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Are STR On The Verge Of Being Sold Already?

Are STR On The Verge Of Being Sold Already?

It was only a few months ago that Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz announced that he will be selling his Scuderia Toro Rosso team before the rules change out of his favour in 2010. At the time, Mateschitz said that he wouldn’t be looking for a buyer this season, but would be taking offers in 2009. However, today it has emerged that Ultimate Motorsport – a Formula Three operation – could be close to a deal that would see the outfit progress to Formula One.

The energy drinks giant purchased the Jaguar team back in 2005 and rebranded it into Red Bull. Since then the team has had its ups and downs, but generally speaking they are doing well. The Red Bull funds have enabled the team to use Ferrari and Renault engines, employ Adrian Newey and succeed in a whole host of other deals.

Scuderia Toro Rosso didn’t come about until 2006 when Paul Stoddart sold his beloved Minardi team. At the time the rules of Formula One allowed the team to use Red Bull’s chassis and thus Mateschitz chose to create STR as a satellite squad to Red Bull. Staff could be trained at STR before being promoted to the father team, drivers as well could be given their break and although there is a huge cost in running two teams, the benefits must have been there. Mateschitz is a businessman at heart and he wouldn’t have bought Minardi if he didn’t think it would be worth it.

However, for 2010 customer chassis are to be outlawed, and the added cost funding separate design and manufacturing departments have likely swayed the accountants the other way. Thus, STR was put on the market, or was to be put on the market.

For the start of 2010 there will be a rule change and there will be no more synergy regarding design and construction of cars between Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso. There I see the necessity that we continue with one team only. We will not sell Toro Rosso during the 2008 season, but it will be before 2010. Dietrich Mateschitz, speaking in March 2008.

For a company to consider taking on STR, they would need several key things in place though, most notably the resources to design their own car. Which is why the best way forward is for an existing operation to take the squad over. And that is what Ultimate Motorsport appear to be in the process of doing. While they aren’t as well-equipped as an established F1 team, they are in a good position to expand and promote themselves.

We always set out with Formula One as the target. I would only have got involved in the project in the first place if I was confident we could take it all the way to F1, that is the aim.

If our plans go the right way, I’d like to think we could be on the grid for 2009. The aim is to have the whole structure, with the academy from karting, through Formula Three and the World Series, and Formula One at the top. Barry Walsh, Ultimate Motorsport.

Ultimate Motorsport are thought to be partnering up with Angolan oil company Sonangol (whom already have a partnership in place with Ultimate), who will essentially be the financial backers, and no doubt primary sponsor, of the team.

Relieving themselves of Scuderia Toro Rosso will help Red Bull solely focus on the development of Red Bull Racing, and if the rumours of a driver move-around are true, then this will be a good move. However, the fact that Ultimate Motorsport are working towards being on the grid for 2009 not only fly in the face of Mateschitz’s previous words, I fear they may also be a little too optimistic.

If Ultimate take over STR by the end of the year, then they will likely have to build their own car for 2009 – I can’t see Red Bull allowing them to use the RB5, although they may be able to use the RB4 STR3. Of course, the technical rules are undergoing further changes for next year and Ultimate would still need to work on modifying the chassis to fit the regulations.

Red Bull would also be wise to poach all the good staff before any handover is completed, leaving Ultimate with a bare-bones shell to develop. Would they have enough time to complete this? I fear not, especially when you consider that the Faenza factory isn’t exactly state-of-the-art. Which is why I believe Ultimate Motorsport, should they manage to succeed in buying STR, would be wise to get Red Bull to run the team for one final season, allowing time for the all the necessary puzzle-pieces to be correctly placed. This will give the squad the best chance of continuing the operation once the Red Bull money stops.

Oliver White

7 comments

  • This is a really interesting story. One of the puzzle-pieces could well be Barry Walsh’s (Ultimate’s owner) connection with French company Mygale – who design and build the teams F3 chassis. Grandprix.com have the detail on this angle, as well as some interesting background on Sonangol, the currently cash-rich Angolan oil company who are reputed to be the funding behind this bid.

    STR still represents a good opportunity for a potential F1 start-up, provided that the money is there. Equally, the main Red Bull team will stand to benefit significantly from the sale of the sister operation, which is currently a significant drain on resources.

  • This is fitting – just after we’ve heard one unfamiliar national anthem on the podium (the Polish one), the prospect of another one (the Angolan anthem) appears.

    This sounds a good competitor – but so did Midland and Prodrive. I’ll wait and see how they get on before judging them.

  • I wonder how they would manage the drivers – Red Bull seem to be keen on creating contracts with the main company itself rather than being specific with Red Bull Racing or Scuderia Toro Rosso.

    Would they strike a deal to allow Vettel, Bourdais or whoever to drive for them whilst still under contract to Red Bull, or would we see yet more Red Bull drivers heading for the F1 exit door?

  • This was mentioned before on the site, although I can’t remember where at the moment. Vettel is, I think, likely to get a bump up to RBR, and Bourdais has, I think, shown himself to be worthy of an F1 drive. But at least Bourdais could return to America if needed, although as you say, it wouldn’t be ideal to lose more talent from the grid.

  • I think you are dead right about both Vettel and Bourdais Oliver. I haven’t been and checked it out, but there is something nagging in the back of my mind that tells me that Vettel’s current contractual situation is slightly more complicated by the fact that BMW maintain some kind of a stake in him. I can’t forsee a situation whereby he would replace either of the drivers there, but it is possible that they may have some kind of a hand in where he goes next as well.

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