Helmut Marko has now gone on the record to explain the future of the junior Red Bull team currently known as AlphaTauri. The team was acquired by the global energy drinks brand back in 2005 and renamed Minardi to Toro Rosso.
The Minardi family are part of the historic tapestry of the Italian town of Faenza owning a FIAT dealership as far back as 1927. The family competed in a variety of motorsports using their own vehicles during the 1940’s.
Minardi much loved F1 team
Then in 1979 Giancarlo Minardi founded the Minardi racing team with financial backing from well known Italian motor racing patron Piero Mancini. Minardi raced in the Formula Two championship commissioning their own chassis rather than buying one in.
Then in 1984 Minardi decided to enter Formula One the following year and set about designing their own car. The Alfa Romeo engine was not ready for the first two races so the team had to adapt its M185 chassis to accept the popular Ford DFV engine.
Over the years the team regularly struggled with finances though they were liked and respected amongst Formula One aficionados for their friendliness, accessibility and the lack of a corporate culture.
On track their cars were regarded as well designed despite their tiny budget and their lowly championship positions were as a result of financial constraints rather than badly designed cars.
Faenza team for Red Bull young talent
Former Minardi drivers include double World Champion Fernando Alonso, Grand Prix race winners Alessandro Nannini, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli and Mark Webber.
In 2005 the latest owner of Minardi and Australian businessman called Paul Stoddart decided he would sell the Faenza based team if he could find the right bidder.
Minardi fans worldwide raised a petition to protest the sale of the team and despite Stoddart selling to Red Bull GmbH a condition was the team remained based in Faenza.
Renamed Toro Rosso for the 2006 season, Red Bull began to use it’s Italian based team to promote young drivers who had risen through their “Red Bull Driver Search” programs.
Sale of AlphaTauri rumoured
The former Minardi team continued in the tradition of being valiant lower midfield F1 competitor although Sebastian Vettel claimed Toro Rosso’s first victory in a rain soaked Monza back in 2008.
The team was rebranded to promote Red Bull’s fashion label in 2000, with a best finish in the constructor’s championship in 2021 claiming sixth place.
With a number of new competitors wishing to join Formula One, the easiest route is to buy an existing team. Rumours swirled around a possible sale of AlphaTauri by Red Bull given the big numbers paid for Sauber by Audi.
Red Bull’s management quashed the rumours though the team’s underperformance has produced a number of comments from Helmut Marko in particular that the team must one way or another improve.
Recruiting F1 talent to Italy problematic
AlphaTauri suffer from similar difficulties suffered by all the non English based F1 teams and this is the recruitment of top level talent.
“You can move from Red Bull to Mercedes, keep the same hours, keep children in the same school and from the Friday to the Monday you can change [teams] and everything is perfect,” Vasseur said at the Canadian GP.
“If you want to come to Italy, it’s a different approach. You have to change the family environment and so on.
If the most iconic Formula One brand struggles to recruit talent from other teams, AlphaTauri’s task will be infinitely more difficult.
Infrastructure under developed
From Milton Keynes down to Woking is just 67 miles and this represents the length of England’s “motorsport valley” where 7 teams have their operational bases. Further, teams are now often made up of around 1000 personnel and attract people who want more regular lifestyles than the old fashion globe trotting grease monkeys of the 1970’s.
Another problem for AlphaTauri is over the years the bigger teams have developed far better facilities than the likes of Williams and the former Mardi outfit.
Team boss Franz Tost told Racing365, “If you look to the top teams, they have built up fantastic infrastructure in the last years with a lot of simulation tools. They have the best people and midfield teams – not only us – have to come up with better simulation tools.”
However, Tost agrees with Ferrari’s boss and believes this is where AlphaTauri suffer their biggest disadvantage, “the best people go to the best teams.”
100 staff already based in England
AlphaTauri have set up a satellite base in Bicester, England where Marko revealed to Formula1.de, “It’s obvious that we’re playing through various options, including England.
“AlphaTauri already has over 100 employees in England. It’s a split between Italy and England because it’s much easier to find employees in England.”
Yet if AlphaTauri were to relocate to England they would have on hand all the 21st century technology of the Red Bull organisation. The Paul Stoddart clause preventing the team moving from Faenza has now long expired.
Stranded at the bottom of the constructors’ table Marko now admits to F1insider, “We are not satisfied with AlphaTauri’s current performance, nor are they themselves.”
Marko affirms AlphaTauri role
Yet the Red Bull advisor restates the importance to Red Bull of the AlphaTauri role within the organisation.
“Their main task is still to train our young talents so that they can take the next step. This has worked well in the past and the current example of Yuki Tsunoda shows that it still works today despite the still meagre points haul.”
AlphaTauri move to England
However Marko will one again set the rumour mill turning with his concluding remarks.
“We hope that AlphaTauri can improve this year and for the future, the plan is to expand the collaboration with Red Bull Racing – within the permitted limits of the regulations – so that more resources can be used efficiently.
“For this, it is planned that parts of the team will go to England.”
It could be that the Faenza operation becomes scaled down until it becomes a mere fabrication, production and assembly operation where there is plenty of talent to be found from Italy’s road car industry.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 24, 2023