Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturdays: The End of Scuderia AlphaTauri

Helmut Marko, who oversees the Red Bull Junior program, has revealed a number of new things involving AlphaTauri.

In an interview with Kleine Zeuitung, Marko said that AlphaTauri would have new branding to go along with a new team principal and a new direction for the team next year.

It makes sense for the team to have a new name and new logo. The AlphaTauri clothing brand is apparently experiencing financial difficulties, and it’s easy to see why. The people rich enough to drop 500 euro on a bomber jacket are probably not going to buy it from a clothing company owned by an energy drink.

It’s also a bit confusing to have a sports team branded as a premium clothing line, in that then the team is then turning around to sell fans sports merchandise with the branding but not actually made by the company. If you follow.

I wouldn’t be shocked if the team ends up taking Ford branding eventually, but they will have a Honda allegiance for the next few years so it’s not up for current speculation. Red Bull has a brand called Simply Cola they could use in the interim, or they could simply sell naming rights to a sponsor. There are a lot of options.

Their new competition direction, reading between the lines, seems to indicate that the team will return to being much more of a junior team. In the last few years, AlphaTauri had started to move away from Red Bull on various functions, such as building a lot of their own parts. That’s going to change; don’t expect the mid-2000’s Toro Rosso era to come back, where the cars were literally year-old Red Bull chassis. But instead, imagine more of a Haas situation where the team is outsourcing a lot of its parts.

It won’t be a full Haas situation in that they give up car design to an outside company. But any scenario in which AlphaTauri is anything but a junior team going forward, in spite of Red Bull’s declaration a few years ago, is simply no longer the case.

That leads us to drivers, which is Marko’s bread and butter. A surprise performance deep in the points either this weekend or next at Silverstone may well be the only thing that could keep Nyck de Vries in the car.

Things have gotten to the point where de Vries may not even make it past this month with the team. But Red Bull also has another potential trouble brewing at the main team.

Sergio Perez isn’t completely lost at sea – yet. But he’s dropped off mightily in the past couple of months. Max Verstappen has run away and dominated Formula 1 since Miami; Perez has frequently started the weekends off on the wrong foot due to mistakes in qualifying and has had to spend the races trying to carve through the field.

When both of Perez’s hot laps were deleted in qualifying on Friday in Austria and he failed to make it out of Q2 while Nico Hulkenburg got into Q3, it meant that the Haas driver has now made more Q3 appearances this season than Red Bull’s second driver. That’s not exactly good news for Perez, who will once again on Sunday have to try and race into points from 15th on the grid.

While Perez is going to have a much looser leash than de Vries given his contract not being up for another year and Red Bull’s large constructor championship lead, he has definitely dug himself into a hole. He’s going to need to get back to where he was last year, where he proved to the team that he could pick up the slack and nab the win if something happened to Verstappen. And the reality is that something is going to happen eventually; no driver could win out from this early in a season.

There’s definitely been a bit of a tone shift regarding Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo recently, from Ricciardo being unlikely to do much on the racetrack to now actively participating for Red Bull in a test after Silverstone next weekend.

Could Ricciardo potentially take over from Perez and knock the Mexican down to AlphaTauri to take over for de Vries? That type of move isn’t going to happen mid-season, but it’s one that seems more likely now than it did just a couple of months ago.

There are other pieces on Marko’s chessboard to move around. Liam Lawson has had a lot of success in Super Formula and may well be the most ready for an F1 seat tomorrow among Red Bull Juniors. Ayumu Iwasa is third in F3 points and has notched three wins already this season.

Personally, I’d give a call up to McLaren and see how much Alex Palou would cost. Palou has been on fire this season and seems set to win his second IndyCar championship.

Why should Palou be in F1? Why not? He’s been phenomenal in America even in spite of his lame-duck status at Chip Ganassi Racing. It would be another outside risk for Red Bull that has a chance of not panning out like de Vries hasn’t. But Palou could pose a serious challenge to Yuki Tsunoda next year if given the chance.

Oh yeah, that’s right. Tsunoda! Just because he’s only coming up over 800 words in doesn’t mean he’s an afterthought. If Aston Martin did not jump and become a top team this season, meaning there are now four teams ahead of the midfield, Tsunoda would be much more well-regarded than he is now.

But because there are eight cars that are always going to finish in points as long as they don’t massively screw up in the race, Tsunoda has struggled to turn consistent speed into results. There’s definitely a world where he gets a shot on the main team now.

But, while there seems to be more change undergoing at AlphaTauri than at any point in the team’s history since Red Bull purchased Minardi to form it, one thing will stay consistent. It’s Marko’s chess game, and unless your name is Verstappen, nothing is for certain in it.

About the author

Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.

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