How Red Bull’s world was rocked after Sebastian Vettel’s Monza victory

Thomas Maher
Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel racing at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. Monza, September 2008. Red Bull

Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel racing at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. Monza, September 2008.

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has revealed how rule changes put in place as a result of Sebastian Vettel’s win in 2008 affected Toro Rosso.

Red Bull have owned two teams in Formula 1 since 2006, having got started in the sport with their eponymous team in the previous year. With Minardi struggling financially as perennial backmarkers, Dietrich Mateschitz’s company swooped to purchase the Faenza-based squad and, for 2006, it was renamed Toro Rosso (Italian for Red Bull).

In the first few years of its operation, Toro Rosso used the same (or very lightly modified) chassis as Red Bull. For instance, in 2007, their STR2 was the same as Red Bull’s RB3 – which had been designed by the newly-hired Adrian Newey. For 2008, Toro Rosso used the same tactic, but clinching their first win that year saw the customer cars argument escalate and a rule change introduced to prevent Red Bull from using the racing model from then on.

Helmut Marko: We could run four cars from one premises

With the majority of the work for Toro Rosso being carried out from Red Bull’s Milton Keynes factory, Marko said it had made perfect sense for the company – the only significant performance disparity between the two teams was their engine supply.

While Red Bull were powered by Renault, Toro Rosso had a superior Ferrari V8, and this helped power Sebastian Vettel to a famous win in the rain at Monza – meaning it was the ‘B-team’ that delivered Red Bull’s first success in the sport.

“The FIA was run by Max Mosley, and they guaranteed us we can use the same chassis for both teams, which was the case in 2008,” Marko told the Inside Line podcast.

“When Vettel won Monza, he had the Ferrari engine, which was stronger than the Red Bull team – I think it was a Renault engine at this time which was less powerful than the Ferrari.

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“So it was, commercially, a very good decision, with one Development Centre at Milton Keynes, we could run four cars.

“After winning Monza, the world changed. All of a sudden, what was guaranteed to us didn’t exist anymore.

“So we got the team and now, we had to set up a complete technical team, production, design, everything, because it was not anymore allowed to use the chassis of Red Bull Racing.

“So that changed dramatically. But, once we had the team, the boss decided ‘Yes, we keep going’. But it changed the whole financial face of the decision why we bought Minardi.”

Helmut Marko: There will be as much synergy as permitted between Red Bull teams

15 years later, and the fortunes of Red Bull and AlphaTauri (renamed from Toro Rosso) have completely changed. With customer supply deals such as their original racing model outlawed, the teams are also not allowed to share knowledge on a broad range of areas.

This means that, despite AlphaTauri being owned by Red Bull, they are not permitted to most of the knowledge the senior team has learned over the years since. Their respective forms suggest the former Toro Rosso team aren’t finding ways to learn from Red Bull, as they languish at the bottom of the pack while Red Bull dominate.

It’s led to big changes afoot at Faenza, particularly in light of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz passing away at the end of 2022, and team boss Franz Tost opting for retirement for 2024. Peter Bayer will come in as CEO, with current Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies taking over as team boss.

Some sections of the AlphaTauri team will be moved to the UK to be near Red Bull’s enterprise, while Marko, has also revealed a name change will be made for next year as part of the team’s refresh.

“It shows the commitment and the passion, which Red Bull had,” Marko said of their willingness to accept the rule change back in 2009.

“We made the first step, now it was a second step. That’s why Minardi, or now AlphaTauri, will have a new setup. Two new people on the front in Peter Bayer and Laurent Mekies. It’s clear the team has and will follow, as closely as the regulations allow it, Red Bull Racing.

“Don’t do their own development and suspension, so use as much of the brilliant technical know-how we have and make as many synergies as possible.”

Asked whether there is any information or knowledge swapping already going on, Marko denied it.

“Not in the way that AlphaTauri is successful enough, you know?” he said.

“There was too much ego, which is part of the sport. Now that’s clear for the future and, as far as regulations allow it, the synergies will be used.”

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