Ask any journalist in any media centre on the F1 calendar and they’ll tell you that Red Bull + Formula 1 = fun. There’s the regular “Formula Una” judging contests (hordes of pretty girls wearing lycra), floating swimming pools on the Monte Carlo harbour and pumping disco parties (extravagant PR stunts), and the only press releases on the planet that include expletives and unashamedly quote Mark Twain who observed that “France has usually been governed by prostitutes” (political what? What correctness?).
Just like Black Adder’s Baldrick, though, someone behind locked doors of the lavish Red Bull motor home last year hatched a cunning plan – to supply exactly the same chassis in 2007 to both Red Bull Racing and its junior squad, Scuderia Toro Rosso (literally Team Red Bull, in Italian). The idea will almost certainly guarantee a multitude of fast-moving energy drink logos in the upper midfield of the world’s third most popular sport.
The problem? It’s blatantly against the rules.
Arguably the purest passage in the once highly confidential Concorde Agreement, F1’s ruling document, defines a Formula One team as a person or body who races a car that “does not incorporate … any part designed or manufactured by any other constructor of Formula One racing cars”. ‘Schedule Three’ is precisely the manner in which F1 sets itself apart from off-the-shelf forms of motor racing, including Indy, NASCAR and V8 Supercars.
For Toro Rosso in 2006, it was a relatively straightforward matter to prove to the FIA, F1’s governing body, that it was racing a legal car. Sure, Red Bull used it in 2005, but the defunct Jaguar Racing – Red Bull Racing’s Milton Keynes based predecessor – actually did the donkey work on the drawing board. It was a loophole that frustrated most of STR’s pit lane rivals but did not drive them to the verge of legal action.
Alas, that’s about to change. Already, even if no-one has actually seen a single 2007 car nor confirmed the Red Bull rumblings, the majority of the grid is siding energetically against RBR/STR’s even bolder loophole for this year, which could end up in a grisly case of arbitration. In other words, when the green lights go on, the chequered flag might be waved inside the court room.
The loophole? As Concorde’s aforementioned “Schedule Three” does not forbid the use of outside contractors for F1 design work, Red Bull GmbH has done just that – engaged an outside contractor, which pre-dates Red Bull’s F1 activities and does not race in F1, called “Red Bull Technologies”, to design cars for Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso.
It’s highest paid employee is 48-year-old Adrian Newey, who not so long ago authored championship-winning cars for Williams and then McLaren. For 2007, he has masterminded Renault (Red Bull) and Ferrari (Toro Rosso) powered cars for nearly 20% of the grid.