Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost is nothing if not a pragmatist, especially when it comes to questions of how successful the Italian outfit can be in 2009.
With the thrill of Sebastian Vettel's unexpected - but thoroughly deserved - triumph in last year's Italian Grand Prix still lingering in Faenza, it might be hoped that a change in regulations, designed to level the F1 playing field, could play into Toro Rosso's hands. Tost, however, accepts that the truth may be very different.
“All race teams should have the same targets - to win every race they enter!'' he smiled, speaking at the launch of the team's STR4 challenger, ''But, of course, this is not going to happen, and even matching our 2008 showing will be difficult as the sport enters a new era.
''Therefore, our target has to be to leave every race track on a Sunday night knowing we have done the best job we could. The results will then depend on how everyone else has done.”
Tost has overseeing the Toro Rosso assault since 2006, and is well placed to chart the team's progress, culminating in the now-departed Vettel's success at Monza. He has also seen the changes F1 has put itself through over the same years, and admits that this season's radical overhaul of the rulebook could see the pecking order shaken up a little, even if he expects the same old names to be at the top.
“As everyone feels the effects of a worldwide recession, it is only right that Formula One is seen to acknowledge this and act accordingly, to allow the sport to flourish in a more sensible and less extravagant fashion than in the past, and we support the cost-cutting initiatives instigated by the FIA and FOTA, [as] these are a good thing for a small team like ours,'' he noted.
''For example, the reduction in the use of wind tunnel time and computational fluid dynamics has had a minimal effect on our work and, in terms of manpower, [the changes] mean we have not had to let many people go, allocating test team staff to other roles within the company.
“Looking at the major changes to the technical regulations, however, these do have a downside for us because, historically, whenever rules have changed significantly, it is always the bigger, more established teams who have the technical resources and experience to react quickly in adapting to those changes. It was the long period of stability in the rules which allowed Toro Rosso to be so competitive last year.”
Despite the pessimism, however, Tost is the first to admit that his team starts the year in better shape than it did 2008.
“It is already looking great as we are five races ahead of schedule, given that, last year, we did not get to race the '08 car until the sixth round of the season in Monaco,'' he pointed out, ''Having said that, the 2008 season was good in terms of our on-track performance, which, it's fair to say, exceeded our expectations, with our biggest ever haul of points, a pole position and a win.