On Sunday evening, the sun setting over the Yas Marina Circuit will cast its golden glow on the distinguished figure of Franz Tost as he takes his place for the last time on AlphaTauri's pitwall ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
When the checkered flag falls on the 2023 Formula 1 season, a titan of the sport will step away from the spotlight, and embark on a well-deserved retirement, leaving behind a legacy of unwavering passion, strategic acumen, and enduring belief in young talent.
Tost's journey with Red Bull in F1 began in 2005, when the energy drink company acquired Minardi.
In the 18 years that followed, the Austrian steered the Faenza-based squad – formerly known as Scuderia Toro Rosso – through triumphs and challenges, guiding his troops with purpose and resilience against the backdrop of an ever-evolving sport.
During his long-standing tenure, the man revered for his unswerving support of young drivers, fostered a nurturing environment where talent could flourish.
Tost oversaw the formative years in F1 of a generation of Grand Prix drivers, including four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, three-time world champion Max Verstappen and race winners Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz.
Among his vast collection of unforgettable F1 memories, it’s likely that Tost himself would single out Vettel and Toro Rosso’s incredible maiden F1 triumph at Monza in 2008 as his finest moment.
But perhaps his greatest claim to fame was his bold decision in 2014 to sign 17-year-old teenager Max Verstappen to Toro Rosso for the 2015 F1 season.
In a recent ‘Beyond the Grid’ podcast with F1’s Tom Clarkson, Tost remembered the wave of skepticism that flooded the paddock back then.
“When we brought him to Formula 1, I remember back some of your colleagues came to me and said you’re totally crazy, how can you take someone who doesn’t even have a driver’s licence?” he recounted.
“And I said, ‘I don’t want to discuss this with you now, come in five years and then we can discuss it’, because then I got tired of defending our decision.
“This unbelievable natural speed, you could see, sometimes in Formula 3, I remember back at this wet race at the Norisring, I thought Max was driving on a dry line because he was two seconds faster than the rest.
“This reminded me also of when Michael Schumacher won the Formula 4 race at the Salzburg Ring in similar conditions and he was also two, three seconds faster than the rest.”
Tost's departure from Formula 1 marks the end of an era, but his impact on the sport will endure for generations to come.
As he steps away from the pit wall, Tost leaves behind a team poised for success, a testament to his steadfast dedication and resolute belief in the power of human potential.
His successor, former Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies, will have some mighty big shoes to fill.