When Red Bull Racing made its debut in F1 back in 2005, with more front than Dolly Parton and a motorhome big and flash enough to take on McLaren’s, jaws dropped.
And everything the team did, from sending David Coulthard up onto the Monaco podium dressed in a sponsors’ Superman cloak, to encouraging its principal Christian Horner to jump naked into a swimming pool to celebrate the event, reinforced the impression that the sport now had a major new player on its hands.
That impression hasn’t always been backed up on the track, with a couple of years of dodgy cars to contend with. But becoming one of two manufacturers to effectively run a B-team was the next indication of just how seriously the drinks company takes its extreme sports branding strategy.
Well, now the 2008 Concorde Agreement has put the tin hat on customer cars and Toro Rosso is up for sale. Whither Red Bull now?
Head honcho Dietrich Mateschitz has given some indication with an interview in Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten.
He reportedly said: “My proposal is to allow four cars per team.
“If the regulations mean Toro Rosso can no longer utilise Red Bull technologies, then it makes no sense. We cannot build a second Milton Keynes in Faenza.”
All well and good. Personally we think there is something very badly wrong when the pinnacle of motorsport cannot field a full grid of 24 cars. Prodrive, having been chosen for the 12th grid slot, has been halted by legal action before it ever put wheel to tarmac, and Super Aguri is busy going out of business.
But would it help to take Mateschitz up on his proposal? The ultimate consequence of this might well be a DTM-style formula with just two manufacturers involved.
And watching, let us say, Ferrari and McLaren fight the same battles race after race with no-one else present to enliven the mix sounds to us like a recipe for some very boring racing.
Surely allowing customer cars would be a more effective solution?