Red Bull buys back Toro Rosso – does it want STR’s Ferrari engines?

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What does Red Bull have planned for its two F1 teams in 2009?

Red Bull is once again the 100% owner of Toro Rosso having bought back the 50% stake it sold to Gerhard Berger two years ago.

Given the economic climate any such move is likely to be read as significant, but what are the reasons for this decision by Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz?

Here are a few ideas I have on why Red Bull have taken total control over Toro Rosso.


Toro Rosso became the first Red Bull-backed team to win a race this year, which must have caused its big brother some embarrassment.

There were several elements to the team’s improvement in performance over the course of the year but a clear part of that was the Ferrari engine upgrade it acquired before the European Grand Prix.

Next year Toro Rosso are likely to have some combination of untested or unproven drivers in the car – whether they’re Sebastien Bourdais, Sebastien Buemi or Takuma Sato.

Surely it would make sense, then, for it to put the better engines in the cars with the more highly-rated driver pairing of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel? And perhaps the only way they do that within the terms of their arrangements with Ferrari and (Red Bull engine supplier) Renault is to take over Toro Rosso.

That said, there has been talk over the winter of engine specifications being equalised next year. If that is going to happen, this need not be the reason for the takeover.

Alternatively, with Force India relinquishing its Ferrari engine supply to take Mercedes units, perhaps Red Bull intends to make both its teams Ferrari-powered?


Dietrich Mateschitz (left) has bought back his stake from Gerhard Berger (right)

Whichever way you look at it, Toro Rosso beat Red Bull with a design that Red Bull had quite a bit more experience of.

Toro Rosso only got their hands on the new car in time for the Monaco Grand Prix, at which point they trailled Red Bull by ten points to two in the constructors’ championship. By the end of the year Toro Rosso were on top 39-29.

So does Red Bull want to poach the cream of Toro Rosso’s staff, who arguably did a better dob of making the RB4/STR3 a winner? Could Vettel unlock his potential more quickly in 2009 if he has a few more of his Toro Rosso cohorts close at hand? The importance of having Vettel hit the ground running grew this past week as an injury incurred in a charity race forced Webber out of pre-season testing.


Red Bull’s finances are healthy and it is eyeing brand growth in several markets where F1 is active, as explains. But faced with such unprecedented financial turmoil, can any company afford to ignore the potential to cut costs?

Following the example set by McLaren and Force India, Red Bull may wish to change the terms of its arrangement with Toro Rosso to reduce its combined running costs.

Would it be too radical to suggest it might even envisage shifting the two teams to a single base, instead of splitting resources between Milton Keynes (Red Bull) and Faenza (Toro Rosso)?


At the beginning of this year Red Bull was looking for a buyer for its stake in Toro Rosso. Then it decided to keep its share and it became known that Berger was looked for a buyer.

But this was not simply a question of one F1 team’s future in doubt. Had Toro Rosso found itself unable to compete it would have undermined Formula 1 greatly, leaving it with only nine teams and 18 cars. F1 is believed to be contractually obliged to the race promoters to provide grids of at least 20 cars.

Therefore, as with any large transaction in F1, we have good reason to suspect the hand of Bernie Ecclestone was involved somewhere.

What’s your take on Red Bull’s move? Is this good or bad news for Toro Rosso?

More team information: Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Toro Rosso

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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29 comments on “Red Bull buys back Toro Rosso – does it want STR’s Ferrari engines?”

  1. F1 conspiracy theorists rejoice! Here’s a situation that is tailor made for you guys. There must be at least 100 ways to disect and speculate about this situation. I can’t wait to read them.

  2. I would be very surprised if Red Bull dont move to Ferrari engines

  3. I’d be very surprised if Red Bull move to Ferrari engines before 2010 – even if the contract can be bought out, it’s too late for next year now.

  4. Ceedas, how do you mean its too late? They already have Ferrari engine in the car.

  5. I reckon Berger sold his share due to the fact that he was unwilling to dip into his own pocket to help fund the team during the course of the season. With no sponsorship on the horizon and spiralling costs, things were looking decisively tough.

    Which would also explain why Bourdais stated last week that they were looking for drivers with the financial backing rather than the talent.

    Wouldn’t surprise me if Mateschitz then sold the team in the near future either.

  6. I like the politics angle, Keith. if this really is the case, and Bernie has to have a grid of at least 20 cars, well this could play very well.
    But then… imagine the quandry for BE…
    If this to be the case, and B has put his nose in, I would strongly imagine that there is some financial gain for RedBull/ToroRosso – at least as a retainer.
    And, and here is the crux: with the other teams supposedly looking to renegotiate their ontracts re F1 profits and the current F1 debt repayment situation, imagine the bargaining powers the other tams would then have…
    “Well, you bailed out RedBull/ToroRosso for the sake of the grid… we, as A. N. Other team feel legally obliged to know the details with a view to renegotiating our present (and presence) contract, otherwise our presence (at present) will be lacking from the grid.”
    And then, his marriage situation, too – will the divorce settlement have any bearing on F1? If so, things could be looking dire for F1 plc… but possibly quite nicely for the teams.
    Just speculation, and I don’t pretend to understand financial things, so I’m probably hugely wrong… and the first to admit to peddling conspiracy theories!

  7. Man, I want Red Bull to have Ferrari engines, because Vettel’s driving for them!

    That aside, I really hope Red Bull don’t sacrifice/plunder Torro Rosso completely for their own benefit.

  8. Ferrari giveth factory-spec engines…and ferrari can taketh away factory-spec engines…
    Still, it was one of the pleasures of the season to see TR spear forward thru the Toyota-Renault-Red Bull points battle.

  9. Dank –

    Which would also explain why Bourdais stated last week that they were looking for drivers with the financial backing rather than the talent.

    Good point – what sponsors is Buemi bringing with him, if he is indeed getting the seat?

  10. Its to late for redbull to have ferrari engines as im sure they would have started to make next years car,and its not as easy as just bolting in a different engine,also consider this,maybe mr Mateschitz has been impressed with mr berger and wants him to run redbull??or is he lining up redbull to sell to a car manufacture, say,,audi??

  11. I think that the problem with Red Bull in general is the dithering with the engines.

    I think (since Red Bull entered in 2005) that RBR should have stuck with Cosworth engines. In 2005 and the V8 change to 2006 Cosworth were clearly the leading engines of the field.

    Granted, although they were an independent engine manufacturer for F1, the new Cosworth V8 engine that Williams used for 2006 was, as Mark Webber said, a class leader particularly at the all important start of the season.

    Since both RBR and Toro Rosso ditched Cosworth in favour of Ferrari and Renault engines, both teams have, in terms of engine problems and power, been on a bit of a downward spiral, compared with the relative success and reliability of the 2005 season (even after the takeover of Jaguar).

    Cosworth had a great engine in 2006, and if RBR had invested in a long contract with Cosworth (which to my knowledge would have included gearboxes and software, etc) then engine power and development could have been improved and the engine problems (which both Red Bull teams have seen) could have been reduced, and resulted in more – and quicker – success.

  12. Instead of Vettel Moving RedBull. Redbull moved to Vettel. He with Adrian Newey will become a true champion in making with the team surrounding him. I am seeing a team being built around Vettel. Dietrich Mateschitz knows where to put his money. Same in the Schumi style when Ross Brawn moved to Ferrari and a team was built for a champion.

  13. Tmax, you got it spot on. Although Im not sure how long Vettel will be at RBR until he moves on to bigger & better teams

  14. marvin guillen
    26th November 2008, 3:52

    Redbull get Ferrari engines.And don`t forget SATO.

  15. I thought the nature of STR’s problem was that Red Bull were not going to be allowed to own them soon?

    Even if they are not customer cars, there will always be the presumption that Red Bull’s data is shared with STR.

  16. i think it comes down to money more than anything.

  17. The McLaren and Force India deal showed Red Bull that there will still be a future for RBR and STR together. One of the reasons they earlier wanted to sell STR was because of the customer cars question. That is now solved by Force India and McLaren

  18. Didi wants to get the best guys and assets from Torro Rosso and then sell the team. Btw, if there’s just one owner the sale will be easier.

  19. Surely this breaks all the ‘Customer Car’ rules so vigorously disputed by Frank Williams etc?
    If FOM/FIA allow this now, will they allow a 100% buyout of Force India by Mercedes next year? Or a fully McLaren owned Prodrive team? Or the return of Honda’s SuperAguri?
    Also, by taking over STR, there is no reason why Red Bull has to keep RBR going with the full budget – maybe it will become the No 2 team instead…..

  20. @Oliver,

    I was suggesting that it’s a bit late to switch engines, given that the cars for next year are already in production. Sure, the RBR and STR have effectively the same car, but the installation of the engine and KERS will vary, and I think to consider switching engines at this stage would be something of a handicap for next year, especially as testing is about to be drastically reduced.

  21. I’m very curious about Mateschitz’s plans for both his teams. It would make sense to switch the Ferrari engines to the mother team, but it’s unknown whether the Renault engines will be better compared to Ferrari’s with the FIA opting for engine equalisation.

    I also wonder what Gerhard Berger’s position will be… if any at all.

    About it being too late for Red Bull to switch engines, that’s probably not true, since Adrian Newey will design the RB5/STR4 for both engines anyway.

    Off-topic: talk about reading stuff out of context: I read the following phrase when scanning the article… :D

    Renault is to take over Toro Rosso

  22. Berger not sure about the future of the team:

    The new rules leave no room for improvement for a small team as STR. Also, Dietrich’s interest will focus on Red Bull Racing, therefore the support for STR will become smaller and prevent the team from improving further from sixth. I don’t want to decline, that is not in my nature.

  23. More than politics; I think it is to do with the recent downturn in world economy.

    Looking from a buyer’s point of view; He/She won’t get a F1 team at a cheaper cost than now, because of the liquidity crunch.

    Also; everything seems to be falling into Vettel’s hands now. Chance to make the car fully suitable to himself; thanks to an injured team-mate. Personnel from the STR team as well now. And possibly the Ferrari engines too. He should be a major force next year; I reckon.

  24. Is it legal for a single owner to have two teams on the grid? I am still ****** about the fact that Prodrive wasn’t allowed on the grid.

  25. Why buy back Toro Rosso?

    Ferrari engines? Possibly, the Italian powerplants certainly had an advantage over Renault at the end of 2008 if you believe Flavio Briatore. Although it does seem rather a very high price to pay, especially if there’s to be some sort of engine equalisation for 2009. Although the 2009 Red Bull could be adapted reasonably easily it’s still not ideal to change engine dimensions so late on – and there are also things like KERS to consider. With the design for 2009 so far advanced it would seem like a lot of disruption at high cost for very little benefit.

    Access to some of STR’s top personnel? Again, a very high price to pay and would it really require a change of ownership? Probably not, Red Bull could simply make the relevant people a better offer. Besides, slick F1 teams are not simply created by putting a load of good people in the same building overnight. It takes time and effort to ensure that the right people are doing the right job with the right support – and that they’re all working together seamlessly. Just look at the first incarnation of BAR or Jaguar. Again, much disruption at high cost for little immediate benefit, if any.

    Neither of the above would make STR a more appealing sale prospect – a team stripped of its best assets wouldn’t be a particularly attractive prospect for any buyer.

    Money? Probably. Sebastien Bourdais has suggested that STR is looking for extra cash for 2009, hence testing Takuma Sato who would presumably have come as a pay driver. If the rumours about Red Bull wanting Sebastian Buemi in the car for 2009 are true then perhaps the price was buying Gerhard Berger out of his stake. Sponsorship and/or financing isn’t easy to come by at present and Berger probably wasn’t in a position to fund it without dipping into his own cash.

    I’d be surprised to see a Red Bull-Ferrari on the grid for 2009.

  26. I am not sure what to make of this byt this is intersting. My question? Dose anyone know if this violates the new Condord on Customer Cars. Considering that Red Bull Owns both teams can they put all there resourses in to both teams and have them run the same stuff? Anyone know that answer?

  27. ScuderiaToroFerrari4Eva
    26th November 2008, 16:13

    just want to point out you made a mistake you said ” who arguably did a better dob” i myself am a toro rosso fan and id be very annoyed if they lose the better engine to the a team and if redbull start bossing toro rosso around so that redbull can get ahead of toro rosso hopefully all goes well for the toro rosso team and next season i hope they will be right up there with the prancing horses and the mercedes guys 2009 looks to be quite a cracker even if the cars are as attractive as looking at a baboons backside

  28. Its all about power plant consolidation…
    Berger stated the team would probably not be competitive next year, and that’s most likely because they won’t be running a KERS. He pulled out before its too late. It allows them to cut on staff at both plants and still get something competitive. I can see both team running the same engine, gearbox and KERS at the beginning of 2010

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