Now that McLaren have moved to Renault as engine supplier, the little team from Faenza in Italy reveal what it’s been like working exclusively with the giant that is Honda.
In an exclusive interview with the Austrian publication Speedweek, Franz Tost team Principal of Scuderia Toro Rosso, talks about the new engine partner Honda: “It’s something very different from the previous one [Renault},”before it was a case of like it or lump it”.
Having finished the 2017 season 7th with 53 points after a tight battle with Renault and Haas, from 2018 onwards, everything will be different for the team from Faenza, which emerged from Giancarlo Minardi’s team at the end of 2005. After the break-up between McLaren and Honda, Toro Rosso now works exclusively with the Japanese.
Q. Franz, after Cosworth, Ferrari and Renault the Scuderia Toro Rosso 2018 works for the first time with Honda. What are your expectations for the new season?
For the first time in the history of Toro Rosso, we work exclusively with an engine partner. This offers a completely new approach and starts with the design of the new chassis. For example, we were able to design the placement of the drive unit in accordance with the designers’ ideas. This is something quite different from the earlier “like it or lump it”.
Toro Rosso is also much more involved in the whole development process. We have already completed countless test bench trials with the transmission in order to optimise various ratios. Of course, the season is a tough challenge, but we accept it gladly.
Q. Should fans are worried? Honda has had major challenges with stability and engine performance over the last three years as a McLaren partner. What gives you confidence in the Honda project?
Nobody will disagree when I say: Honda offers a fantastic infrastructure. There are also very clever and highly motivated technicians. The shortcomings of the past are recognised, and everyone is about to eliminate them.
Q. The number of engine parts will be further reduced for 2018. In 2018, only three internal combustion engines are permitted, three MGU-Hs, three turbochargers, but only two MGU-Ks, two batteries and two control units. What does that mean for you?
That depends primarily on how Honda keeps their durability under control. But clearly, it will not be easier. This reduced number of units will give us a bit of a headache.
Q. Japan has a very different corporate and communication culture than a European country. How does this affect working with Honda? How should we imagine cooperation with an engine partner located on another continent with eight hours time difference?
To better understand Japanese culture, we organise special seminars for our employees, which are received with great interest. We all know that Japan has its own culture and it is one of the really exciting challenges to synchronise it with our culture. But if we were not convinced that this could succeed, we would never have embarked on this project.
Sometimes there are quite unexpected benefits. You’re talking about the time difference – which has so far proven to be primarily positive. If our technicians have questions, send them to Japan in the afternoon, and they’ll have the answers the next morning. What more do you want?
Q. It was not until mid-September that it was clear that you would be using Honda engines in 2018. How difficult was it to change the engine relatively late?
Actually we’ve rarely had a decision so early! I recall that two years ago the change to the Ferrari was not decided until December, but we managed the timely completion of our cars for the following season. The use of our own gearbox has simplified the process.
Q. In which areas can Toro Rosso benefit from Honda’s vast resources – beyond the engine?
Collaboration with such a reputed company will increase the visibility and the number of fans of Toro Rosso. I am convinced that this will help with the sponsorship search.
Q. How is the structural and personnel development of the Scuderia Toro Rosso going?
The structure of the team remains the same. The number of employees also provides room for a healthy, successful future.