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GP Week : Issue 29
>>GPWEEKOPINION A call to arms Will Buxton GPWeek Editor SEBASTIAN Vettel and Toro Rosso’s Italian Grand Prix victory has caused much debate amongst the power brokers of Formula 1. While the victory was the good news story that the sport desired and deserved, there was an underlying political wrangle, which has yet to be resolved. It is the issue of the customer car. Vettel himself admitted in the press conference after the race that it was no secret that Toro Rosso wasn’t running a car of its own individual design. It was the combined efforts of Red Bull Technology, a customer chassis, if you like, with a customer Ferrari engine. It was the first complete customer win in three decades. But is Toro Rosso a customer team? In the purest sense, no it’s arguably not. Rather, they are simply the by product of Red Bull running two teams and four cars. Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost has, perhaps unsurprisingly, used the win to ramp up his argument for allowing customer cars to remain in F1 after the end of 2009 deadline for their removal. “Look at what happens today in the economy," he said. "The great car manufacturers work together. Why do they work together? They do not want to spend so much money on development and research, which is exactly right because in the end the result nearly is the same. But Paul Stoddart, who owned and ran Minardi before selling to Red Bull to create Toro Rosso, argued against the customer car ideal. He admitted that what Toro Rosso had done was admirable, but that the satisfaction he had gained on the rare occasions on which Minardi had scored points was by far a greater achievement, for it had been done without the backing and without the budget. Minardi had been a constructor, and the car had been their own. He has a valid point. But Stoddart, as with the sport at large, also has to understand that the world is not the place it was. The financial mayhem of the last seven days is proof evident that we cannot continue to spend as once we did. This isn’t the same world. The rules are not as they were. Things will change, as indeed they must. While Force India and Williams may not have been overjoyed to see Vettel take the win, one wonders if they would have not celebrated just as hard had they been running a customer car and taken victory? Toro Rosso’s win in a season in which Red Bull itself hasn’t even looked close to taking victory, is evidence that it’s not so much the car but what you do with it. OK, so engine power also has a role to play, but STR’s win against the odds was the kind of thing that this sport needs. It showed that a small team, if given an equal chance to compete, can do just that. The Red Bull is not a race- winning car, and yet the crew at Toro Rosso have made it one. That car, and that small team, has taken on and beaten Ferrari, McLaren et al … and if that’s not an advert for allowing customer cars, I don’t know what is. 21 opinion