Whilst from the outside it may appear that the Red Bull Racing Formula One team and the AlphaTauri outfit are operate entities, they are more integrated than a first glance may suggests.
Of course FIA regulations state that the Red Bull junior team must own its own intellectual property and until the end of this season the Faenza based team has in fact designed and manufactured a number of components which they could alternatively buy from their sister organisation in Milton Keynes.
AlphaTauri big changes afoot
All this is set to change.
The AlphaTauri name will disappear from the end of this season mainly because the loss making Red Bull fashion brand can be replaced by another sponsor with deeper pockets.
Further, Helmut Marko has indicated the team will buy in as many components in as the FIA allows – much as Haas does with Ferrari and is outsourcing a number of its functions to an operational base in England.
However, the raison d’être for the junior Red Bull team is not to win races or titles, but to blood young drivers into Formula One without the pressure of them having to compete in a front running team.
Horner say in junior driver appointments
To this end Adrian Newey and Christian Horner in particular are involved heavily in the driver recruitment programme which is headed up y Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko.
Dr. Marko revealed last month in fact that Christian Horner was opposed to the engagement of dutch driver Nyck de Vries and in fact along with AlphTauri boss Franz Tost would have preferred to sign up the newly redundant Mick Schumacher.
Yet Helmut Marko argued this would not be fair to their young driver programme because Mick Schumacher had two years F1 experience and this was not the profile of driver the team recruited. Further it would demotivate their junior category drivers who may see their future path to Formula One irrevocably blocked by existing drivers.
Whether Christian Horner has for some time been angling to get rid of De Vries and prove he was right only he can know. Yet the rumour mill over the dutch driver “failing” began inordinately early even as early as the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Tost backs Nyck de Vries
When asked in Monaco how his new driver pairing was coming along, Franz Tost explained, “Yuki is doing a really good job. You can see his learning curve is going up very good, I must say.
“And Nyck, as I always say, if a rookie is coming to Formula One, he needs minimum three years to understand what’s going on here.”
The ‘needs minimum three years’ mantra is one Tost has repeated over the years regarding a number of his drivers.
So what happened? Nyck de Vries got just ten races and then he was axed.
Red Bull politics behind the scenes
Clearly there were other larger Red Bull Racing politics in play behind the scenes and it may well be that Sergio Perez atrocious form was the source of this weeks chain of events.
Red Bull know that whatever happens, its nigh on impossible for them to fail in either of this seasons F1 championships.
Following another shocking qualifying session for Perez who failed to make it out of Q1, Verstappen was puzzled suggesting, “With our car you should be in Q3 so I don’t know why something went wrong with him today.”
When asked what Red Bull thinks of the Perez situation, Verstappen added: “You should ask Helmut or Christian (Horner).
Max can win it on his own
“Obviously we are fighting for victory in the constructors’ championship as well but I think I could do that on my own at the moment.”
Given Max has scored 255 points this season and the combined total for both Mercedes’ drivers who are behind Red Bull in the constructors’ race is just 203 points, Verstappen’s quip above is I fact bang on true.
Yet Red Bull are looking to the future when the chasing pack begin to close. Were Ferrari or Aston Martin to make the kind of leap forward McLaren did in Silverstone, the world champions margin for error next season would be significantly reduced.
So Red Bull need rot put the pressure on Perez and have a genuine replacement at the ready should his form fail to improve.
Ricciardo needs benchmarking
Whilst Daniel Ricciardo is in the wings, an eight time Grand prix winner, the team could not be sure he has fixed his problems from the time he spent with McLaren.
So Ricciardo needed a proper bench marking test before he can return alongside Max in the Big Bull team.
Helmut Marko had trailed this week’s Pirelli tests as an opportunity for the team to “evaluate” how Ricciardo is progressing. Horner claimed he has shown signs of significant improvements in the simulator but that’s not enough to know he can deliver on track.
ESPN were the ones to break the news e Vries was out and Ricciardo was in at AlphaTauri.
Tyre test result smoke and mirrors
The sports media group claimed, “Sources have told ESPN that Horner called Marko an hour or so into it [the tyre test]just to tell him just how impressive the pace was.”
“Marko called back shortly afterwards to tell Horner he had just fired De Vries.”
Yet there is something fishy about the speed at which all this occurred.
While Daniel Ricciardo was driving the same RB19 Perez had during the previous British Grand Prix weekend, he was testing Pirelli prototype tyres designed to operate without being pre-heated.
These rubber compounds are like chalk from cheese in terms of the tyres being run in Silverstone two days earlier. Their operating window will be much larger than the 2023 Pirelli’s given they will need ton cope with a greater rage of tyre pressure as th temperature builds on the outlap.
Next under pressure: Tsunoda
It is claimed Ricciardo nailed a lap of the Northamptonshire circuit which would have been good enough to place him alongside Verstappen for the start of the 2023 British Grand Prix.
Yet this is all supposition and conjecture given Ricciardo did not deliver a lap on the same tyres as Verstappen and Perez had been using the previous weekend.
Reading the tea leaves it appears Horner needed to get Ricciardo back and driving in Formula One to benchmark his ability against Red Bull’s next graduating junior driver Yuki Tsunoda.
Whatever lap time he had delivered during the Pirelli test would have been hailed as ‘miraculous’. This together with the fact Ricciardo was awarded both days of testing which prevented him being benchmarked by either of the current Red Bull full time drivers clearly indicates it was all along Christian Horner’s ‘sneaky’ ploy to axe scapegoat Nyck de Vries.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 11, 2023