Tost impressed by Albon 'even before start of 2019'

AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost says that he spotted the potential of Alexander Albon even before the start of the 2019 season.

Albon was the last driver signed up for last season’s campaign, after it took protracted negotiations to free him from an existing Formula E contract. He started his rookie season with the least F1 experience of anyone on the grid.

But Tost says that the London-born Thai driver’s talent was immediately apparent to him, from the moment he took to the track in pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

“When he started testing it was his first time in a Formula 1 car and he did a really good test in Barcelona, where he showed his potential,” Tost told RACER magazine.

“I said in Barcelona that he could become the surprise of the year of the young drivers,” he added. “I said from the beginning onwards during the testing in Barcelona that he really showed a good performance.

“Alex performed fantastically from the very beginning onwards,” Tost continued. “He came to Australia – which is not an easy race – and didn’t score points. But in the second race in Bahrain he finished in ninth position and scored two points.

“This showed his potential,” Tost said, explaining that from this point the 23-year-old was firmly on the radar of the Red Bull squad.

He added that he had been part of the discussion throughout with team principal Christian Horner and motorsport consultant Dr Helmut Marko about Albon’s future.

“We are always talking together – Helmut, Christian and myself – discussing different drivers,” he confirmed.

Alexander Albon (THA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR14. 19.02.2019

Albon was subsequently promoted to the senior squad over the summer break, with Gasly being swapped back to the junior team. It proved to be the best call for both drivers, with Gasly quickly rediscovering his form at Toro Rosso and Albon acquitting himself well enough at Red Bull to retain his plum race seat for 2020.

Tost said he hoped that Albon would now be given the time to improve himself against his highly rated team mate Max Verstappen, who expects to be contending for the world championship in 2020.

“If you then have a driver alongside you like Max Verstappen, it’s on one hand very positive,” commented Tost. “You can see where you gain time and where you lose time.

“But on the other hand, if he’s so fast it could be quite frustrating sometimes if you cannot match him.

“Alex should just concentrate on himself,” Tost advised. “He should learn, and then he will do it his way.

“He’s in his second season, and I always say that it takes three seasons minimum until a driver understands Formula 1,.”

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Tost targets step up to top-five for AlphaTauri in 2020

Team boss Franz Tost ambitions to see AlphaTauri – formerly known as Toro Rosso – improve its position in the pecking order in 2020 and target a spot among the sport’s top five.

The Faenza-based squad, which has adopted the name of Red Bull’s fashion brand, finished sixth in the 2019 Constructors’ standings, its best result in the championship since the team entered F1 in 2006.

But Tost believes that AlphaTauri’s experienced 2020 line-up made up of Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat should allow it to move up at least another notch this season.

“We never had such experienced drivers and it depends now how competitive the car will be,” Tost told RACER.

“I hope that we will do a step forward there as well and then the target is quite clear: We have to improve our performance and we have to finish in the top five in the constructors’ championship.

“I hope (Renault is in reach). It depends now who is building a better car. Who is making more progress with the new car and who is developing it in a better way during the season. I hope it will be Alpha Tauri.”

Fighting consistently at the top of F1’s midfield against better funded rivals McLaren and Renault is a tall order for AlphaTauri.

©ToroRosso

But Tost contends that it’s a realistic target given the team’s close technical relationship with sister outfit Red Bull Racing.

“We improved in comparison to 2018 quite a lot in all the different areas,” Tost explained.

“We were much better on the aerodynamic side, but also on the mechanical side thanks to Red Bull Technology, because we had the previous year’s suspension in the car — front and rear — the gearbox from them and the hydraulic system from them, which helped us a lot. It also helped the reliability, because I think we were second in those terms.

“We also made good progress with the vehicle performance, came up with some new solutions which improved the performance of the car.

©AlphaTauri

“We had a better understanding of how to handle the tyres and how to manage the tyres, and the race team made some good steps forward.

“We had some really competitive pit stops as well, although there were some ups and downs that we have to improve. And we had at least three very good drivers!

“If you work together with a partner then over time you get a better understanding from both sides. I expect that we will get good cooperation this year and that the team will make another step forward thanks to Red Bull Technology.”

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