Franz Tost reveals startling Max Verstappen observation that left lasting impression

Thomas Maher
Franz Tost and Max Verstappen on the grid at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Franz Tost says goodbye to Max Verstappen on the grid as the Austrian team boss retired from F1 at the conclusion of the season.

Former AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost remembered the moment he was wowed by Max Verstappen’s pre-F1 talents.

Verstappen made his first appearance in an F1 car at the wheel of a 2014 Toro Rosso under team boss Franz Tost, as Red Bull sought to evaluate the skill level of the precocious teenager after less than a year of single-seater racing.

Racing for Van Amersfoort in FIA European Formula Three, it was Verstappen’s performance at the Norisring weekend – in which the Dutch driver dominated to win all three races – that convinced Helmut Marko, and Franz Tost, that the company’s future lay in Verstappen’s hands.

Franz Tost: The other drivers should have given back their licences

Reflecting on his time in F1 as Tost stepped down from his team boss role at Red Bull’s sister team after 18 years in charge, the Austrian outlined just how impressed he had been after witnessing Verstappen’s drive in Germany that weekend.

“I remember Max at the Norisring at 16 years old,” he told the BBC.

“It was wet and he was one and a half to two seconds faster than anyone else. I said all other drivers should give back their licences, the only driver in this field is Max Verstappen.”

Other drivers that day included Red Bull test driver and current Formula E Champion Jake Dennis, former Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, and current Alpine racer Esteban Ocon.

“During his first test, I was really impressed how fast he adapted to the speed and brakes,” Tost remembered.

Normally, drivers need 100 to 150 kilometres to get used to the enormous power which an F1 car has under accelerating and under braking.

“But, from the first lap onwards, he was familiar with everything.” recommends

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Franz Tost: Let’s see who was right about Max Verstappen

With Red Bull taking the decision to give Verstappen a baptism of fire by setting him loose for FP1 at the Japanese Grand Prix, aged just 17, Tost said he knew enough to be able to take the stance of challenging journalists to a five-year stand-off.

“We decided he would do FP1 in Suzuka [at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix] and journalists said: ‘You are totally crazy… Suzuka is one of the most dangerous tracks; how can you start him in FP1? He has to be prepared.'” he laughed.

“I said: ‘Don’t talk so much, let’s discuss in five years, then we will see who was right – you or me?’ It didn’t take five years – immediately, from the first year.”

With Verstappen the second Red Bull champion to come through Tost’s team as the now-retired Sebastian Vettel did the same with a two-year stint in 2007 and ’08, Tost said it had been a pleasure to work with such high achievers.

“It was the same with Vettel – both of them had similar approaches, similar attitudes,” he said.

“It was fantastic to work together with these drivers… [Daniel] Ricciardo, [Carlos] Sainz and [Pierre] Gasly – all are high-class drivers with a lot of potential in them.”

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