SEPTEMBER 29, 2005
The birth of the Red Bull Rookie Team
This afternoon Paul Stoddart and Dietrich Mateschitz will complete the deal they have agreed for the sale of Minardi to Red Bull GmbH. This will bring to an end the Minardi story in F1, which dates back to 1976 when Giancarlo Minardi's Scuderia Everest ran a Ferrari 312T as part of a scheme to evaluate young Italian racing drivers for F1. It was a short-lived experiment as Giancarlo Martini demolished the car on the warm-up lap of the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch. After that Giancarlo Minardi concentrated on Formula 2 and in 1980 set up Minardi and commissioned Giacomo Caliri to design an F2 chassis. The following year Minardi driver Michele Alboreto won at Misano and Giancarlo Minardi began to look at moving into F1 in 1984. A car was tested with an Alfa Romeo turbo engine but eventually made its F1 debut with Cosworth power in 1985. These were replaced by new turbo engines from Motori Moderni but it was not until Minardi returned to Cosworth in 1988 that the team scored its first point, thanks to Pierluigi Martini's efforts in Detroit. A deal with Pirelli and some promising results resulted in a deal to use Ferrari engines in 1991 but at the last minute Ferrari snatched Minardi's Pioneer sponsorship and left the team short of money and by the end of 1993 the team was so weak that it was forced to merge with Scuderia Italia in order to survive. Another breakthrough was a Mugen Honda engine deal for 1995 but the Japanese company broke the contract and moved to Ligier instead and Minardi was forced to abandon its legal action because of financial pressures applied by Ligier owner Flavio Briatore. At the end of 1996 the team was sold to a company controlled by Briatore, which included Gabriele Rumi amongst the investors. Rumi defended Minardi's interests when Briatore tried to sell the team to British American Tobacco and in the end Briatore gave up and sold the team to Rumi. The Fondmetal magnate could not fund the team properly on his own and after losing a deal with Spanish telecom company Telefonica, he sold the team to Paul Stoddart in January 2001. Four years later Stoddart has dug the team out of debt but has been forced to sell, faced by the threat that Red Bull would start its own team and thus force Minardi out of the top 10 in F1. That would kill the team as it relies heavily on TV money which goes to only the top 10 teams.
Stoddart has managed to get Red Bull to agree to leave the team in Faenza for at least two years and possibly beyond but there is no doubt that in the longer term the team will probably be moved somewhere else and will almost certainly end up under the same roof as Red Bull Racing.
It has yet to be decided what the team will be called and who will run the organisation but the latest whispers are that the team will be called the Red Bull Rookie Team and will employ Scott Speed as one driver. The identity of the other driver is apparently the source of some dispute at the moment as Red Bull tries to work out what to do with its various contracted drivers.
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