Honda will succeed in Formula One – Interview with Franz Tost

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Toro Rosso’s team principal Franz Tost has faith in Honda after having witnessed the significant improvements that the Japanese engine-maker was able to achieve since it joined forces with the Italian squad. F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó sat down with the Austrian in Budapest to discuss Toro Rosso’s role inside the Red Bull family and the team’s future with the Japanese engine manufacturer.

The Faenza-based team arrived in Budapest in the best mood after scoring the second podium of their history in the German Grand Prix. At Hockenheim, Daniil Kvyat fought his way through the field thanks to an optimal strategy to clinch his third and the team’s second podium finish while his team-mate Alexander Albon also added important points with his sixth-place finish. Reflecting on the team’s best result since the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, Tost did not hesitate to praise the job that his drivers have done recently.

“The atmosphere is very good after the success, of course. I have to say that the team worked pretty well, it was not that easy, but we always managed to take the right decision in terms of tyre choices. At the end with Daniil Kvyat, it was a risky move, but it paid out. Our drivers, Alex Albon who was in fourth place for a long time and Daniil Kvyat both did a very good job under these difficult circumstances to bring the car home.”

In Hungary, the team was less successful, although thanks to Albon’s tenth-place finish they collected a championship point. However, the final race before the summer break was important for the Red Bull family in a different sense. The senior team’s newcomer Pierre Gasly delivered another disappointing result with finishing sixth and more importantly a lap down on his team-mate Max Verstappen. Dropping a bombshell on Formula One, the energy drink company-owned squad decided to make changes to its driver line-up with promoting Albon to the senior outfit and demoting Pierre Gasly to Toro Rosso.

In Budapest, Tost still sounded optimistic regarding the team’s driver pairing and expressed hopes to keep both of them for next year. “It has been not decided yet. Red Bull will take the final decision by the end of October. I am very much delighted with both our drivers. I would be happy to continue with them.”

According to the Trins-born team principal, Toro Rosso’s role inside the Red Bull family is well defined with preparing the young and best available drivers for the senior team is one of most important tasks for the Italian outfit. “The role has not changed since Dietrich Mateschitz bought the Minardi team. We have to train the young drivers for the Red Bull team. Furthermore, we have to use the synergy with Red Bull which we have been able to achieve so far. In this sense, nothing has changed. It is like it was before.”

No doubts about Honda’s abilities

After working with different engine manufacturers including Ferrari, Cosworth and Renault since its debut season in Formula One, on 15 September 2017, it was announced that Toro Rosso had secured a multi-year deal with engine supplier Honda who had severed its ties with McLaren after three years. Toro Rosso has been satisfied with Honda’s improvements after its troublesome joining to the hybrid era.

Honda is a world-known company. We were very happy when Honda decided to work with us as I am confident that Honda will have a successful future in Formula One. They have showed multiples times before that they are able to design successful Formula One engines. Compared to last year, they have made enormous steps forward and they also have a promising development programme. They plan to introduce a few changes to the engine to further close in on the top [manufacturers].”

Toro Rosso joined forces with the Sakura-based engine manufacturer in 2018 before the senior outfit Red Bull ditched its former supplier Renault. Honda’s early reliability and performance problems during its period with McLaren was also down to the lack of on-track data, but “with the two teams Honda can acquire all the necessary data to develop the performance of the engines and make it more reliable. With Red Bull, they have one of the best teams [as a partner] and Toro Rosso can play a supportive role in this sense.”

Asked in which areas Honda still needs to make inroads, Tost mentioned the qualifying engine settings. “They have to improve regardeing their qualifying modes, but Honda is aware of that as well. Apart from that, they are on the right path with their development steps.”

Crucial time for the sport

Formula One looks set to introduce new Sporting and Technical Regulation for 2021. Tost sounded critical about the way the money is shared out among the Formula One teams and urged the Commercial Rights’ Holders to find a way to make the field more closely-matched by converging the budgets of the top teams and mid-field outfits.

“Formula One, also FOM, Liberty Media and FIA have to do anything with the 2021 regulation to make the field more even, more competitive. The costs have to be reduced. The top three teams can spend EUR 500 million and the others can afford a [budget] of EUR 170 million. That is a huge difference. The money has to be shared in a more fair way as at the moment big teams receive now huge amounts of money while others much less. Changes have to be made to the Technical and the Sporting Regulations as well. If all these steps can be achieved, Formula One can have a bright future.

Despite originally facing a June deadline, F1 officials have confirmed the presentation of the 2021 regulations will be postponed until October. While many in the paddock fear that the delay could tie the hands of Liberty Media, Tost suggested that teams will have enough time. “No, it is not too late. Teams will have more than a year and they will be able to adopt [to the new regulations]” – he said.