hard-earned time away from the paddock indulging his long-term love of skiing in the Alps.

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Author information

Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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2 comments on “Why the head of Red Bull’s finishing school has chosen to move on”

  1. The regimented schedule Tsunoda had in his debut year was interesting, especially him having English lessons, which shows that he moved to Europe with somewhat limited fluency.
    He isn’t the only Japanese driver who became decently or properly fluent in Europe as at least rally driver (& formerly a circuit-racing driver) Takamoto Katsuta also only spoke English limitedly when moving to Europe.
    As for the relevant individual in this article, i.e., Tost, his stepping down decision was wholly understandable, given how long he’s been doing constant travelling between different countries & continents.
    Working in F1 is generally tough regardless of position.

  2. “fluent in Europe”? 🤣

    Still, always gotta be the first to comment…

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