Features - Interview

SEPTEMBER 13, 2005

Mateschitz on Minardi

Red Bull has acquired the Minardi team from Paul Stoddart and will take over operations on November 1. We asked Dietrich Mateschitz and his right hand man Dany Bahar to explain the takeover and their plans for the future.

Whose idea was it to buy Minardi?

Dietrich Mateschitz: The question of whether it would make more sense to put young Red Bull talent into other teams' cockpits or to increase the number of our own cockpits by buying an existing team has been discussed for quite a long time. Finally, we decided to buy Minardi, mainly because being responsible for our own team, we can influence its performance, safety, quality etc., which would not be the case with the other alternative, which nevertheless also would cost money.

You say you want to find seats for your up-coming drivers. But in the real world, you are not a charity, so what is the advantage of having two Red Bull teams competing against one another?

DM: If you take a look at the philosophy of Red Bull's sports sponsoring strategy you will realise that we tend to concentrate on supporting young drivers. It probably shouldn't be called charity but nevertheless, that is a fact.

Cynics would say this is all well and good, but the main reason is that it gives you and your next year's engine supplier an extra vote.

DM: The answer is a clear no, but if you want to look at it that way, it is certainly a positive side effect.

You have openly stated this deal gives you one more vote in any matters relating to F1, but the truth is, it actually gives Bernie and Ferrari one more vote. Bernie is supposed to have owned shares in Minardi and Ferrari is your new engine supplier, so surely they were involved in this takeover? It also puts you in a good light with the FIA, as by buying out Paul Stoddart, you have instantly removed Mosley's fiercest critic. My question is this: are there a lot more political issues behind this purchase?

DM: First of all we did a due diligence but couldn't find any shares in Minardi owned by Bernie Ecclestone. Secondly, although Ferrari will be our engine supplier from next year, not only were they not involved, they were not even informed that we were buying Minardi. Third, the relationship between Paul Stoddart and Max Mosley is not our concern nor of any interest to us. It was Paul who has wanted to sell his team for quite some time. So, to answer your question there were no political issues at all behind this takeover but because it is very likely that we will sign the extension of the Concorde Agreement we maybe should have called our press release announcing the Minardi purchase not "three birds with one stone" but "six birds with one stone!" But joking apart, Red Bull's two teams can act totally independently of one another with no contracts obliging us to take block decisions for both the teams. We have tyre contracts with Michelin and possibly with Bridgestone, engine contracts with Cosworth as well as with Ferrari, and we are free to agree or disagree with the ideas and proposals of Mosley and Ecclestone.

It is currently against the rules for one team to build a chassis for another team, so do you have enough time between now and the start of next season to put together a more competitive package than the current Minardi?

DM: We definitively wouldn't have taken the decision to buy Minardi if we did not feel we could put together a more competitive package. If it suits us to make use of synergies between Minardi and Red Bull Racing and they are within the current Formula 1 rules then we might do so, but in principal, both teams will be managed autonomously and independently and will compete against each other. It will be one of the main challenges for the Red Bull rookie team to try and beat Red Bull Racing just as it will be trying to beat the other teams on the grid.

What is Helmut Marko's role within your racing programme.

DM: Helmut has a consultancy role within Red Bull and is mainly responsible for the talent search programme. He does not have an operational role in either of the teams.

Who will drive for the new team?

DM: Apart from David Coulthard, who already has an agreement in place with Red Bull Racing for 2006, we will not be deciding on our driver line-up for either team until the end of the season. I can confirm that Christian Klien will now race in the remaining three rounds of this season and that Vitantonio Liuzzi will continue as the Friday driver, thus learning three circuits he has not seen before.

So that means Coulthard/Klien for Red Bull Racing?

DM: This is only one possibility among others.

Who will provide the new team's engines and tyres?

DM: The team will use Cosworth V10 engines. The tyre question has not been decided yet.

What will the team be called?

DM: We have not decided yet, but the name will reflect the fact it is a team positioned as Red Bull's rookie team.

Changing the subject to your existing team. What can you say about rumours that Mark Smith will replace Gunther Steiner as the team's technical supremo?

Dany Bahar: It is just a rumour. We have worked on improving the efficiency of our technical department. We have altered the responsibilities of some of the key engineers and changed the structure slightly. Gunther is still Technical Operations Director and reports directly to Red Bull, while Mark Smith reports directly to Gunther Steiner and has a title change to Technical Director.

You have not yet announced any personnel or drivers, but will a new team boss be in place by November 1?

DB: Yes, we will and we are now in the final stages of negotiations on that matter.

You made your announcement from the Red Bull Energy Station in the Spa paddock, which seems a bit confusing. What roles will Christian Horner and Gunther Steiner have with the new team?

DB: They will have no involvement with the Minardi project. They have a lot to do with Red Bull Racing to make it a front running team. The Minardi team must not be a drain on our existing team's resources or manpower. It will run independently. The names might be similar, but just to make it clear again, it is Red Bull and not Red Bull Racing that has bought Minardi.

You must have known this takeover was going to happen by the time of the Italian GP, so why did you bother to announce Speed as a third RBR driver?

DB: It might be hard to believe, but we did not have the Minardi deal in place then. From our first approach to Paul Stoddart to signing on Saturday in Spa, there was just three weeks.

What assurances can you give the current Minardi staff about their future?

DB: Our past record shows that as a company we are a fair one and we have given our word that the factory will stay in Faenza indefinitely and we have offered to keep the staff. But to develop and improve the team in the future we need to make some changes within key staff and management. Paul is aware of that.