F1 » Scuderia Toro Rosso
Scuderia Toro Rosso - Team Red Bull in Italian - was formed from the Minardi team at the end of 2005, following Paul Stoddart's decision to sell the outfit to Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz.
The Minardi team itself was successful in several junior formulae - particularly F2 - before graduating to Formula One in 1985.
The team's first year in the big time was disappointing, however, as the all-Italian team struggled to make an impression. The inexperienced Pier-Luigi Martini was dropped for 1986 in favour of the seasoned Andrea de Cesaris and rookie Alessandro Nannini, but the team again failed to score any points. Ironically, only when Martini returned - older and wiser - to the fold in 1988, did the team finally break its duck, taking sixth place in Detroit.
Minardi's history was punctuated by a series of fund-raising takeovers and mergers. In 1994, Minardi merged with Italian rivals BMS Scuderia Italia in order to attract greater home sponsorship, before being taken over by an Italian consortium including former driver Alessandro Nannini and then Benetton boss Flavio Briatore.
Minardi is also noted for taking risks on young, unproven drivers. Although the experiment with Martini failed first time around, Minardi can claim to have introduced to F1 the likes of Nannini, Morbidelli and Fittipaldi, and in recent years Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.
Finances bolstered by the inclusion of Japanese driver Shinji Nakano and Argentinian youngster Esteban Tuero, Minardi continued the battle against better funded opposition in 1998. Several narrow misses failed to register any points, but the potential remained, as Nakano proved by battling with the Jordan cars in Monaco.
Minardi's 1999 campaign started badly when rated teenager Tuero mysteriously quit the team. He was replaced by Marc Gene, with Ferrari tester Luca Badoer signed late as partner to the Spaniard. The new M01 chassis showed flashes of promise, however, with Gene taking it to fourth spot in one pre-season test. Despite being written off as just another pay driver, Gene continued to do well throughout the year and finally took the team's first point for several seasons at the European GP.
With Badoer opting to return to testing duties in 2000, the team looked to South America for a replacement. Newly-installed part owner/sponsor Telefonica demanded an Argentine, and former test driver Gaston Mazzacane was duly appointed to partner Gene.
From the outset of the 2000 season it was clear that the MO2 was a tidy car and throughout the year Gene ran with cars he had no right to be anywhere near but was constantly hampered by the team's two year old Ford engine.
Sadly neither Gene nor Mazzacane scored a point and Minardi's year ended on a sour note when Telefonica announced they would be leaving the team. A deal with the Pan-American Sports Network fell through at the last minute and with Gene signing to be the Williams test driver, Minardi's prospects looked bleak with no drivers, engines or sponsors. Thankfully Paul Stoddart, the man who bought the remains of the Tyrrell operation, was there to rescue them and the team was present on the grid in Melbourne, in 2001.
The new car, christened the PS01, undoubtedly suffered from a lack of testing and an inexperienced driver line-up, young F3000 standout Fernando Alonso being signed to partner ex-Minardi driver and Champcar pilot Tarso Marques. But, while Marques floudered, his young Spanish counterpart flourished, and built on the reputation he had brought to F1 with him.
Minardi, too, won more hearts and began to embarrass the likes of Prost and Arrows at the back of the grid, as Alonso outqualified both teams with a car that should not have had the power to do so.
Marques left for the final three races, as Malaysian backing helped ease FNippon racer Alex Yoong into the second seat. Yoong's debut race started inauspiciously, as both Minardis ground to a halt within sight of the pit-lane at Monza, but Yoong did enough to be retained for 2002.
There, without the Renault-bound Alonso, the Malaysian was partnered by Mark Webber - who became the first Australian since David Brabham in 1994, to land a race seat in F1.
Despite the loss of inspirational technical director Gustav Brunner to Toyota mid-2001, the new PS02 went reasonably well and with Asiatech V10's the team had the benefit of not having to pay, some £8-15 million for engines.
The year began brightly for Stoddart's team, and after a massive pile-up at the start of the Australian GP, which eliminated nearly half the field, Webber held off the Toyota of Mika Salo to finish fifth and claim two points. It was the highlight of the season and something the team failed to match again throughout 2002.
Indeed for Stoddart most of the year was devoted to legal battles, concerning the TV money that would have gone to the former Prost team.
There was also other difficulties, most noticeably at the Spanish GP, when the team was forced to withdraw from the race after both cars suffered wing failures in qualifying. Add to this the problems with Yoong, who failed to qualifying for three races - and who was 'rested' for the Hungarian and Belgium GP's, when Anthony Davidson stood in - and you have a less than easy season.
Stoddart though remained at the helm in 2003 bringing in 2001 F3000 champion, Justin Wilson, and the experienced Jos Verstappen. They also returned to using Ford Cosworth engines, and despite again struggling with finances, managed to complete the year - an achievement in itself for such a small team.
Indeed Wilson managed to impress those at Jaguar with his performances in the PS03, his race starts were a major talking point early on in the season, and he eventually left for the Milton Keynes based squad prior to the German GP. Nicolas Kiesa took his place, but just like Wilson, and Verstappen, failed to notch up any significant results - the outfits best result all year was a ninth place finish in Canada, courtesy of Verstappen.
The following season, 2004, was equally tough and having purchased the old Arrows A23 cars from receivers in June 2003, the Minardi PS04B was a development of the PS03, with the best bits from the A23 added on.
Gianmaria Bruni and Zsolt Baumgartner were nominated as their drivers, and although there were few highs they did manage to at least score a point, Baumgartner taking eighth place at the US Grand Prix - it was their best finish all season.
Despite the usual financial problems that have plagued the squad, and Ford's decision to sell off Cosworth, Minardi continued in 2005. They fielded cars for Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher, although the latter lost his seat after his money ran out, something that let Robert Doornbos into the fold for the final eight grand's prix.
Minardi managed to score 7 points in 2005, after finishing fifth and sixth at the US GP - however that result only came about as all the Michelin teams failed to race, leaving only Bridgestone-shod Ferrari, Jordan/Midland and Minardi in the 'grand prix'.
By the end of the season, Minardi's future was again uncertain and, with Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz interested in acquiring the outfit, Stoddart eventually sold out to secure the future of his employees. That brought to an end one of the most popular teams in F1 history, with the perennial backmarkers leaving the sport after 340 races that yielded 38 points – with each one celebrated as if it were a race victory.
The Italian institution was duly re-named Scuderia Toro Rosso in deference to its new owner ahead of the 2006 season, and provided a much-needed home to Red Bull 'juniors', with former Red Bull Racing runner Vitantonio Liuzzi and Red Bull Driver Search protege Scott Speed being drafted in to drive the two cars. Neel Jani was signed as the team's third driver, while ex-BMW man Franz Tost came in as team manager, replacing Stoddart.
Ex-F1 driver Gerhard Berger was finally enticed back into the sport on a full-time basis, the Australian eventually taking a 50 per cent stake in the operation and becoming team principal.
Forsaking Minardi's heritage, and sailing close to the 'customer car' rule, STR ran a mildly-revised version of Red Bull's 2005-spec RB1 in its debut season, and was also allowed to continue running with V10 engines, a legacy of a previous Minardi arrangement with the powers that be.
The motor was to be strangled by the addition of an airbox-mounted restrictor, allegedly bringing it in line with the V8s being used by everyone else, and, despite rumours that the Cosworth-powered STR-01 would have a better torque performance, Liuzzi and Speed were seldom a factor.
Indeed, as the pair struggled to keep their car ahead of the Midland/Spykers and, latterly, the Super Aguris, their driving became ragged, with Berger not holding back when talking about the number of spins and other mistakes being committed.
Speed appeared to have opened the team's account with eighth place in Melbourne, only to have the place taken away from him after being protested for passing under yellow flags. The stranded car in question was that of team-mate Liuzzi, the protest from sister team Red Bull Racing!
Liuzzi finally got the team on the board with the final scoring spot in the USGP, but that would be it for the year, STR finishing ahead of Spyker and Super Aguri by virtue of its fellow backmarkers not scoring at all.
Although the team insisted that other matters needed to take priority, a driver selection that was thought to have been automatic remained unresolved until February 2007, when the Liuzzi/Speed combo was finally confirmed.
Other upheavals however, continued to occupy the team, with Berger apparently asked to find additional sponsors to bolster Red Bull's input, while the team also made the switch to Ferrari V8s, effectively the cast-offs from RBR following its Renault deal. Like Super Aguri, STR was also embroidered in the customer car row, as the team used essentially the same car as its sister Red Bull team, the RB3, albeit named the STR-02.
For most of the year the team languished near the back, with Speed and Liuzzi both struggling to get any sort of decent results.
Following the German GP, Speed and the team parted company and in came BMW tester, Sebastian Vettel, who got the nod for the final seven races - and 2008.
At this point the team started to pursue its own direction in terms of development and things began to move forward. By the Japanese GP the outfit had started to make real progress and for the first time in its two-year history, managed to get through to Q3.
Vettel was also running third in the rain-affected race on the Sunday until he collided with the Mark Webber, who was second, and put them both out. He made amends in China though and brought his car home in fourth. Liuzzi also did well in Shanghai and thanks to his sixth place and Vettel's fourth the team moved in one swoop from tenth in the constructors' championship to seventh, ahead of not only Spyker and Super Aguri, but also Honda (and McLaren, who were stripped of all team points as a result of the spy row).
Liuzzi was also shown the door for 2008, with Vettel being joined by Sebastien Bourdais, who arrived belatedly in F1 having established an impressive record of four successive titles in the US-based Champ Car World Series.
Having been obliged to take on parent company Red Bull’s supply of Ferrari engines as Red Bull Racing opted for the supposedly superior Renault, Toro Rosso actually found itself coming out on top of the deal, but was made to wait for any noticeable gain after starting the season with the ageing STR2. Once the STR3 appeared at Monaco, however, it also unleashed Vettel, who began to live up to the hype that had surrounded him at BMW Sauber.
Under the astute guidance of technical director Giorgio Ascanelli, the still small team made the most of what it had – often adapting to the few updates it receive with more aplomb than RBR – and became a midfield fixture from France onwards. While Bourdais struggled with the newer car, Vettel positively revelled in it, culminating in pole and victory at Monza as Ascanelli played the weather card to perfection. It wasn't a one-off either, as the youngest GP winner in history racked up regular points in the second half of the year to wind up eighth in the standings.
Bourdais, by contrast, saw his form dip with the advent of the STR3, but worked hard to overcome the deficiencies in their relationship and the bad luck that also seemed to go his way – Spa, in particular, springs to mind – even if his end-of-season tally doesn't reflect the effort.
Bourdais remained for 2009, but the fact he was only confirmed in his seat after numerous others had been mentioned as possible replacements was perhaps an indication that he was on borrowed time.
The Frenchman scored in the first race of the season in Australia but a series of below-par performances cost him his drive as he was dropped after the German Grand Prix. Replacement Jaime Alguersuari came into the team for the Hungarian Grand Prix with no previous F1 experience and although he didn't score a point, showed enough potential to earn a drive for the following year.
With Vettel having moved on to Red Bull, Sebastien Buemi took the second seat for the 2009 campaign and scored points in two of the first three races. He too however would then struggle with a car that didn't have the pace to challenge for regular top eight finishes although he ended the year well with points in the final two races of the year. It wasn't enough however to stop Toro Rosso ending the year bottom of the standings.
Both Buemi and Alguersuari returned for 2010 in what was the first season for Toro Rosso as an independent constructor, now independent of the main Red Bull team.
Alguesuari opened his F1 account in Malaysia and would go on to score three top ten finishes while Buemi managed to pick up points on four occasions himself, although Toro Rosso were only able to beat the three new teams in the standings.
The STR6 was a big improvement for 2011 however, with Buemi and Alguersuari helping the team to eighth in the standings – just three points behind Sauber.
The Spaniard produced some impressive drives to come back from poor qualifying performances to score and he ended the season with 26 points to his name, eleven more than Buemi who raced for much of the year with his future in the team in doubt.
As it was, neither driver was retained at the end of 2011 as Toro Rosso instead elected to bring in Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo for 2012 – a move that surprised many but showed the faith the team had in the next crop of youngsters from the Red Bull talent pool.
Sadly for the pair, the STR7 wasn’t the quickest car on the grid, with the result that Toro Rosso ended the year bottom of the established teams with 26 points to its name; the same amount that Alguersuari had managed on his own twelve months earlier.
The car was reliable but lacked pace, which meant it was invariably resulted in the team losing a car in Q1 at half of the races run over the course of the year.
Vergne would be the worse of the pair when it came to qualifying but picked up more points with four eighth place finishes – including particularly impressive drives in Malaysia and Brazil – while Ricciardo would twice make it through to Q3 and scored on six occasions, albeit ending the year six points down on his team-mate. For the Australian, it was very much a case of what might have been after he threw away a third row start in Bahrain with a poor getaway that instead left him well down the order.
Despite the issues there were with the car - issues that resulted in technical director Giorgio Ascanelli being shown the door and replaced by James Key mid-season – both Vergne and Ricciardo were retained for the 2013 season, where Toro Rosso will hope that Key can produce the goods when it comes to the car, as he has done with Sauber and Force India in the past.