Red Bull Racing has the luxury of owning two teams on the grid, but this comes with its pitfalls. Filling up positions is necessary, but preferably without the complications of someone who has too much of an own agenda. From the very first hour, Franz Tost was the man put forward by the Bulls to lead the side AlphaTauri (formerly Toro Rosso), a job the Austrian fulfils excellently year after year.
Not good enough as a driver
Just like his colleague Christian Horner, Franz Tost started out as a driver before getting into management. He took the Austrian Formula Ford Championship in 1983, but Tost deviated to pursue a career in the world of sports management. His training soon saw him returning to the class he had been driving in a few years earlier: Formula Ford (and Formula 3). As team manager of Walter Lechner Racing Team, Tost began the long road to the top of motorsport.
Through a job as manager of Willi Weber's Formula 3 team, Tost crossed paths with Ralf Schumacher, a driver he would accompany from the youth class to Formula 1. Franz’s F1 career started at Williams (although not as team principal but as Operations Manager) before he got his dream move: the brand new team Toro Rosso (formerly Minardi) was looking for a new team principal and Tost was the perfect candidate.
Guiding, training but mostly recovering
From day one, Helmut Marko made it clear he would be the man scouting junior drivers: Christian Horner and Franz Tost have a say but no more than that. Tost, therefore, also knows that young drivers will come and go at Toro Rosso. If they succeed, they get promoted to Red Bull. If it doesn’t? Then they can join the long list of drivers who weren't good enough.
Tost described his position as ‘challenging’ in 2019. Toro Rosso has to let drivers get used to Formula 1 but also functions every year as a place where he has to build people back up. This is because every season, there is someone who has been given a phone call from Helmut Marko and got demoted from Red Bull back to Toro Rosso.
It happened to Pierre Gasly in 2019, but with the help of Tost, he fought back hard in the second half of the season. Franz Tost's wish to keep the lineup the same for 2020 (Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat) was granted by Helmut Marko, but can easily be changed after 2020. Depending on how far the remaining drivers from the Bulls' junior program are (mainly Yuri Vips), 2021 could just be the year in which Tost gets a fresh new drivers’ duo.
Future depends on Red Bull Racing
Not only does Tost have little input about his drivers, a significant part of the car that is on the grid every year is also not in the hands of the Austrian. The team can’t make a concept themselves, but they have no reason to, Tost explained himself, as he said it’s hard to complain about receiving most parts from a Grand Prix-winning car from 2019 in the RB15.
AlphaTauri also benefit from the new collaboration with engine manufacturer Honda, although the team were initially the guinea pigs in 2018 before Red Bull committed to Honda as well in 2019.