AlphaTauri: their Red Bull relationship history explained as Helmut Marko reveals 2024 changes

Red Bull are planning wholesale changes for AlphaTauri, including in personnel and branding, in 2024. With this, they will bring an end to another chapter in the history of their “junior” team.

Helmut Marko recently sparked discussion in the F1 paddock with his comments regarding AlphaTauri. The Italian outfit, which currently operates out of its Faenza factory, has already confirmed that it will move to Britain – geographically closer to Red Bull.

On top of this, Red Bull adviser Marko has outlined further changes coming to AlphaTauri in 2024.

“AlphaTauri will have two new leaders in 2024, Laurent Mekies and Peter Bayer,” confirmed Marko to Kleine Zeitung, via GP Fans. “There will be new sponsors and a new name.

“The orientation is clear: follow Red Bull Racing as far as the regulations allow. Own designs are the wrong way to go.”

The team’s adviser also strongly suggested that changes to the driver line-up could occur next season. Yuki Tsunoda and Nyck de Vries are the current pilots at AlphaTauri – although their jobs are clearly not safe for 2024.

But the real headline is that AlphaTauri will likely have a new name next campaign. Red Bull will move away from promoting their in-house fashion brand via their sister team – opening up an opportunity for a new name on the grid.

Also, it seems that the Austrian marque is plotting a technical alliance between their two teams.

All these changes point to the start of a new chapter for the Italian squad. But how closely have the two Red Bull-owned outfits been intertwined throughout their histories?

AlphaTauri’s confusing technical timeline

AlphaTauri started life as Minardi, an Italian team that ran in F1 from the late 80s all the way through to 2005. Red Bull then purchased the ailing squad for the 2006 season, handing the team the moniker “Toro Rosso”.

For their inaugural campaign, Toro Rosso utilised an adjusted chassis from Red Bull Racing’s 2005 car. This forced competitors to raise concerns almost immediately about the relationship between the two RB squads. Despite this, Red Bull Technology supplied STR with a chassis from 2007-2009.

After 2010’s new Concorde agreement, Toro Rosso operated within their own right, away from Red Bull tech. They worked from their own factory, developed their own car, and had their own engine suppliers.

The drinks company still had ultimate control of them, though; they picked the drivers and team personnel. Therefore, Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri has always been Red Bull Racing’s “little brother” team.

In 2020, Toro Rosso changed its name to AlphaTauri. This was a marketing ploy from parent company Red Bull – the name change allowed them to promote their fashion brand.

AlphaTauri have been present in the paddock ever since. However, the 2024 changes hint that this is coming to an end.

Have the two teams used the same engines?

Toro Rosso first raced with outdated, rev-limited V10 engines. These were poor compared to the rest of the 2006 field’s V8s, with Red Bull among the squads enjoying the new engines.

After this difficult first season, Toro Rosso took on Ferrari V8 engines from 2007 up to 2013. Meanwhile, Red Bull had Renault power units.

They did copy their parent squad on occasion, though, using Renault PUs at the start of the turbo-hybrid era. A deterioration in relations between Renault and Red Bull brought this alliance to an end in 2016.

STR went off on their own as a result, using Ferrari engines for one season. After this, 2017 saw a one-year reunion with Renault. They then formed a partnership with Honda for 2018, which preceded Red Bull’s agreement with the Japanese brand. AlphaTauri has continued to use Honda engines to this day.

Contrastingly, from 2016-2019, Red Bull had Tag Heuer-badged Renault engines. They too then switched to Honda, aligning the two teams once more.

Why have Red Bull and their junior team switched drivers so much?

From 2007, Red Bull fully made use of their junior outfit, with Toro Rosso becoming a proving ground for their academy drivers.

Sebastian Vettel was their first stand-out product. In 2008, he shattered the F1 norm by winning the Italian Grand Prix for Toro Rosso. This meant that Red Bull’s sister squad had actually won a Grand Prix before the main team did, interestingly.  

But, rather bizarrely, Toro Rosso was a team that were inherently victims of their own success. If a driver such as Vettel performed well for the team, he would be shipped off to the top squad. The German, for example, upgraded to RBR for 2009.

Daniel Ricciardo also made a similar sort of step-up after the 2013 season.

RBR continued to use Toro Rosso to develop drivers as F1 entered its turbo-hybrid era in 2014. Max Verstappen came to the sport with STR in 2015, racing for just over a season with the squad. He replaced Daniil Kvyat – a Toro Rosso graduate to Red Bull himself – as part of an unceremonious inter-team swap in 2016.

The likes of Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon earned this promotion, albeit briefly, as well.

Gasly, after being dropped from Red Bull back to Toro Rosso one year prior, enjoyed redemption with AlphaTauri in 2020. The Frenchman won the 2020 Italian GP, giving the team just its second-ever victory.

Red Bull have moved away from this trend in the Italian team’s current guise as AlphaTauri. However, they continue to have RB Academy racers in their cars, such as Yuki Tsunoda. The Japanese driver may be the latest graduate to rise into the Red Bull team in the near future.

Why are the 2024 changes happening to AlphaTauri?

2023 has been disappointing for the Italian outfit. Nyck de Vries, the first non-Red Bull academy driver at AlphaTauri in years, has been disappointing. They are also stuck as the bottom of the constructors.

Clearly, Red Bull is disappointed with the backward direction that their lower squad has travelled in recent years. This brings us to 2024. It seems like we will have a closer partnership between the two squads, especially from a technical aspect.

A new name, plus sponsorship, is also on the horizon. While the outside may look like a split from the Red Bull tree, the car underneath could be closer aligned than we are used to seeing.

Will these changes allow AlphaTauri to rise back up the grid in the future – and what will Red Bull brand them as in 2024?

Featured image credit: Getty