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?
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 Grandprix.com 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?