Red Bull threat to quit F1 is disingenuous

Much has been written about Red Bull Racing, and even as this article is published, the internet advertising spider calculators will be totting up the number of references made here to ‘Red Bull’ and reporting back to fantasy island Mateschitz.

It’s the way of the modern world. Marketing companies score the reach of marketing – both on the internet and tradition – and this results in the kind of reports pro0duced for Infiniti in 2013.

Nigel Geach, SVP Global Motorsport at Repucom claims that the luxury car maker, which entered F1 in 2011, “is now the number one most exposed team partner in the sport, measured by calculating the amount of on-screen branding of the official qualifying and race broadcasts”.

This value does not include internet credits and a whole host of promotional activity away from the F1 race weekends.

With global sales in 20-14 up 13.5% at just over 186,000 units, Infiniti may argue it’s spend in remaining Red Bull Racing’s title partner has been an investment well made. Yet when you look behind the numbers, all that is said to glitter may not be gold.

Over 60% of Infiniti sales are made in the USA, which on the whole has a tiny Formula One TV audience. So not too many F1 TV eyeballs are contributing to Infiniti’s success in the US of A.

Marketing and particularly branding is an art form – not a science, and whilst behind the scenes there is an impressive array of algorithms, data and statistic, in the end cold hard sales on the board is what counts. The growth of the Infiniti brand in Europe, where the vast majority of F1 TV eyeballs reside, is not stellar and certainly isn’t of concern to existing premium automotive manufacturers in that space.

The unknown is how much Infiniti have spent being the title sponsor of Red Bull Racing over the past 4 years. McLaren reportedly charged Vodafone just under $70m a year. So at a similar rate, Infiniti will have spent $350m by the end of the 2015 season, and maybe the Japanese luxury car brand is considering that by the end of their current contract, enough is enough.

Red Bull’s own investment in acquiring the Jaguar team, building and developing it into the force it is has been in recent years for certain dwarfs the money spent by Infiniti

Yet what all the above proves is that Red Bull came into Formula One for one reason and one reason alone. Marketing and branding. Being at the forefront of Formula One and winning is key to the decision of whether these astronomic levels of spending should be maintained.

Helmet Marko made this patently clear this weekend in Australia when he said: “We will evaluate the situation again, as every year, and look into costs and revenues [of F1 participation]. If we are totally dissatisfied we could contemplate an F1 exit”.

When asked whether Red Bull could really quit F1, he replied, “Yes, the danger is there that Mr Mateschitz loses his passion for F1.”

Christian Horner is demanding the FIA change the rules to allow their engine manufacturer to catch up. “I think it is healthy to have a situation where the FIA, within the rules, have an equalisation mechanism. I think perhaps they need to look at it”.

The Red Bull team principal realises that this season is already looking a write off for his team and is coming to terms with the fact that it could be some years before Red Bull Racing have a competitive engine.

However, F1 history is littered with examples of team’s in this very predicament and Red Bull are quickly realising their engine partner was a huge part of their success – as they co-developed aerodynamics together to blow hot air up their communal chassis’ ass.

Whilst Ferrari appear to have made significant strides forward with their car and engine this year, they are still in a division below Mercedes. Their team principal had this to say following Hormer and Marko’s outbursts.

“Our job is to attack Mercedes on track”, observed Arrivabene, “not to change the rules”.

Of course Ferrari have complained over the years about the direction that Formula One is taking. For the best part of a decade, aerodynamics had dominated the sport like never before and prior to his departure, Luca de Montzemolo looked forward to the new Formula engine era we have now.

 “Formula 1 also has to be a clean sport without any of the monkey business we have had to put up with in recent years. From next season, we will have a completely different F1, finally less dependent on aerodynamics. I build cars not planes.”

So Mateschitz could lose his passion for F1? Passion for Formula One is demonstrated by more than just winning as Ferrari’s longevity has proven. Ferrari are for many the greatest of all team’s within the sport, however, the red team have won just two F1 titles in the past ten years.

Formula One is a vital part of Ferrari’s marketing and branding, but were Ferrari merely in F1 to sell road cars then it is questionable whether Maranello’s spend over the last decade has been worthwhile.

Red Bull are considering quitting F1 because the marketing spend to support their racing team is no longer justifiable when they can’t win.

This highlights the fundamental difference between a team owned by a fizzy drinks marketing company and Ferrari. McLaren and Williams.

For the latter, Formula One is part of their genetic make-up and their long history in the sort prevents them from throwing their toys out of the pram when the tide is going against them.

Of course, Mateschitz lackeys are in actuality blowing more hot air – this time from their mouths. Red Bull will not quit and shut down their factories. Mateschitz is looking to offload the teams.

However, there does not appear to be a long list of takers to buy a Formula One team. Adam Cooper is propounding the theory that Renault could buy Toro Rosso and Audi acquire the team in Milton Keynes.

The reality is that Renault have a much closer affinity with their ex-works team based in Enstone than the one in Italy. Further, there are political issues for Audi entering F1 so long as Ecclestone is in charge. Add to that the state of Honda’s current woes, and the VW group will be thinking thrice about entering Formula One – any time soon.

So Mr. Mateshitz may have to find a way to maintain his ‘passion’ for Formula One – as Red Bull are likely to be stuck in the sport for much longer than he hopes.

So unfortunately, the reality is that F1 fans will have to listen for another season where the sounds of wailing and the gnashing of teeth are regularly broadcast from Milton Keynes.

Footnote: TJ13 has been informed that Spice Boy Horner is having nightmares, in which his current partner is performing ‘Wannabe’ with the others. But the words have changed….
“If you wannabe a winner – you gotta get with a Merc” from @edthedrummer
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28 responses to “Red Bull threat to quit F1 is disingenuous

  1. Don’t RBR have a bilateral deal with Bernie till 2020? Don’t think they’ll leave before then. They’re just preparing the ground to leave by 2020 especially if they don’t win by then.
    This little tirade by Dr Marko is a bit of a warning to Bernie, or a call out to VW group, or FIA to relax the engine rules. It’s a desperate plea along the lines of “Help us win or we’re out by 2020!”

    I had said it before several times when they were winning. Once they stop winning, they’re out. And I remember certain people back then telling me off and that RBR are in for the long term…yeah right!

    • The thing is, in a way Horner & Co have a point, the trouble being that they’ve whinged so often in the past about inconsequential matters that now, when they have a point to make for a change, nobody listens.

      Even at the height of the Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, Red Bull dominance periods in the last 25 years the other teams were always in a striking distance that something like a botched strategy or a pitstop gone wrong was enough to enable someone else to win. Sometimes a clever strategy call was enough to outfox the dominant force.

      We are in a situation where that doesn’t happen anymore. Mercedes could do 20 second pitstops and they would still win. Look at the three RB wins last year. They were all effectively double-calamities for Merc, and this year the gap is even bigger.

      The trouble is, it is the wrong man coming out with the call. The call itself needs to be made.

      • To be fair Mercedes domination is like Ferrari of 2004 (?) and McLaren of 89(?).

        Either way though, as you correctly point out Merc can completely balls things up and still finish 1-2. That’s incredibly bad for F1. For the first time in literally years I hit the fast forward button in yesterdays Mercedes low power demonstration run…

        • McLaren ’88,yes. In 2004 there were 5 different winners from four teams. I can’t see that happening this year. Even Mercedes’ customers are over a second adrift.

          Dominance is something that happens. After all, building the best car is what it is all about. But if everyone has to hope for a double DNF (like Monza 88) then it is starting to do damage

      • Hi Hip – I’d disagree a little with your history, but admittedly I have to go back almost all of those 25 years to do so; the Williams cars of 1992 & 93 were massively dominant (to the tune of qualifying 1.5 to 2 seconds ahead of the rest and winning the championship very early in the season).

        Having said that, the cleverness that made them so quick (active suspension et al) was banned after their second year of total dominance – even though they still went on to win the constructors championship 3 times in the following 4 years.

        The big problem with what Horner (& Marko) are doing is, as you say, they have whinged on and off about every little thing any time they weren’t winning (or winning by enough). PLUS this time it’s after one whole race in the season. They just come across as appallingly bad losers and get the understandable level of respect for that. Also, the use of the term “equalisation” is, in my view, foolish; that’s not how these things have been done before, it’s been a far more subtle “ban something that makes one or two teams much faster than others”.

        I think we’d all rather the racing was closer across the whole grid, but major rules changes almost always spread the field out – they close it back up over a few seasons. That said, I wouldn’t hate it if a small but significant tweak was made to the rules that helped close the grid – so long as it was done for next season and not the next race. Oh, and I also hope that it doesn’t help Red Bull – their cry-baby act deserves at least one more season in the doldrums.

        • “the Williams cars of 1992 & 93 were massively dominant (to the tune of qualifying 1.5 to 2 seconds ahead of the rest and winning the championship very early in the season).”

          Well I guess that casts Vettel in the plucky underdog Senna-in-the-McLaren role for this season. All we need now is the modern version of Donington93…

      • I think it’s less a case of Horner being the boy who cried Wollf 😉 than collective payback for years of RBR having the temerity to dominate F1 without decades of automotive history behind them. The nouveau riche always cop a hard time from the foot soldiers of the status quo. Schadenfreude is an overused term these days, but it covers the current situation quite well, I reckon.

        And you are spot on, FH, the underlying truth of Horner’s statements about the sport are being lost in the rush to kick RBR while they’re down. Horner / Marko / RBR haven’t changed their story in the last 12 months or so. The extra stress arising from their failure to get their latest cars sorted has seen a keener edge to their comments, but I see no change in the underlying content of their utterances.

        I saw that TJ had his extra tight grumpy pants pulled up to his armpits on Twitter earlier today. Not a pretty sight. The more measured tone here is more credible.

        It will be interesting watching the boys in the silver pyjamas furiously sandbagging from now on while still pretending to race. People will get suck of kicking RBR soon and start targeting the other rich kid.

        This year is possibly going to set record low levels of tedium on track and new highs in politics and intrigue outside of Sunday arvo.

        • “Horner’s statements about the sport are being lost in the rush to kick RBR while they’re down.”
          Red Bull is part of the fundamental problems of the sport. After all, they together with Ferrari decided to kill FOCA by signing a bilateral deal with Bernie. At the time it suited them and they didn’t think about the sport as a whole, because they were the dominating team. Now they aren’t anymore and suddenly they complain and talk about “the sport” when what happened is that they simply got beat by a competitor and now want rule changes that help them catch up. So him catching flack is not about kicking somebody when he is down, but about the hipocrisy of his statements. They ruined it for everybody when they broke the teams collective bargaining power, and the current state of the sport has much more to do with that, then with the hybrid engine formula.

          • OK, …

            “Horner’s statements about the sport are being overshadowed by people getting overexcited about the apparent hypocrisy of his previously stated positions on related matters.”

            Whatever. Cut it anyway you like. Right now I think he’s making the right noises about some aspects of the sport that need fixing. Surely that has to be acknowledged? Churchill said something like “even idiots get it right some of the time and it’s important that the message isn’t lost just because an idiot delivers it”.

            Even if Horner’s position on the PU’s is driven entirely by self-interest, why is that a problem? If there’s a happy alignment between RBR’s interest and the Greater Good of The Sport™ in this particular case then that’s to be celebrated. Use RBR’s leverage to get a good result on this subject then tell ’em to go jump on everything else.

            And, I realise the PU situation is not the root of all F1 evil – there are other big problems as well, obviously. But most of us are adults and can manage to discuss and deal with two, three or even four interrelated subjects, surely. Life (& F1) is complex and horribly non-linear – the idea of dealing with things in priority order is fanciful at best (closer to deluded) 🙂

          • “Even if Horner’s position on the PU’s is driven entirely by self-interest, why is that a problem?”

            Because the PU’s are not the problem. Of course the token system, the de facto freeze on engine development and testing restrictions during the season aren’t working. But why have they been put in place? As a cost saving measure, because an agreement on a cost cap could not be reached. The current system and problems result directly out of Red Bull killing the RRA and FOTA. If a Resource Restriction Agreement had been complied with, the FIA wouldn’t need to attempt to enforce cost saving through non-sensical regulation. And if the money was distributed better, small and mid-field teams wouldn’t be going bankrupt just by trying to get a car on the grid, so cost saving wouldn’t be that much of an issue. If Red Bull hadn’t signed a bilateral agreement with Bernie and pulled their teams out of FOTA, the teams could have had a chance to negotiate for a better distribution of money in F1. Red Bull put short-term self-interest over long term interests that would have benefited the sport as a whole. And in doing so, they broke the teams collective bargaining power, which is what lead to the current situation, were smaller teams are going out of business left and right. Why should anybody listen to them?

            If PU’s are now unfrozen, or if F1 gets completely new engine regulations, the problem won’t be solved. The only thing that is going to happen is that maybe, Red Bull will get a chance to catch up with Mercedes. Meanwhile, Sauber, Manor, Lotus and Force India will go out of business, leaving only 10 cars on the grid.

            In addition, their inventions getting banned can’t really be compared to Mercedes current domination. Red Bulls formula for success mainly consisted of cleverly using loopholes in the regulations. Basically, doing things that weren’t really allowed but not explicitly forbidden. Some of those things were outlawed, others weren’t because people couldn’t figure out how they were doing them (e.g. flexi wings). And Red Bull weren’t the only ones affected by this. McLarens f-duct was equally outlawed, much like Mercedes fric suspension. Mercedes current domination however is based on them starting their engine development earlier than everybody else, investing more money and benefiting from the fact that chassis and engine are developed together. That’s not the same as putting an exhaust blown diffusor on the car.

            In a nutshell, what Horner is saying is this is bad for the sport, but what he mean is that this is bad for Red Bull individually. People see through this, and that is why he is ridiculed. If he wanted to fix the sport, he would talk about the distribution of funds.

          • @anijs Good points here and there are many things wrong with F1 that can be linked (if only indirectly) with RB’s decisions to, first, ignore the RRA and, second, to leave FOTA and strike a unilateral deal with Bernie.

            Just one point: we can’t be SURE that Mercedes’ PU superiority is just down to earlier/harder/better/more expensive work than the others – just because we don’t KNOW that they are doing something “tricky” (like bendy wings or double diffusers) doesn’t mean it won’t turn up at some time.

          • The PU advantage that MB have is a symptom of the larger problem…well, duh.

            But why not treat the symptom and the cure at the same time? If you’re being treated for broken bones are you going to refuse pain killers or anti-nausea pills?

            “No, sir, you can’t have morphine. That’s not the problem – you have a broken leg!”

            Horner’s an assclown mostly, but right now on PU’s he’s on the money.

          • @anijs

            Excellent points! Thank you so much for spelling them out.

          • “But why not treat the symptom and the cure at the same time? If you’re being treated for broken bones are you going to refuse pain killers or anti-nausea pills?

            “No, sir, you can’t have morphine. That’s not the problem – you have a broken leg!””

            Well, to run with your metaphor, morphine is addictive and might cause more harm then good, so it might be better to insist on concentrating to set the fracture. Especially if the hospital you’re at is very badly run, and the most likely outcome is that they will get you hooked on morphine and then forget about the leg.

            It’s politics, and in politics, if you want to get people to do something that is not in their interest, you try to appeal to a greater cause. That is what Horner is doing. Unfortunately for him, he is not very convincing.

      • “The trouble is, it is the wrong man coming out with the call. The call itself needs to be made.”

        But what call is that?

        We know that Mercedes AMG advantage is not its engine. The performance of their customer teams illustrates that well.

        The Mercedes AMG’s advantage is in its chassis. But is what is that advantage?

        If one can answer that question, a suitable change in regulations may be possible. But I’ve not seen any hard technical answer as to what Mercedes AMG is doing with their chassis that gives them their advantage.

        Spectators and competitors can cry all that we want to, but the historical tool to solve a significant technical advantage (such as seen in the Mercedes AMG chassis) is to adjust the technical regulations. If the technical advantage is not known then that tool can’t be used.

        The big tears from Red Bull are primarily about not having a competitive motor available to put in to their chassis. If Renault step up their performance, those tears will get smaller.

      • Did you really expect a works team would put themselves in a position to get beat by their customer team?

          • In someways yes and why wouldn’t they? The works team comes first. Imagine Ferrari getting beat on a regular basis by Sauber? Who can forget that radio message to Perez in Malaysia.

            But in saying that, they were getting beat by Mclaren prior to 2013.

  2. Infiniti is doing well on the USA market as is. The F1 sponsorship is not for the USA sales. It’s for the rest of the world.

  3. There seems to be a definitive movement in formula one spheres to place great faith in the potential to use a for wont better description inner circus of media to disseminate propaganda and even blatant threatening language admixed with blunt statements that imply the teams and sporting itself are beck and call of arbitrary powers, utterly confident none of this could ever spill over into the mainstream media, even by way of factual reporting.

    I sense this is a new line of confidence brought on by the dire situation with the practical health of the sport.

    It’s not the usual divide of care and connection where the MSM is just off the ball. This time non mainstream outlets are being raked in to a kind of Omerta.

    I can only deduce the chips are down and the stacks are low, in quarters where the virtues of hope in the future are diminished by lack of talent and true innovation. The rentiers and those knowing their own limits too well are struggling to see how they can be afforded in a new system of honest competition brought on by a real crisis and re-establishment of unadulterated order.

    I’m short temporal powers are scared and exercising power as best they can. Media outlets are too easily bullied.

    But this power exercise seems to be somewhat correlated to who is not competing well also. And that’s a very painful sensation for me to experience.

    Very rarely is my head spun like it has been recently with the apparent energy behind the way headlines have been written.

    I shouldn’t complain. I’ve been predicting a crisis and rout of authority in formula one for a fair while. And my impression is I only am aware of signals that a game is afoot.

    It’s a simple quandary for the MSM: how long can there be legal and business problems whilst you report it’s racing as normal? How long can there be uncertainty who governs the sport whilst individuals claim rules to apply that look to say any innovation can be punished retrospectively. I think even a quite calm assessment would not disagree there’s a definable level of crisis causing long term and compounding harm. I myself have been caught out by the natural hope that things will get back to some kind of normal any minute.

    Some of the most eloquent voices I’ve read in recent times have expressed the difficulty of their being a fan. Even casual viewer must be making the connection between at best erratic management and lack of enjoyment. I just recently have thought that there’s been direct threats made to what I consider fair racing and as a result am in a private turmoil. A turmoil stirred by not finding plausible deniability in too many statements and actions.

    Maybe there will become instead a slow soulless deathmarch to oblivion but in reality it may not take too much bad news to cause a spiral ..

    I’m reminded of the old wisdom that it takes so very long to gain a reputation and so little time to lose it. Sponsors flock together never fly alone. And this story of Renault squirming in its position makes me wonder if it might be left as a Mercedes-Benz plaything. Obviously Bernie’s scared of that, hence his strong language which I think is plain threat to retrospectively apply rules to negate their talent in development.

    It looks like hardball now to me.

    • Sure. Way to go John.
      Freeze Merc, that should p!$$ them off enough for their board to call it quits. That’s 8 cars out instantly. Six of them will never return, sure two of those teams were beggars anyway, don’t need them, this sport is not for beggars.
      But wait, here’s a plan. How about if Red Bull build the chassis, Cossie do a V8 and Hey Presto! we’re back in business? Might even call it GP1, has such a nice sound……….

  4. Anyone who has the Rosberg vettel spat can they post an audio link? Unfortunately I live in the grand USA and they only show podium interviews. Or maybe incorporate it into next weeks podcast.

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