Christian Horner said today that he understands Bernie Ecclestone’s frustrations with Formula 1. He would say that. Red Bull and Bernie both need there to be change in F1, in order to break the power of the manufacturers. Ecclestone needs to break up the alliances before negotiations begin for the post-2020 commercial agreements, which are not far away. While Red Bull knows that time is running out for the Milton Keynes team. The following is an analysis written for the JSBM newsletter, which appeared this morning. I don’t usually give this stuff away on the blog, but I think it will help fans to understand exactly what is going on and why, and at the same time, show the kind of information that one can get from the newsletter.
Red Bull’s problem
The launch of the new Red Bull livery last week in London saw the team unveil the TAG-Heuer-badged Renault V6 turbo engine and gave them the chance to once again complain about the current situation with regard to engine supply. Red Bull was lucky for a number of years to have a rather reticent Renault allow it to take all the glory for the work that was going on at Viry-Châtillon. The reality was that after the scandal of 2009, when the Renault factory team was found to have manipulated the result of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, the French company did not want too much coverage in F1 circles and it dumped its F1 team and then watched it failing as the Lotus F1 team. Now Renault has become bolder, having invested in the new generation engines, and having bought control of the F1 team once again. It may take some time to achieve, but Renault is committed to beating not only the currently dominant Mercedes, but also Ferrari and Honda.
The problem for Red Bull is that none of the big players really want to be in partnership with a team that will either take away much of their glory if they are successful, or will embarrass any factory efforts. Thus Red Bull is doomed to be in the midfield until either it can find a new manufacturer, willing to share the limelight; or it can use political means to change the rules of the sport, so that it is less attractive to the manufacturers and they decide to give up being team owners and let partners do the work for them. The manufacturers have seen what Red Bull is trying to do and are keen to resist any changes, but they are willing to supply the team with engines, if only because the Austrian company is a useful one to have in F1.
The company’s revenues are impressive but flat, despite the huge amounts of money that are spent each year on promotional activities. And the key question is whether or not Formula 1 is still the right thing for Red Bull. If the manufacturers do not leave, Red Bull’s only long-term hope for success would be to have its own engine, but that would be a dramatic undertaking and even the deep-pocketed Dietrich Mateschitz would think twice about it. The fear is that if the team cannot win, it will soon start to lose the people who have made it successful and so will lose value. It’s a tough call…
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And remember, in F1 there is always a bigger picture than you think. A bit like the picture below…