Formula 1

Our verdict on AlphaTauri’s first ever F1 team boss change

by Josh Suttill
7 min read

The second longest-serving Formula 1 team boss Franz Tost will leave his post at the end of the 2023 season and will be replaced by current Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies.

It’s the latest team boss switch after a winter full of changes.

But what does this news mean for AlphaTauri and what impact will it have on Ferrari? Our writers give their verdict:

Mekies is a logical succession choice

Mark Hughes

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Practice Day Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this development is why Laurent Mekies has decided his future does not lie at Ferrari. But in terms of what it means for AlphaTauri, it’s a logical move by that team’s owner Red Bull to give the team a succession plan now that Franz Tost is approaching retirement age.

Even if Red Bull has not ultimately decided whether AlphaTauri will continue in its role of being a nursery team for the senior team or whether it will be sold, it’s important that it doesn’t stall and become entrapped in its current tail-ender status.

It needs the drive and energy to keep moving and for that Mekies, as a much younger guy with a good reputation and someone very familiar with the team already, is a very logical shout.

A post-Mateschitz Red Bull power dynamic may be at play

Ben Anderson

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Dutch Grand Prix Race Day Zandvoort, Netherlands

The press release makes it all look quite amicable, especially the part about Franz Tost staying on in a consultancy role through 2024.

But I’m not convinced all is quite as genteel as it’s painted there. Tost is known to be a workaholic – someone who resides within a few minutes of AlphaTauri’s Faenza base and absolutely lives for his work.

Yes, he’s 67 and therefore at or approaching a natural retirement age, but I find it difficult to believe a man who loves that job more than anything is stepping down totally voluntarily at the end of this season.

More likely, to my mind at least, this is the new, post-Dietrich Mateschitz Red Bull power dynamic at play. With Mateschitz no longer around to facilitate and protect his fellow Austrian, Tost has become more exposed to the whims of a new corporate structure that will likely demand much more from what has recently become a badly underperforming team – and is maybe prepared to slay certain sacred cows to alter that situation.

I see Franz Tost as the first high-profile casualty of this fresh outlook. Sure he’s staying on for a bit to help bed the new blokes in – but to me, that’s an act of charity on his part. What else is he going to do with his time?

This might mean AlphaTauri’s future is safe

Scott Mitchell-Malm

F1 Grand Prix Of Australia Practice

It’s not 100% settled but I take this to mean Red Bull has indeed made a decision not to sell AlphaTauri and instead to give its other team more focus and structure, even if its ultimate form may yet evolve further.

AlphaTauri wouldn’t be getting a CEO (and a new structure as a result) or recruiting someone like Mekies from a senior position at Ferrari without a good degree of security. This seems like part of a longer-term plan to me, not the action of an entity that will get sold anytime soon.

That tallies with AlphaTauri rebuffing sale rumours around testing and although it doesn’t rule out other major changes – like a relocation or a name change – it seems the team’s future is secure and being prioritised rather than it just being left to meander in obscurity while Red Bull twiddles its thumbs and decides what to do.

Mekies’s Ferrari exit is painful but inevitable

Edd Straw

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day One Sakhir, Bahrain

While it’s no surprise Mekies has turned his back on Ferrari to lead AlphaTauri, it’s far from ideal for Maranello to lose another key player so soon after the departure of ex-team principal Mattia Binotto and former head of vehicle concept David Sanchez. But it was perhaps inevitable given the way things have played out in recent months.

Fred Vasseur’s arrival as team boss reversed the ‘mission drift’ of Mekies’ role as sporting director and eroded some of the increased influence he had accumulated in the way the team was run in the later part of Binotto’s leadership. Mekies presumably felt he wasn’t seen as a future team principal, so chose an alternative path to fulfil his ambitions.

Although Ferrari has had its problems in recent years, Mekies has been a positive influence. He initially joined as sporting director in 2018, with his role gradually expanding. In 2021, he was made racing director and head of track area as his role expanded to become what was effectively the deputy team principal.

That’s the ideal training ground for his new role as AlphaTauri team principal but leaves a gap to be filled near the top of Ferrari’s race team.

A positive move for AlphaTauri’s independence

Glenn Freeman

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Australian Grand Prix Practice Day Melbourne, Australia

Given all the speculation around the future of Red Bull’s second F1 team since the death of Mateschitz, these moves look positive.

While a move to the UK may still be on the cards at some point to make AlphaTauri more efficient for Red Bull to run, bringing in a refreshed management structure at least suggests there is a desire to usher in a genuinely new era at the team, rather than just let it go cold in some dark corner of Milton Keynes.

Mekies’ previous connection to the team, plus his subsequent high-profile roles with the FIA and Ferrari, make this appointment look like a statement of intent. If we’re approaching a new era for AlphaTauri, aligned more closely with Red Bull’s A team, that doesn’t have to mean it slides into irrelevance at the back of the grid.

A confusing decision

Gary Anderson

Formula 1 Grand Prix, Brazil, Saturday

Having been closely involved in Jordan when Ralf Schumacher drove for us and Franz Tost was his ‘mentor’, I got to know Franz very well. He doesn’t take any prisoners.

He has been around motor racing long enough to be able to weed out the promises from the reality so I’m a little confused why this change in management has happened just at a time when AlphaTauri needs to build – the last thing it needs is a change in management.

I can only think that Franz has had enough of the pressure. As a team Toro Rosso, now AlphaTauri, was always built as a young driver training programme and over the years it has succeeded in that by producing the likes of Sebastien Vettel, Daniel Kvyat, Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo, Alex Albon and Max Verstappen to name a few.

Some of them have been pretty good but others have been exceptional.

Bringing in Laurent Mekies to replace Tost is a strange thing. He is a very different person with a different career profile. He would be possibly a good addition to Franz but in my opinion not a replacement, and my other question would be why move from a top team like Ferrari to at best a middle grid team like AlphaTauri? ‘Pushed’ must come into the answer somewhere.

Will leave Horner as one of a kind

Josh Suttill

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Race Day Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Christian Horner was already Formula 1’s longest-serving team principal having managed Red Bull since its first F1 season in 2005 but Tost’s impending departure is a testament to Horner’s endurance and leaves Toto Wolff (2013) as the next longest-serving boss.

Horner has helped take Red Bull to the top of F1, steadied the ship when it fell from it and helped reinstate the team as the championship’s dominating force.

Like Tost he’s benefited from patient and loyal owners but he’s also given very little reason for his job to be under threat, even one year away from his 20th season at the helm.

Perhaps it’s a warning that Red Bull’s new post-Mateschitz order won’t be afraid to make more changes than the old regime but right now Horner has such little reason to be worried with an all-conquering F1 car and a team at the top of its game.

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