Despite Dietrich Mateschitz's persistent denials to the contrary, Red Bull is reportedly once more looking to sell off 'junior' outfit Scuderia Toro Rosso – only this time at just half the price the energy drinks company was asking for last year.
Speculation began to surface again in Singapore last weekend, and according to Italian website 422race.com
, most paddock observers are of the opinion now that it is when
rather than if
STR is offloaded by its parent company – even if a spokesperson for Mateschitz has insisted that 'there are ongoing rumours, but currently we have no plans to sell'.
Red Bull purchased Toro Rosso off Paul Stoddart midway through 2005, with the Australian entrepreneur having similarly bought the Faenza-based operation – then still Minardi – from its eponymous founder Giancarlo Minardi four years earlier still. The initial objective was to run the team by sharing its chassis design with Red Bull Racing, and as a training ground to bring some of Red Bull's many young driver programme members up through the ranks.
However, with subsequent F1 regulations stipulating that every competitor must design and build its own car, and with only Sebastian Vettel having proven of sufficient calibre to be promoted from the 'B' team to the 'A' team as it were, the general perception is that STR has become a costly millstone around Mateschitz's neck and as such, its retention is becoming increasingly difficult to justify. The common school of thought is that the Austrian billionaire is now eager to get rid – so eager, in fact, that he has slashed last year's asking price of $60 million to just $30 million now.
With the energy drinks market suffering from the ongoing global credit crunch, in 2009 – for the first time in a good number of years – Red Bull registered a fall in sales, with a drop in net income from €3.32 billion to €3.27 billion, making the support of a second F1 team even more difficult to sustain.
Numerous potential buyers have been mooted, from alleged Far-Eastern bidders to Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim – though it is unclear whether the Telmex chairman's advances are merely an effort to ramp up the pressure on his real target of Sauber – and even the Villeneuve/Durango partnership, which is refusing to give up on its F1 dream despite having been rejected by governing body the FIA for the 13th available grid slot in 2011.
Indeed, another rumour that has been doing the rounds of late is that F1 2010 newcomer Virgin Racing is looking to sell its current chassis' for use in the top flight next season – thereby helping to raise some vital funds for the team with what is widely-believed to be the smallest budget on the grid.
Prior to its dismissal by the FIA, Villeneuve Racing was said to be an interested candidate, with Virgin's pioneering technical director Nick Wirth having discussed the matter with the Italo-Canadian venture and Villeneuve himself having stated that the development of his team's 2011 chassis was 'innovative and promising'. Now, however, it is understood that the 1997 F1 World Champion has turned his attentions towards Toro Rosso, as he determinedly exhausts every possibility of finding a way to rejoin the fray.