MARCH 19, 2008
The sale of Scuderia Toro Rosso
It has been known in Formula 1 circles for the last six months that Scuderia Toro Rosso was up for sale, despite a series of denials from some of those involved. There were in-depth negotiations with A1 Grand Prix Series's Tony Teixeira last autumn and Force India's Vijay Mallya also took a look at the team before buying the Spyker operation. The deals were not completed, probably because of the uncertainty over the future of the team, because of the ongoing arbitration process, started by Spyker. This claims that Scuderia Toro Rosso breached the terms of the Concorde Agreement in 2007 by using cars built by Red Bull Racing. Moves are now afoot to settle this claim before it gets to the arbitration court in July. Once a settlement has been found, Scuderia Toro Rosso will increase in value, although any buyer must be prepared to invest heavily to turn the Faenza operation into a constructor. The team used to build its own chassis in the days when it was known as Minardi. What is clear is that Red Bull company boss Dietrich Mateschitz does not want to invest in the necessary production facilities, having already invested a fortune in Red Bull Racing in Milton Keynes. The decision to own two teams was based on the belief that the two would be allowed to run the same cars, but F1 has now turned its back on customer cars. An agreement is now in place for everyone to be manufacturers by the year 2010.
Although there is still a 12th franchise available, the Scuderia Toro Rosso operation is a better option as the team has scored points and this has access to the benefits which a new team cannot claim for three years. In addition it has an established factory and staff. Thus it represents a good opportunity for an F1 investor, so long as the arbitration problem goes away. Whether it is a good idea to base this in Italy is another matter.
Gerhard Berger, who owns half the team, may wish to take over the team but that would require money for the purchase and for the transformation and that does not make much sense for the former F1 driver, who is a rich man, but not that rich.
Berger does not have any inherent reason to invest in the team. He might feel it was a good idea to buy and invest if he thought he could sell it at a profit, but he does not have a big business which could sustain the operation and benefit from it. The new generation of buyers of F1 teams are those who have large retail operations which see F1 as a good way to build their businesses. These include Vijay Mallya, the Baugur Group from Iceland, whichis heavily involved with Williams, and presumably whoever is behind Martin Leach's takeover of Super Aguri. This is believed to be money from Dubai.
"We have Toro Rosso on the market and are looking for the right person to purchase it," said Mateschitz. "At the start of the 2010 Formula 1 season there will be a rule change that says we can not build both Red Bull Racing's car as well as the car for Scuderia Toro Rosso. That is why I believe we should continue with one team only."
There does not appear to be any rush to sell the team, so long as the deal is done by 2010, although the sooner a deal is struck the better as work on the 2010 cars will need to start in about a year from now and investing in new machinery and other infrastructure will inevitably take time.