Q & A with Franz Tost

Q. How has the first day with the new car gone?

Q & A with Franz Tost

Franz Tost: So far I must say we are quite happy with the car. The car looks nice - normally a car which looks nice is also fast. And fortunately - I don't want to say too much, but from the reliability side it looks good because Sebastien did a lot of laps. He did around 46 laps, which is quite good for the first time out with a new car.

And also with the set-up, we have already found some new steps forward, and I am convinced that after the four days testing here in Barcelona we will go - I don't want to say "well-prepared", but quite prepared for Melbourne.

And for the rest, we will see. If the basis of the car is good, and it looks like that - Adrian Newey and the team at Red Bull Technology have done a very good job - then it is easier to work out on the track. If the car doesn't work well then you are struggling. And we hopefully won't.

Q. We are looking at a McLaren that appears to be struggling at the moment. Do you think that the rule changes could shake the grid up this season?

FT: We must be careful. It depends which strategy the teams will go out with in Melbourne - with or without KERS - The KERS system, I think, will become quite an interesting topic because the system itself is quite heavy, and it has a massive influence on the weight distribution in the car. You for sure have an advantage after the start of the system on long straights like Bahrain or here in Barcelona, but there is also a question of what is the penalty for the tyres because you have a lot of weight on the back and it could be that the tyre degradation is quite high.

That means that the advantage that you got for the six seconds out on the long straight is being penalised by higher tyre degradation. So it's a compromise. I think from team to team it is different as to whether it is an advantage to go out with the KERS system or not.

Q. When will you make a decision about that for Melbourne?

FT: To be honest, I don't think that we will go out in Melbourne with KERS, because we have to do things step-by-step now. And the first step is to learn the car, what is the car doing, have we set up the car in the proper way, and to find reliability. Then after we have done those steps we will be thinking about KERS. But Giorgio Ascanelli will tell you more details about the KERS.

Q. You were quite late in deciding that Sebastien Bourdais would stay. How much was that influenced by the Honda situation and the availability of Jenson Button?

FT: No. To be honest, Jenson was never a choice for us. Bourdais was always first on our list, and the contract was signed in January. The season starts in March, but as far as I know Jenson Button has an agreement with Honda and therefore there was never any negotiations with Jenson Button or his management.

Q. Why did it take so long to make a decision about Bourdais?

FT: I don't think it took so long. The season starts late. I myself was convinced that it would be Bourdais and therefore there was no hurry to sign the contract early. It was - let me say an agreement between us that he would drive for us, and then the contract is a formal thing which was signed at the end of January.

Q. There were rumours last year that Mateschitz wanted to sell the team. Are you still looking for a buyer? And last year, you won a race - is that the target again for this year, or is it too unrealistic to think you will win again this year?

FT: Normally you go to a race to win races, but we must be realistic. Last year with Sebastian Vettel, I think Sebastian himself and also the team did a fantastic job. We also had a car with which you could win races. This year the cars are new and we hope we are prepared as well as possible and I hope that we will have similar successes to last year.

Regarding the selling of the team, this is mainly a question for Mr Mateschitz. Up until now, he is the owner of the team and I know that he is quite motivated, so we will see. You know that there is a regulation change; whether or not it makes sense to run two different teams is a decision which must be made by Mr Mateschitz himself.

Q. Is it true that you saved 100 million euros thanks to the cost reductions? And is it possible for a small team to win in general?

FT: We didn't save 100 million. That is nearly our budget for this season. No, but thanks to FOTA and the other manufacturers and Luca di Montezemolo, we could find a good way to save costs. Regarding the engine, we saved in 2009 around 50 per cent, and we will save a lot of money because of the test ban. As you know, during the season you are not allowed to test anymore. This helps a team like Toro Rosso tremendously.

Q. If your budget this year is 100 million with further cost reductions coming next year, what do you anticipate your 2010 budget will be?

FT: I don't want to talk too much about figures because from team to team it is always a little bit different. But there will be another cost reduction for the engine in 2010 of about 37.5 per cent. And regarding the gearbox, I think we will save another 60 per cent from the budget. Which means we are coming down with the costs, which is necessary otherwise we will struggle in the future.

Q. While costs are coming down, your team is increasing in size. Most other teams are cutting people, but you are adding staff.

FT: Yes. Not in all departments. We will add staff in the design department as well as the aerodynamic department, but all the rest of the departments are quite full with people. So this is fixed so far.

Q. How many people are there in the team?

FT: Currently in Faenza we have 178 people, and at the end of the season, beginning of 2010, I assume we will have around 250 people.

Q. Can small teams have the same level of performance as bigger teams?

FT: You have to do the job as efficiently as possible, and I think that is what we are doing. You cannot compare Toro Rosso with Ferrari or with McLaren or with BMW, they have much better infrastructure and they also have more people. But we will increase our infrastructure, we will develop our infrastructure, we will bring in people, and then we will see where we end up.

Q. Are the extra staff coming from Ferrari, or are you recruiting from other teams?

FT: No. It's not always a must that they are coming from Formula One. We have also got some other people there. We will see where we end up. Where the people are coming from is not decided yet.

Q. You have to become a constructor next year. How big a challenge will it be to prepare for that while trying to develop this year's car?

FT: No, I think it is parallel work to develop this year's car. And this year's car will also be the basis for next year's car, although you have to make a completely new chassis because next year you are not allowed to refuel anymore, and that means that the fuel capacity will increase massively and therefore you need to design a completely new chassis. But the basis of the car will generally stay the same.

Q. Are you 100 per cent sure that the team will still be there in 2010.

FT: Yes. I am always optimistic.

Q. And realistic?

FT: Also realistic.

Q. Have you decided upon a third driver?

FT: We will share the third driver. It is Brendon Hartley, who is the driver from the Red Bull driver pool, and I think that we are safe on this side as well.

Q. Sebastien Buemi has a tough task this year as a rookie because there is no testing?

FT: Yes. As you know, for Sebastien Buemi we did a special winter testing programme in November/December we did the tests, and also in January we were out with the old car. The reason for this was mainly to give Sebastien Buemi as many miles as possible because he has to learn the car, he has to learn the team, he has to learn something about the technical side, so that was the reason why we said, OK, let him do as many kilometers as possible and as many tests as possible so that he gets familiar with the Formula One environment.

And we can see now how good the job was with him. But I am quite convinced - he increased his performance from test to test, and also his technical feedback became better and better, and I am very optimistic regarding Sebastien Buemi.

Q. But you are looking at Sebastien Bourdais as the kind of leader on the track this year, as he is the most experienced driver?

FT: The leader of the team is always the fastest driver. We will see who that is. I expect normally it should be Bourdais, because Bourdais knows all the race tracks now, he knows Formula One quite well, and he knows the team. And we are back to slick tyres, and I think that is quite an advantage for him. The rest, we will see.

Q. What are your expectations in terms of points this year? How many points do you want to score?

FT: As many as possible. Normally you should always hope to be better than the year before. Last year we scored 39 points, so this year if we get 40 points I will be happy.

Q. Do you miss Sebastian Vettel?

FT: A driver like Sebastian Vettel you would always miss, because he is very talented, he is very fast, I have always had a very good relationship with him - yes, I miss him.

Q. Do you think he can win this season?

FT: I think so far the car looks good. I think is will be able to always finish in the points, and also on the podium, and I would not exclude that he could win some races.

Q. How can you explain Bourdais' bad performances last year? Was it bad luck, lack of talent?

FT: To come to Formula One is not easy. There were a couple of factors last year. The first one, the change from Champ Cars to Formula One cars - the weight of a Champ Car is around 800 kilos, a Formula One car is around 600 kilos. That's quite a great difference. Then, the brake system - in F1the braking is twice as much as in the Champ Car series. And then you have a little bit more downforce.

And also I think Vettel was a little bit of an issue, because if you come into a team as an experienced driver and there is a young driver being so fast, it is not so easy. Then the grooved tyres; coming from slicks to grooved tyres is a tremendous change in the driving style.

And then Formula One itself, the qualifying system and everything - to get it exact is a difficult task and I must say that Sebastien did a good job last year. He had some technical failures, which was the fault of the team, and therefore I am quite convinced that if we can get everything together then he will do a good job this year. That is the reason why he is with us.

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