Leaks forced early exit announcement – Tost
Franz Tost says AlphaTauri was forced to announce its acquisition of Laurent Mekies earlier than anticipated because the news had begun to leak in the Italian media.
AlphaTauri issued a press release on the eve of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend announcing that Tost would step down as team principal at the end of the season to make way for current Ferrari racing director Mekies, with Peter Bayer taking up the CEO role.
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The press release came as a surprise to Ferrari principal Frederic Vasseur, who said his team wasn’t yet ready to commit to releasing the French engineer.
“If you speak about time line, I think [AlphaTauri] was a bit aggressive in their press release,” Vasseur said. “We have a long-term contract with Laurent and now we have to discuss the details.
“We have to find the best solution for Ferrari. When he’ll leave, when he’ll move to [AlphaTauri], it will be discussed at the end of the collaboration.”
Though rumors of changes to key Ferrari positions have been rife since Mattia Binotto resigned as team principal at the end of last year, there was little sign that any moves would lead up the road to AlphaTauri despite parallel speculation that Red Bull was preparing to make major changes in Faenza.
It wasn’t until last week that the Italian media caught wind that Mekies was in the frame to take the reins from Tost.
“The announcement in truth was not planned to come up now,” Tost confirmed. “This was planned much later, but … there were some leaks in the press.
“I didn’t want to come here and to tell all of you, ‘No, I don’t know anything’, because it’s not the way of how we are working.
“If you read in the press those rumors, I could say now, ‘I don’t comment on rumors’, but you are all clever, I respect all of you, I don’t want to be here and to tell you useless lies.”
Tost said the situation had moved so quickly that even he was caught by surprise when the press release went out, so he understood why Ferrari might have been put offside by the sudden announcement.
Mekies (right) will replace Tost at AlphaTauri. Sam Bloxham/Motorsport Images
“It was planned at a later time in the year. Now it’s out and of course I can imagine that some people are not happy about this,” he said, though he didn’t expect the shock to disrupt Mekies’s exit from Ferrari.
“That’s between Laurent and Fred, and then of course Red Bull will take a major role in this,” Tost said of negotiations to extract Mekies from Maranello. “I think that
Oliver Mintzlaff (Red Bull CEO of corporate projects and new investments) will talk to the CEO from Ferrari and find a solution.”
AlphaTauri’s impending management restructure would appear to put to bed speculation that Red Bull might move the team to the UK to align more closely with Red Bull Racing in Milton Keynes or that the Faenza squad might be sold entirely.
Those rumors had started when Mintzlaff took control of Red Bull’s motorsport investments following the death of Dietrich Mateschitz late last year.
However, Tost denied the shake-up had anything to do with new direction from management, insisting that he had decided to step aside long before Mateschitz’s death.
“This has nothing to do with the passing away,” he said. “This decision was beforehand.
“It was my decision, and it started already two years ago, discussed it also with Dietrich Mateschitz in those days.
“Because I’m now 67 years old … and I made it clear that at 70, I would not be any more in the pit lane. This I made very clear.
“And now I’m going into the 70s, it’s time to say goodbye.
“Especially now with the solution with Peter Bayer as CEO and Laurent Mekies, we have two fantastic people who will replace me. I think it’s the best time to go out from Formula 1.”