DECEMBER 21, 2006
Doornbos and Scuderia Toro Rosso
Back in October we reported that in an effort to raise sponsorship for 2007 Scuderia Toro Rosso would most likely replace Scott Speed with Robert Doornbos. The team is a joint venture between Red Bull and Gerhard Berger and as part of the agreement Berger has to find half the budget each year. This is not easy for a team with poor results - even for a man with Berger's connections. A multimillionaire thanks to his trucking business, his F1 career and other investments, Berger is not a man who will dip into his own pocket to pay and so he is looking for a way to raise the budget he needs. Doornbos is understood to have a decent sum of money - estimates vary between $5m and $10m - available from Har Muermans, a Dutch real estate developer, and Berger is interested in using that money. Fortunately Doornbos has been associated with Red Bull for some time, even though he is not one of the drivers who has been nurtured deliberately by the Austrian drinks company. The problem with picking him is that if that happens Red Bull's F1 teams will feature three non-Red Bull drivers and just one who is a part of the driver promotion scheme.
Red Bull has made a considerable mess of trying to build a staircase for talent and although many young drivers will jump at the chance of money early in their careers, the handling of the careers of Christian Klien, Scott Speed, Tonio Liuzzi, Neel Jani and others will make youngsters very wary of signing anything long-term because of the way the programme has developed in recent years. The US-based Red Bull young driver scheme, which aimed to put an American in F1, is all but dead with only Speed now left. Dumping him would finish the programme in Europe, although Red Bull would almost certainly take Scott off to Champ Car. That would not be fair as Speed did a decent job in his first season of F1.
The other option is to dump Tonio Liuzzi - a move which makes no sense at all. The Italian had a stellar career before arriving in F1 but for the last two seasons, Red Bull has done little to help him, forcing him to share a car last year, pushing him into Toro Rosso this year and then hiring Mark Webber rather than promoting him to RBR as many inside the team wanted to see. If Liuzzi decided to walk out of his contract he would have a decent argument in court that Red Bull has had a detrimental effect on his career. That would not help him much because what he needs more than anything is a decent car to show what he can do before people start to forget to include him in lists of rising stars.
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