Franz Tost has warned that AlphaTauri could become "lost" if a team leader fails to emerge over the course of the next F1 season.
Following Pierre Gasly's move to Alpine, AlphaTauri is without an experienced driver to guide the Faenza-based squad.
Yuki Tsunoda has two years in F1 under his belt but continues to show signs of immaturity that suggests he is not yet ready to lead the team.
The Japanese driver will be partnered by rookie Nyck de Vries who has experience in other categories and worked as Mercedes' reserve for two seasons but lacks overall F1 know-how.
Tost acknowledges that if AlphaTauri produces another performance-lacking car as was the case last season then it will be difficult for either driver to step forward and take on the leadership mantle.
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“It depends on how good the car is," said Tost, speaking to GPFans in an end-of-year interview.
“If our car is working well, Yuki should be experienced enough to set up the car the correct way, but also Nyck.
“If our car is not working well, then we have a big problem because we can't develop an unknown car with inexperienced drivers.
“It will be difficult to find out where we have a problem because the driver feedback is very important, and for the engineers to find out which direction to go to improve the performance of the car.
“If both drivers are too inexperienced and if you have a problem with the car, then we are lost.”