Red Bull has certainly shaken the world of Formula One in recent years with dual world championships and their commitment to racing has been nothing short of inspiring. Their junior team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, has been a bit of an enigma however.
The team, known as STR, was originally set up as a young driver development team but if you ask some, it was mainly created (or purchased from floundering Minardi) for Scott Speed and Vitantonio Liuzzi as Red Bull had completed and exhaustive driver search program that snared Speed and Liuzzi in the process.
Red Bull's penchant for entering Formula One could not be doubted but STR's existence has been questioned periodically. Perhaps the release of 2011 drivers Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi was another reason to scratch heads as to what the real mission of the team is.
STR hired Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne for 2012 and plainly stated, or re-stated, their mission as a driver development program for the sister team Red Bull Racing. Current Red Bull Driver and dual world champion Sebastian Vettel came through the ranks in this fashion and when he was at STR, he gave them their first pole position and victory.
The news today is that STR boss Franz Tost is still speaking about the former drivers, Buemi and Alguersuari, and not in glowing terms telling F1's official website:
"This is a high-performance sport and 'departures' are a part of the game," Tost said.
"Both drivers have to thank Red Bull as otherwise they would never have made it into Formula 1. And even now they have it in their own hands to make something out of the chance Red Bull has given them.
"Well, Buemi is still with Red Bull Racing as their third man. What will happen to Alguersuari? I have no information at the moment but, as I said, thanks to Red Bull they have a very good basis to pursue their careers from. Maybe even in Formula 1 at another team.
"I'm not saying that they are not fit for Formula 1 as both have shown substantial talent at some races, but it is not enough for Red Bull Racing.
"But I could imagine that they could be top drivers somewhere else and have a successful racing career."
Helmut Marko, Red Bull's advisor and right-hand man to owner Dietrich Mateschitz, was quoted as saying that Buemi and Alguersuari were not F1 winners; that they weren't right for the STR program. Tost supports that suggestion:
"There is probably some truth in Helmut's assertion. When we speak about the 'right stuff' for Red Bull Racing we are talking about a double world championship-winning team, which means that drivers who get elevated there must have the ability to win races and championships.
"And it was from that perspective that second thoughts set in when it came to Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari. Toro Rosso is a rookie team - and we will head into the 2012 season with two rookies. I fully support this decision."
One has to consider that STR's program is to find the next Sebastian Vettel for their bigger, sister team Red Bull but while they've suggested that, the intriguing issue is that for three years Buemi drove for the team and if it were true that he was not a "winner", why did STR hang on to him for so long?
If the team is truly looking to test young drivers, would it not be more logical to see the driver program resembling a revolving door with new talent every year unless one of the young drivers show much promise?
Either way, it's a bit odd to still have Marko and Tost slating their former drivers in the press. The decision was made and ironically Buemi is still part of their family as a reserve driver so critically they are saying we still have a driver on payroll that isn't a winner. Very odd indeed.
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