Yuki Tsunoda said news of Franz Tost’s intention to quit his team principal role at the end of the year surprised him despite long-running rumors of impending changes at AlphaTauri.
AlphaTauri announced this week that Tost would be stepping down at the end of the season and would be replaced by current Ferrari racing and sporting director Laurent Mekies, while ex-FIA secretary general Peter Bayer would take over as team CEO.
Rumors of changes to Red Bull-backed team have been rife since the death of company founder CEO Dietrich Mateschitz late last year, with some speculating the team could be moved to the UK to cut costs or be sold completely. Instead it appears Red Bull is satisfied to have restructured the team’s management for the medium term.
Despite all of the speculation, Tsunoda said the news of changes still came as a shock to him when it eventually broke.
“I was really surprised he’s leaving,” he said. “I had lunch with him five days before the news or something like that, and he actually didn’t mention those things. At the same time there were already kind of rumors from the beginning of the season, so it actually came true that he’s stepping down.”
Tsunoda, who’s in his third year with AlphaTauri after making his F1 debut with the team in 2021, said he was focused on delivering Tost a fitting send-off with the remainder of the campaign.
“I’m feeling really appreciative of him, that he trusted my speed for the last three years and he was always supportive next to me, so I’m trying to make it up for him in the next races,” he said. “There are  races to go to make him happy. Hopefully we can end the season in a positive way for him.
“Obviously there’s still lots of development we need to do, but we have an aggressive plan to do it and I’m looking forward to it.”
Tost is legendarily committed to his team and is a renowned workaholic, so much so that he’s reportedly a regular feature at the factory on Christmas Day and other holidays. Tsunoda’s teammate Nyck de Vries (pictured at right, above, with Tsunoda) paid tribute to Tost’s enthusiasm for the Faenza squad.
“He really lives for the team for his people and for the sport, he’s very passionate, and we all value that very much in Franz,” he said.. “We all really appreciate all the work he has done over the past 18 years — he joined in 2005, so a long time.
“I guess after 18 years there is always a beginning and an end to everything. Each time is defined in an era, and maybe a new era is about to start.”
The Dutchman added that he is looking forward to working with Mekies.
“Laurent and I know each other a little bit from the FIA,” he said. “He has a very good technical knowledge. He’s obviously being a race engineer himself, at FIA and then now sporting director at Ferrari — he will bring knowledge from his current employer, which is obviously interesting, and he has a very good technical understanding of the sport.
“I think what he will bring is very valuable assets to a team to hopefully become more competitive. He seems to have a broad understanding of the sport given the roles he’s been fulfilling. I welcome him very much and I would love to work together with him.”