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STR in “customer drivers” furore

Faenza, Monday: The launch of the 2009 Formula One car by Scuderia Toro Rosso has been marred today by accusations from the motorsport press that one of the team’s drivers is identical to a driver being fielded by the outfit’s sister team, Red Bull Racing.

Cloned? STR newbie Sebastien Buemi

Cloned? STR newbie Sebastien Buemi

It is being reported that new STR driver Sebastien Buemi is in fact the same, or at least very similar, to Red Bull newcomer and race winner Sebastian Vettel. A shady Swiss biotechnology firm is supposed to have constructed Buemi from data transferred between the two teams last season, to compensate for Vettel being signed up to the senior squad after a promising 2008 with the smaller team.

Customer teams were in the F1 press in 2007, when David Richards controversially decided that his Prodrive team was going to dispense with all the hassle of building their own car and instead purchase one off the shelf from McLaren-Mercedes. Two drivers, who looked suspiciously like Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett, were also reportedly involved in the deal, before the FIA stepped in, declared the whole operation illegal, and the Prodrive team never materialised.

STR team principal Franz Tost angrily rubbished the claims at the team’s car launch. “The accusations are ridiculous, there is virtually no similarity between Buemi and Vettel,” he said. “Even the names are different – well, a bit.

“We will cooperate with the FIA fully if they wish to investigate these scandalous accusations, but we are confident that they will prove to be a complete waste of time. And if anybody wants to argue, I will FIGHT THEM! Just ask Scott Speed.”

Mr. Tost was then restrained by burly Toro Rosso mechanics as he foamed enthusiastically at the mouth.

Sebastian Vettel, 3 months, was unavailable for comment as he was “having his afternoon nap.” Buemi was also unable to speak to us for suspiciously similar reasons.

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