Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz says that the current political domination of F1 by Ferrari and Mercedes is not good for the sport. No surprise there. The Austrian is stuck with a customer Renault engines because neither Ferrari not Mercedes wants to sell his main team engines, in part because Red Bull might beat them, and in part because if they don’t beat them, Red Bull will whinge endlessly in public about the power units. This is also a problem for potential new manufacturers because of the team’s constant carping about Renault in the last two years. Renault was delighted to see the back of Red Bull, but agreed to supply engines this year on the basis that the team would be more polite. If Red Bull supplied the Ferrari F1 team with cans of drink and the team kept referring to it as “Cat’s Piss”in public, one would understand if Red Bull was to be upset.
What’s the difference?
It seems that the only engine that Mateschitz can hope for in the short term is some kind of cut price unit that Bernie Ecclestone is trying to conjure up from somewhere. The Red Bull folk seem to think that it is right that such an engine should be made equivalent to the best engines because it is their right to do well, or they will leave… (So there!)
Perhaps it would be wiser if they all asked the question about why no manufacturers want to come into F1 at the moment, despite the fact it is a brilliant global marketing tool (which Mateschitz does understand) and has the technology that the industry wants.
Mr Mateschitz was not upset when he had the power a few years ago to be given a financial deal by the sport that the team did not really have any historical right to. Yes, the team had been hugely successful for a few years (but, hey, what’s wrong with domination when it’s YOUR domination?) but the only reason it got a big payout was because of all the lovely money that Mr Mateschitz was going to spend in F1 in the future. It was a bit of mutual back-scratching.
If Red Bull wants to leave F1 it would be sad, because the brand is good for the sport, and vice versa, but if that is his desire then so be it – so long as he pays the penalty payments written into his contract. It makes no sense to do that (it would about $500 million at the moment) so to leave would cost more than to stay and he would also lose the benefits (money and exposure) which means that there are a couple of years in which he can work to find a sensible engine manufacturer. So, in the interim, the wisest course of action is to keep quiet, stop threatening to leave and either drop Dr Marko, or get him to say something positive about the team’s partners on a regular basis (he could learn the McLaren “we win together and we lose together” speech). The big worry is that Adrian Newey will get bored of waiting and will go off to do something else.
Right now, the manufacturers are providing the sport with stability and with a coherent idea of the future, which no one else is doing. If they are happy to commit for years to come, they have far more value to F1 than the Sherman McCoys, who would jump ship in a millisecond if they could find someone to pay the price they require for the rights-holding company.
When you think about it, Red Bull’s smartest strategy might be to find a manufacturer and offer to pay for an engine (like the real TAG engine deal 35 years ago) and then join forces with the manufacturers…