FORMULA 1 MOTORSPORT NEWS

How Did Scuderia AlphaTauri Get Here?

The team that won today’s Italian Grand Prix has existed in some form since 1985. Today’s finish marked just its fourth-ever podium.

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MINARDI (1985-2005)

After five years in that era’s iteration of Formula 2, Minardi joined Formula 1 in 1985. Their one-car program, anchored by Pierluigi Martini, finished just three of the sixteen races it entered. The team scored no points. The team expanded to two cars for the 1986 and 1987 seasons. In that span, the two cars recorded a total of six finishes. No points were scored in those seasons, either.

Though later seasons would go better, this was not far from the standard for Minardi F1, a team defined by its budget. The Italian team, named after founder and first owner Giancarlo Minardi, was in an eternal fight to simply design a reliable Formula 1 car and field it for a full season, a herculean task for a team with limited funds in almost any era. The team always seemed to be playing a different game than the superteams at the front of the field, one where accomplishment looked less like winning a race and more like punching above a weight class.

Minardi recorded 38 championship points over twenty seasons and two owners, never once winning a race, qualifying on pole, or even finishing on a podium. With no serious on-track accomplishments to claim, the team instead took pride in the talent it was able to develop. In the first fifteen years of the team, that included the likes of Giancarlo Fisichella, Christian Fittipaldi, and Jarno Trulli. After the team was sold to Australian businessman Paul Stoddart in 2000, the list expanded to include Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Anthony Davidson, and Justin Wilson.

Stoddart’s time in charge of Minardi was brief. In 2005, the program was sold again, this time to the group that has owned the team in the fifteen years since.

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SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO (2006-2015)

Red Bull entered Formula 1 running when it bought Jaguar in 2005, but it wanted more. The energy drink company’s significant ambitions required quick success and talent they could call their own, so, just one year later, the group acquired Minardi to create their own driver development team.

The result was Scuderia Toro Rosso, which ran the entire 2006 season with a V10 engine due to waivers effectively granted to Minardi in a last ditch effort to keep it alive and independent. This did not sit well with the other independent teams at the back of the Formula 1 grid, a group that had always welcomed Minardi’s charming but fruitless efforts but now feared the weight of Red Bull.

These teams were equally unhappy with the team’s design decision, effectively choosing to run the previous year’s Jaguar with the Minardi-approved Cosworth V10. This shared design strategy went a step further from 2007 to 2009, a window where Toro Rosso and Red Bull ran separate engines in what was effectively a shared chassis, developed by a third arm of Red Bull for the explicit purpose of being used by both teams. Mounting pressure finally forced Toro Rosso to become fully independent as a constructor in 2010, and, in the years since, both Red Bull Racing and the company’s second team have individually designed their own separate cars every offseason.

The unquestioned peak of Toro Rosso came in 2008, one year after the team poached Sebastian Vettel from the BMW Sauber F1 development ladder. The team did not debut that season’s new car until Monaco, but Vettel was immediately fast from the moment it was introduced. He would score points in nine of the thirteen rounds contested by the car known as STR3, headlined by an exceptional weekend at Monza, where Vettel took advantage of the car’s straight line speed and excellence in wet conditions to take the team’s first-ever pole on Saturday and first-ever win on Sunday.

Vettel became the first-ever Toro Rosso driver promoted to Red Bull racing, eventually leading the team to four consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships before leaving for Ferrari. Red Bull would spend the next ten years using Toro Rosso to seek out the next Vettel.

The first pairing was Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastian Buemi, two young drivers from the Red Bull development system. The pair were pitted against each other from day one, effectively told they were competing for Mark Webber’s seat at Red Bull Racing and constantly floating between a real chance of an elite Formula 1 ride and being out of the sport entirely. In their final season, rumors said that the lesser of the two would be fired. Both were. Buemi is now a two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner with Toyota; Alguersuari is now a full time DJ.

Next came Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. Ricciardo’s run in the car was nothing particularly special, but it was enough to earn him what was once Webber’s seat at Red Bull. In that seat, Ricciardo became something of a star, winning three races in his first of five seasons before leaving the Red Bull program to join Renault. Vergne was given one more season in Formula 1 before being dropped by Red Bull, since becoming a two-time Formula E champion.

Ricciardo’s replacement, Daniil Kvyat, was promoted to Red Bull Racing when Vettel left for Ferrari a season later. The new Toro Rosso lineup was Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. Eighteen months after that, Kvyat and Verstappen switched roles, and, six months later, Red Bull dropped Kvyat entirely. In came Pierre Gasly, who ran with the team for two years before being given Ricciardo’s seat at Red Bull in 2019. A few other drivers juggled the seat before him, but Kvyat eventually returned to Toro Rosso in 2019 as well.

Just as they had done to Kvyat, Red Bull demoted Gasly in favor of new Toro Rosso driver Alexander Albon in mid-2019. After a decade of shuffling, Red Bull’s second team had become home to two drivers that were no longer prospects. The junior team’s identity had shifted.

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SCUDERIA ALPHATAURI (2020)

With a new identity came a re-brand. In 2020, the former Scuderia Toro Rosso became Scuderia AlphaTauri, a program named after Red Bull’s in-house fashion line. What was once a satellite team, then a development team, is now a fully independent, free-standing midsized team that just happens to be owned by the same organization that owns one of Formula 1’s top programs.

The team’s breakthrough in its new identity came earlier today, when a combination of safety car timing, an excellent restart from a red flag, and a strong defense of his position led Pierre Gasly to his first career win Tauri sits in seventh in the 2020 constructor’s championship, and seems set to bring a car fast enough to compete for podiums, but not fast enough to compete for championships, to the track for years to come. The team could return to its middle era and once again become a development house for Red Bull Racing at any time, but, until then, it stands on its own with something to be proud of.

Source: road and track.com