One would feel sorry for Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull if the Austrian billionaire had not brought all this trouble on himself. His team won four Drivers’ and four Constructors’ World Championships with Renault, but it seems it never learnt any humility. It never learnt that F1 is about partnerships and about winning together and losing together. So when the new Renault engine was not as good as the new Mercedes, Red Bull publicly slagged off Renault to the point at which Renault no longer wanted to do business with the team. It happened before that with Pirelli. Red Bull was negative about Pirelli because it wanted the tyres changed to suit its car. Pirelli was furious but changed its tyres and Red Bull won. Now, one can say that Red Bull is dedicated and uncompromising about being successful and that this is good, but the downside is that partners don’t want to work with them in the future. Then the chickens come home to roost and the team reaps what it has sown. The fact that this has happened does not mean that F1 should change the rules to accommodate Red Bull, but rather that Red Bull should learn how to work with others in a more positive way. No one wants to see the sponsor leave F1, but we have lost important sponsors before and life went on without them. So, a little humility is required.
Given the mess that the team has got itself into, the best course of action now is to get into bed with a manufacturer. The smart move would be to give some money to Cosworth to get its F1 engine programme rolling and then give the team to Audi or Porsche so that, in effect, Red Bull ceases to be a customer team and joins the ranks of the manufacturers. That way Red Bull would no longer be at the mercy of the manufacturers as it would, in effect, be joining them. What is it that they say? If you can’t beat them, join them. This would solve everyone’s problems…
Negatively-minded folk see the current situation as akin to the FISA-FOCA War back in the 1980s when the manufacturer teams went with the FIA against the ambitious garagiste (but very successful) teams like McLaren, Williams, Lotus and Brabham. In reality, it is now very different. The manufacturers have the power. This is not necessarily a bad thing and it requires some positive thinking to see how it can work for everyone. Having the manufacturers working together is a good idea. If everyone is moving in the same direction, rather than being divided and conquered by the commercial rights holder, then the sport will make great progress. Of course, leaving things to the manufacturers is not the perfect solution, because they might upset the balance between sport and entertainment, as their only goal is to sell more cars. This is why the sport needs a strong regulator to ensure that the traditions and values that F1 stands for are retained.
Within that framework, a manufacturer alliance is a good thing and as long as they commit to staying in the sport for the long term and agree to cost-cutting measures, things will be fine. Mature regulations mean that racing will be closer because the technology required spreads quickly. If the engines are closely-matched, the racing is better, aerodynamics would then become important again, but a ban on wind tunnels would push the industry into CFD research, which would be of value in a thousand industries, rather than the current system which creates aerodynamic research which is worthless outside racing. This way, the sport would still be technologically advanced, but would offer better entertainment and be more cost-effective. F1 suffers seriously from Not Invented Here syndrome, but if one studies the way NASCAR works, one can see that three, four or even five manufacturers can compete over a long period and all can be competitive – and all can gain from the experience.