With all the eyes focused on future of the Brackley team formerly known as Honda we tend to forget that there is one more team with uncertain future also looking for a buyer – Scuderia Toro Rosso. The talk about Honda being suited by several interested parties may be encouraging for Red Bull. If there indeed are several parties in talk with Honda that means that even in the current conditions there are people interested in entering Formula 1. When (if) Honda is sold some of the loosing bidders may turn their eye to Toro Rosso. May, if the team is assured of future existence. Some sponsors on board would probably also do no harm to longe term prospects of the former Minardi team.
The requirement to turn team into a proper constructor from 2010 season puts an end to Red Bulls’ one car for two teams idea. The prospect of Toro Rosso having to build their own car resulted first in Dietrich Mateschitz putting the team up for sale (although he later denied he did so). Few months later Gerhard Berger sold his 50% of the team back to Mateschitz. The new conditions made no longer any commercial sense for Berger but many also saw that move as a consolidation of the ownership – a step that should facilitate future sale of the team.
However no matter how sucessful the team was in 2008 it will be difficult for them to find a buyer unless they build their own car. And if they want to race beyond 2009 that they will need to do no matter who will be the owner.
The signs are they are en route to do so. Already during last season Berger ordered increase of the Faenza factory workforce by about 50 people. There is also talk that while the 2009 car will still be designed by Red Bull Technolgy STR will be building their cars in its Faenza factory. I am not sure that this alone will make them full blown constructor, they will still need to design the new cars in the future. But once the factory is running all they will need is to get hand on a car design. There is probably already an army of experts working on the options. Of course the easiest way for Toro Rosso would be to take the 2009 car built by Red Bull Technology and use it as the base for their own car from 2010 on. I am not sure howeverthey would be allowed to use that third party loophole again …
At the moment the team has no funding other than that coming from Red Bull. Gerhard Berger while still in charge made no secret of the fact that ability to bring funds to the team will play big part in deciding STR’s 2009 drivers. In other words – the team was looking for a pay driver. It may be different now with Red Bull fully in charge. There is almost no doubt that Red Bull backed Sebastien Buemi will be one of the drivers. It will be interesting to see who will finally get the nod for the second seat. Many expected the announcement to come right after the last 2008 test but nothing has been announced yet. Bourdais, Sato and according to some also Barichello still remain in the picture. I do believe that if it comes down to commerce Sato would be the choice if for nothing else than for his popularity back in Japan, the one major energy drinks market where Red Bull is yet to make it big. Mateschitz may however go for the continuity and keep Bourdais or go for experience and place Barrichello next to the rookie Buemi. The decision is obviously not easy …
Red Bull may continue to fully fund both their F1 teams and use them as marketing vehicles for the brand. Red Bull at the end is all about marketing. How else would one make billions by selling carbonized water, sugar, taurine and caffeine packed in a can . But if they do want some sponsors to come on board of at least Toro Rosso team they might have to do something about that livery. The massive raging bull may have looked exciting back in 2006 but I must say that on the track it looks like a can of red paint spilled over the car, over the prime piece of real estate on that car.
So what will it be for Toro Rosso in 2009 ? Will they survive into 2010 and beyond or will Red Bull pull the plug on the team if no buyer comes to get it ?
Photos: Red Bull/GEPA