AlphaTauri has explained why it rushed the announcement of its new Formula 1 management structure, which caught Ferrari off guard as the terms of Laurent Mekies’ move have not been agreed.
Ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend, the Red Bull-owned team revealed that long-serving team principal Franz Tost would step down and be placed by current Ferrari sporting director Mekies in 2024 with Peter Bayer joining in a newly created CEO position.
Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur called this “a bit aggressive” in Baku on Friday as Mekies is on a long-term contract and though he is going to be released to join AlphaTauri these negotiations haven’t happened yet.
Tost said it was not the plan to make the announcement until “much later” in the year.
“But as you’re all very professional, there were some leaks in the press,” he said.
“And I didn’t want to come here to Baku and to tell all to you know, ‘no,I don’t know anything’, because it’s not the way we work.
“Then we said ‘OK, we go out with the press release’. It was planned to a later time in the year. And now it’s out.
“Of course, I can imagine that some people are not happy about this.”
Tost revealed that he himself was not actually aware the press release would be issued so quickly either, as he had not seen that news of Mekies moving from Ferrari had leaked in the Italian media.
But he agreed with the decision because: “If you read in the press the rumours, I could say now, ‘I don’t comment on rumours’.
“But you’re all clever. I respect all of you. I don’t want to be here to tell you useless lies.”
Tost said that Ferrari would at least have been aware of AlphaTauri’s intentions because Mekies had spoken to Vasseur.
Mekies is working on-site in Baku with Ferrari and is likely to continue to do so in the short-term.
Tost said that the first negotiation regarding an early release from his contract is “between Laurent and Fred” before Red Bull and its chief executive of corporate projects and investments Oliver Mintzlaff, the new key figure in the background, get involved.
“Red Bull will take a major role in this,” said Tost.
“I think that Oliver Mintzlaff will then talk to the CEO from Ferrari and find a solution.”
Tost’s exit means AlphaTauri, formerly Toro Rosso, will have a new team principal for the first time since Red Bull bought the former Minardi team in 2005.
Although there are significant changes in the background at Red Bull, following the passing of co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz late last year, Tost says his retirement is his choice.
The 67-year-old had long established that he wanted to leave F1 before he turned 70 and said this had also been discussed with Mateschitz in the past.
“It started already two years ago,” Tost said.
“And when I was younger, I always said to myself, ‘if you’re in a leading position, then you should not be glued to the seat, you should give this position to younger people, more clever people, creative people, motivated people’.
“And now I’m going into the 70s it’s time to say goodbye. I love Formula 1. I like all of you as well! But it’s a story which has to end.
“And especially now with the solution with Peter Bayer as CEO and with Laurent Mekies we have two fantastic people who will replace me.
“I think it’s the best time to go out of Formula 1.”
Tost joked that Mekies and Bayer were “more clever than me” because while he was working “24 hours a day” to lead the team “they divided it into 12 hours each”.
“No, seriously now it’s better if there’s a CEO, and a team principal, because you have to make the structure for the future, infrastructure and all this kind of stuff,” he said.
“And racing itself is such an intensive job, that it’s better if it’s being split by two people.”
Asked by The Race if he had any interest in working in that structure, either as the team principal reporting to a CEO or as the CEO himself, Tost replied: “No, no, absolutely not. Because as I said, I am 67. I am old. And I should just go away.”