[Ricciardo move reflects AlphaTauri’s push for F1 experience
In other words, putting Ricciardo in the car is not just a case of short-term expediency and giving the Australian a chance to get up to speed ahead of a potential return to the main Red Bull team.
The change of direction is part of a reboot for AlphaTauri after a detailed analysis of its role within the Red Bull camp, and a firm decision from the drinks company’s top management not to sell it.
It’s also tied to a change of identity that is coming for next season after the end of the current sponsorship deal with AlphaTauri.
Speaking to Motorsport.com before Ricciardo’s replacement of de Vries was confirmed, new AlphaTauri CEO Peter Bayer indicated that a blend of youth and experience is now seen as the way forward.
“It makes perfect sense to have that younger brother within the family, who’s taking care of young driver development,” said Bayer.
“That will stay, so the purpose will remain, for us to find young talent. We might extend that a bit, and go a bit more structured into these areas.
“It’s also currently being discussed whether that means that we have to run two young drivers, or that we will finally one day have a more experienced one with a younger one, which I find makes it very interesting, in terms of the global product.”
Bayer, who will work alongside new team principal Laurent Mekies when the Frenchman is free of Ferrari and can replace Franz Tost, acknowledged that there was also the obvious issue of the team needing to score more points on a consistent basis.
AlphaTauri currently lies last in the constructors’ championship with just two points earned by Yuki Tsunoda for a pair of 10th places.
However, seventh-placed Williams is only nine points ahead, with each position representing a huge chunk of prize money.
Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04
Photo by: Erik Junius
“In all honesty, that’s exactly the discussion I had with the guys,” said Bayer. “I said it’s great to be training young drivers, but the gap between F2 and F1 simply is huge.
“And Franz is right, he always says three years. So if you think about two guys rolling three years, three years – there’s impatience and there is not a clear strategy, and that is something that we want to develop. We want to take the time, make sure we get that right.
“And also it’s not only about points. Look at Fernando [Alonso] and [Lance] Stroll. You have a top driver who helps you, says look for the setup, think about this, think about that, push more here.
“It’s natural and it’s normal, I think that you learn. And so to we need to consider that, and see how that all plays out.”
Bayer indicated that discussions are still ongoing regarding the rebranding of the team, with the management keen to have a name that can stand alongside that of a title sponsor even if the latter changes.
“Today we are called Scuderia AlphaTauri,” said Bayer. “So we are called after a sponsor, the name of the team and the name of the company is Scuderia AlphaTauri.
“So if AlphaTauri [the clothing company] decides to do something else, we have to change.
“When we were discussing the long-term future of the team with the shareholders, with [Red Bull boss] Oliver Mintzlaff, we said that we believe that we should come up with an identity that first of all allows us to be a unique and but still independent business unit.
“I think we also want to move in terms of the naming closer to the family again, to somehow have an affiliation or association with Red Bull as a brand, which then will allow us to add a title sponsor to the ‘XXX’ F1 team.
“And if that title sponsor three years later decides to move on, well, we can replace them, and it’s not that we have to reinvent everything.”
Bayer confirmed that the Toro Rosso name won’t be revived: “It’s got history, so yes, we could go back. But I think the truth is you have a lot of new people, the owners, the Red Bull management, Laurent, myself, I think we all want to move forward and come up with something new and fresh.”