A brief history of the Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 team, including the team's origins, past drivers and its racing record in the F1 world championship
Minardi had been a small team with a big following in Formula One, competing in 345 races over three decades since 1985. Along the way it gave early boosts to the careers of many drivers including Michele Alboreto, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. But the financial strain finally took its toll on the perennial backmarkers and the team was close to collapse when founder Giancarlo Minardi sold it to Australian businessman Paul Stoddart in 2001. Four years later Stoddart in turn sold the team on to Austrian businessman Dietrich Mateschitz, who saw a role for it as a development squad to the senior Red Bull Racing that he already owned.
That unfortunate sense of being very much a junior partner on the grid has persisted ever since. The new team apparently didn't even warrant its own unique name, Toro Rosso simply meaning Red Bull in Italian. The primary aim of the team - headed since its inception by former BMW track operations manager Franz Tost - has been to help its multiple-title-winning sibling by collaborating on technical development and data sharing, and also by being Red Bull's talent spotter and try-out when it comes to future drivers.
For Toro Rosso's début at Bahrain in 2006 that driver line-up consisted of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed, but only Liuzzi finished in the points (just once) all season. Midway through 2007 the team showed its ruthless side by ousting Speed in favour of the team's test driver who had been doing rather well in Formula Renault 3.5, one Sebastian Vettel: it proved to be a spectacularly good call, and a year later the 21-year-old delivered Toro Rosso their maiden Grand Prix victory in Italy.
With success like that it was no surprise that Red Bull immediately swept in and picked up Vettel's services for 2009, and the rest was history - for Vettel, at least. It left Toro Rosso with a difficult act to follow and something of a post-Vettel hangover for several years: Sébastien Bourdais, Jaime Alguersuari, Sébastien Buemi and Jean-Éric Vergne all tried to replicate Vettel's route to the top, only to find themselves cast aside by a restless management seeking more from them than they could deliver.
Finally there were new breakthrough performances from Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat - and once again Toro Rosso found their new stars quickly on their way up the corporate ladder to Red Bull. Fortunately, this time their replacements - Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz - proved almost just as good right out of the box. Not even forsaking their long-time Ferrari engine partnership in favour of problematic Renault power units (to bring them into line with Red Bull) held them back, thanks to technical director James Key's skilled oversight.
The ruthlessness of the program remains, however, with Verstappen being promoted to Red Bull just four races into the 2016 season. While the move caused Sainz to flourish, it also leaves the demoted Kvyat with a huge mountain to climb to save his F1 career.
2017 will see the team retain the same driver pairing as the end of 2016 and a continuation of their partnership with Renault.