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Franz Tost explains what is expected from a Red Bull junior driver
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Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Sep 2013   |  9:23 am GMT  |  21 comments

The best funded and most prominent young driver programme in F1 is the Red Bull Junior programme, which brings drivers through from the junior categories to F1 with Toro Rosso. If they shine there they may get a chance in the Red Bull team, if a space arises.

This is the pathway which has so far produced Sebastian Vettel and now Daniel Ricciardo.

In Singapore Franz Tost, the team principal of Toro Rosso, spelled out what exactly he and Helmut Marko, the mentor of the Young Driver Programme are looking for and it’s quite interesting so merits some attention.


Here is what Tost said in the FIA press conference on Friday,

“Generally speaking he has to be skilled; he has to have talent.

“For example, currently the Red Bull drivers, all the drivers from the Red Bull driver pool, have won a championship when they were racing in a lower class. Vettel, for example, in BMW junior. Daniel Ricciardo as well as [Daniil] Kvyat and [Carlos] Sainz won in the Renault 2.0 litre championship. Jean-Eric Vergne won the English championship as far as I know, with the highest number of victories. That means this is a good basis where they showed their talent. This is the first point.

“The second point: they must be patient.

“That means if a driver is coming to Toro Rosso he has to live Formula One 365 days a year. There should be nothing around that disturbs him and he has to be 100% concentrated on this job.

“The next important point is discipline. Discipline does not only mean he arrives in time for the meetings, discipline means also that he, for example, in qualifying does not overdrive the car; that he respects the schedule for his physical training; that he respects all the important facts of nutrition and that he respects what the engineers tell him.

“The next important point is innovation. He should think first how he can beat, at first his team-mate and for second all the other competitors. That he must think in advance; that he must be well prepared.

“All these factors together decide together whether a driver becomes successful and wins races and championships or not, and we are looking for this.”

This is all highly relevant at the moment because there is a vacancy at Toro Rosso for next year, replacing Ricciardo. Who is on the short list?

Antonio Felix da Costa (above right) was the favourite in the days after Ricciardo’s promotion was announced but paddock voices seem to have cooled on him in recent weeks, although he has picked up his results in World Series 3.5.

There is a big push for Carlo Sainz Jr, 19 (above left), to get the seat; his rally champion father knows which buttons to press to get things to happen and Toro Rossa has Spanish oil company Cepsa as a sponsor but he doesn’t look ready. Da Costa is the most prepared; Red Bull like to take drivers out of World Series and he is competing there at the moment, but he is being outperformed by McLaren proteges Stoffel Vandorme and Kevin Magnussen.

It is interesting that Tost mentioned the Russian driver Kvyat, as he is one who seems to be highly rated within the driver fraternity itself. He’s emerged as the leading force in GP3 as the season has gone on. But he too is not ready for F1.

It will be interesting to see what Tost, Marko and the rest decide to do, but at least we now have a clearer picture of the criterion by which they judge.

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21 Comments
  1. vitaly says:

    so they have to be patient, didn’t do algersuari much good.

  2. madmax says:

    I think they should have a test day where all the juniors who didn’t make it compete and the fastest gets the seat next year.

    So Klien, Liuzzi, Speed, Buemi and Alguersuari get ready for one last swing at the big-time!

  3. Charles says:

    “Jean-Eric Vergne won the English championship as far as I know, with the highest number of victories.” I think that’s not right. Actually Vergne won 12 races, but I think Takuma Sato has the record, a driver who they sould have hired in 2009.

    I think it’s quite clear they will pick Da Costa. Lots of demands anyway.

    1. Lent says:

      Sato got 12 victories in his title winning British F3 campaign.
      Vergne got 13.

      But the record holder is Jan Magnussen with 14 victories in his title winning campaign.

      But anyway, I agree that AFdC is the clear pick, considering that it’s known that he, Sainz or Kvyat are the choices, and the latter two have already been ruled out previously.

      1. Charles says:

        But Sato also won the Macau Grand Prix and the Masters of Formula Three in 2001, which means 14 wins.

  4. AndyFov says:

    Their formula, it makes sense, I guess, if you want a winner – but I can’t help but feel that it’s unlikely to produce a charismatic maverick.

    And, if Seb Vettel’s anything to go by….

    1. SteveS says:

      There are no “charismatic mavericks” in F1. The demands for hard work and discipline described above are the norm for the entire sport. It takes a monkish dedication to be a top F1 driver, or to be any F1 driver.

      1. Martin says:

        I liked Mark Spitz’s comment about swimming – having your head buried in chlorinated water for 5 hours a day is unlikely to enhance your personality. F1 is fairly similar.

        The tastes in music of F1 drivers all tend to be pretty mainstream from those I’ve come across. I tend to find that’s not a bad guide to other interests.

  5. gpfan says:

    All seems rather basic. I think all teams are looking for the same thing in young drivers.
    Just my opinion.

  6. Rob Newman says:

    I love to see Betske Visser on the second seat soon.

    1. Martin says:

      Thanks for pointing her out. I noticed in the quote that Tost used “he” a few times. Since she’s 18 now there’s a bit of time for her to get through a couple of levels.

      The current era of F1 cars are well suited to smaller drivers as peak brake pressures that stronger drivers can apply hurt the tyres more, while lighter drivers can run more ballast and that allows a lower centre of gravity and from that less weight transfer and faster cornering speeds – not huge but it adds up.

  7. Gudien says:

    Thanks James for an illuminating article on one of the lesser teams on the grid. Enjoyed reading the comprehensive, professional response from Tost. Just as I’d expect from a man playing a major role in Red Bull’s F-1 future.

    Both Tost and especially Marko have come under heavy criticism from fans of the sport for their leadership at Toro Rosso. It’s indeed tough making everyone happy when young driver’s careers are at stake. Good to see just what the criteria are at Red Bull/Toro Rosso thus giving us a better understanding of decisions made.

  8. Maple says:

    How does Red Bull defend cutting Robert Wickens. He won multiple championships AND he bettered both current Toro Rosso drivers in FR3.5.

    1. KGBVD says:

      Agreed,

      How they treated Wickens just shows how arbitrary the whole situation is. Robert won the FR3.5 championship, and was shown the door for his efforts. He beat both JEV and Ricciardo that year, and other ‘prospects’ like Alex Rossi and Hartley. When he tested for Virgin, he destroyed Pic. In DTM this year he is currently 4th in the standings, ahead of Spengler, Paffett, Green and Timo Glock.

      Massively talented guy, and it breaks my heart to hear that Juncadella’s name is being thrown around as a future Merc F1 driver and not Wicken’s.

      It seems he’s being ignored for the sake of it (unless he has a massive fault that I’m not aware of).

      1. peter chappell says:

        Agreed,

        Robert appears to be the next Tommy Byrne.

  9. EA says:

    I think he put part of what is discipline into patience…

  10. Martin says:

    The choice Red Bull makes will be interesting. Presumably there is nothing that prevents it taking a driver from outside the program, as Toro Rosso did with Bourdais. Robert Frinjs wouldn’t appear to be unworthy.

    With only six drivers in the program it doesn’t give many options if they want to look inside the tent. Kyvat’s results are impressive in the last two years and with a bit more pre-season testing available next year I wouldn’t rule him out for a race seat.

    Another consideration is what will happen to Vergne. If Ricciardo does well enough to keep a Red Bull drive for 2015, that to me seems like the end of Vergne as a Red Bull driver. Four season in Toro Rosso makes little sense. So I suspect there will be a vacancy at Toro Rosso in 2015 as well, so that makes Da Costa the safe choice.

    I don’t know enough about the drivers backed by other teams – BMW and Red Bull were able to work out an arrangement with Vettel. McLaren may be able to do the same thing. Red Bull will presumably want to keep Vergne on his toes if the “has to beat his team mate” aspect has much merit. Although, if Vergne has a weak team mate he might eventually get his head around qualifying.

  11. George says:

    Tio Ellinas? Was leading the GP3 season for the majority of the season in a Marussia (not as bad as they are in f1 but nonetheless inferior machinery)

  12. TRS says:

    That they should be 100% concentrated on F1 bothers me. It seems to mean that a driver can have no interests beyond racing. It hardly allows a fully rounded human being to become a Toro Rosso driver. Perhaps Alguersari’s interest in music worked against him. How dare he like something other than F1?
    Does that mean that every driver who enters the paddock wearing headphones is listening to instructions from his engineer or are they all due for the sack as well?

  13. Adam says:

    Regarding Wickins, I think his name is going against him, as Mark Blundell once remarked, it would be easier to get drives if his name had been Marco Blundelli ;-)

    F1 is not about pure talent, the drivers have to appeal to the marketing department, the car factories and the sponsors. Often they also have to bring a truck load of cash. Good luck if you are just incredibly fast but have a crap name or are plug ugly!

    1. Maple says:

      Last time I looked at the F1 drivers lineup there were no Italian drivers. I understand that sometimes drivers from certain areas of the globe may get looked at for marketing reasons. So lets analyze the Australian market, 20 million (approximate) versus the Canadian market of 32 million (approximate). Canada a member of the G7, Australia not. I suspect that the powers at RB do not like Wickens. To some degree, this whole thing reminds me of individuals that see the facts in front of them but refuse to acknowledge them because it refutes their beliefs.

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