OCTOBER 15, 2007
The sale of Toro Rosso
There have been a lot of rumours in recent weeks about the future of Scuderia Toro Rosso and all the indications continue to be that the team will soon be sold by Dietrich Mateschitz and Gerhard Berger to South Africa's Tony Teixeira. This makes a great deal of sense given the recently-announced relationship between Teixeira's A1GP Series and Ferrari, which supplies engines to the team. It paves the way for the Faenza-based operation (which used to be called Minardi) to become a Ferrari secondary team, if there is ever an agreement on allowing constructors to sell their equipment to other operations.
Opposition to customer cars has been growing in recent weeks and unless the objecting teams find themselves in a position to do deals that will put everyone on an equal footing, either as constructor supplying chassis to other teams, or as a customer who is happy in that role and does not want constructor prize money, then there is unlikely to be a new Concorde Agreement by the end of December, and the teams have already agreed that if this is the case the current agreement will roll on as it is.
There is also the important arbitration case ongoing between Spyker and Toro Rosso (and Super Aguri) which will establish if the current Toro Rosso and Super Aguri cars incorporate parts used by Red Bull Racing and Honda Racing F1. If Spyker's claim is proved to be correct then both Toro Rosso and Super Aguri could end up being excluded from the championship as the current definition of a constructor is "a person (including any corporate or unincorporated body) who owns the intellectual property rights to the rolling chassis it currently races and does not incorporate in such chassis any part designed or manufactured by any other constructor of Formula 1 racing cars". If Spyker wins the case the Toro Rosso and Super Aguri cars will not have been eligible to score points and thus will have to be removed from the championship. This has implications for the World Championship as Fernando Alonso finished behind Super Aguri's Takuma Sato in Canada and would thus gain back a point.
The biggest problem, however, is that if the cars are declared to be illegal, both Toro Rosso and Super Aguri would need to build completely new cars for next year and it is really too late to do that. The only option is to run older cars but that means that teams would be uncompetitive in 2008.
The current scale of funding needed in F1 is such that investing the kind of money necessary in the hope that the team will be successful enough to pay back that investment is futile. The only people therefore who might want to go down that route are automobile manufacturers who understand that there is a value of the sport beyond the prize money, eccentric billioniares who can afford to invest in teams or have a product that they can sell using the sport as a means of promotion.
The problem for the FIA is that cost-cutting measures can only achieve so much because if money is not used in one area, it will be applied in another. The only way, therefore, in which costs can be cut is if the money supply reduces. There are some who believe that this will happen in the next 10 years as the manufacturers find that winning is simply too hard and move on to other things, selling their teams for whatever they can get for them.
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