A History lesson for Red Bull Racing: Part 1


Red Bull Racing are proving themselves to be the Nouveau Riche of Formula One. There have always been degrees of vulgarity and ostentation displayed by F1’s ‘new money’ team probably best epitomised by Sebastian Vettel’s comments during the Singapore GP in 2013.

On route to a record breaking 9 consecutive wins, Sebastian Vettel suggested his team’s dominance was due to others not working as hard as Red Bull. “Whilst there’s a lot of people hanging their balls in the pool very early on Fridays, we’re still here working very hard and pushing very hard,” Vettel said.

Yet Sebastian was not alone in his thinking, he merely articulated the kind of attitude, which became prevalent in the fizzy drinks sponsored F1 team. In a way, Vettel had become a product of his environment.

Pumping out garage tunes which others in the paddock complained about, a lack of recognition of the part played by their engine partner and regular glib comments from Red Bull’s teams principal all served to earn the latest toy of the fizzy drinks marketing company – a certain reputation in Formula One.

The fact that at the zenith of RBR’s dominance, Dietrich Mateschitz’ cheque writing frenzy was believed to be outspending even Ferrari is neither here nor there; because many have outspend the rest of the F1 field and discovered it was all for naught when they failed to win championships. The result was these bank busting big spenders either withdrew from the sport or in effect gave their team away.

‘New money’ is by its very definition successful, because it has no historic alliances on which to depend; no grace and favour existence merely justified by tradition or long standing status; and ‘new money’ has earned it’s right to be at the biggest of the bean counters table where the beans are counted by the number of ocean going liners required to carry them all.

However, the speed of ascent to the top table often means the nouveau riche have no proper perception of history. Meteoric success, both in terms of performance and the lack of time it takes to become successful – is all they know. Obstacles are merely there to be removed, by whatever method can be deployed – failure is not an option.

Yet at times, hurdles in the way of continued success are just too high to vault and even the application of unlimited financial might is insufficient to keep the nouveau riche winning.

Red Bull Racing are realising what many Formula One teams have learned during the 65 history of the sport. When faced with the might of an automotive manufacturer with sufficient desire, skill and funds to ensure their ‘works’ F1 team is on top of the F1 hill – there is little a non-works team can do.

Red Bull Racing’s owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, repeated his position yesterday when speaking to the Austrian Press Association. “We will only stay in Formula 1 if we have a competitive team, and we need a competitive power unit for that. If we don’t have one, we can race with the best car and the best drivers and still have no chance of competing for victory.

“We are not a car manufacturer who could justify the investment. So we rely on Renault to close the gap to Ferrari and, above all, Mercedes.

“If the cost-benefit calculation isn’t right anymore, it’s not to say that we’ll continue forever.”

It seems that Red Bull Racing an it’s owner are slowly coming to the understanding that they will not be winning this year and probably not the next either. Further, they have marginalised their engine supplier to the extent that Renault who are the most successful F1 engine manufacturer since the French automotive company entered Formula One, are considering withdrawing from the sport too.

But all this is not new. Williams have found themselves in similar circumstances in bygone times. 2016 will see Sir Frank Williams team having completed 40 years in Formula One, but the path has been long and difficult at times, with occasional periods when his team dominated the elite of single seater racing.

Williams won back-to-back F1 constructor titles in 1980-81 using the Ford Cosworth engine. Then as the incredible Ford DFV power train began to wain from its all-conquering tenure at the top Formula One for over a decade, Williams too fell into decline.

Honda became the new engine partner of the Grove team in 1984, but it was two more years without a championship win before Williams again climbed back to the top of Formula One, winning the 1986 and 87 constructor titles.

Honda ditched Williams in 1988 in favour of McLaren, and unable to find a deal with a major engine manufacturer, the team was forced to run the Judd normally aspirated engine for a season before hooking up with Renault in 1989.

The Williams/Renault partnership then embarked upon a four year long journey before this combination won a constructors’ title in 1992. The pair then dominated Formula One for five years, winning four constructors’ titles before once again in 1998, Williams engine partner decided enough was enough.

Since then the Grove outfit has been powered by Mechachrome, Supertech, BMW, Cosworth, Toyota, Renault again and now Mercedes engines.

Sir Frank’s once dominant F1 player has managed only a best of third place in the constructors’ championship, 4 times over the last 17 years.

Yet the DNA of the Williams outfit is to race. This doesn’t mean that for almost two decades they have been ‘dangling their balls in the pool’. But a series of less than winning engine partners and financial difficulties have prevented the historic team from Grove achieving what they desire the most.

However, not once in this time has Sir Frank threatened to quit Formula One, unless the rules are changed to ensure his team will again have a shot at winning.

Further, given Dietrich Mateschitz’ litmus test of the ‘cost-benefit’ calculation being ‘right’, Williams and many other Formula One teams – including McLaren and possibly Ferrari – would have withdrawn from the sport during the extended periods they were not winning.

Indeed, some of the manufacturers such as BMW, Toyota and Honda did just that and no one now bemoans their absence.

Red Bull racing have hit a brick wall, and have no extended history behind them of competing without a prayer of success for the foreseeable future. Finding themselves in this position, the Milton Keynes team appears to be floundering around, stamping their feet in a manner to be expected of the nouveau riche, who suddenly find that money can’t buy them a peerage after ten years of success.

It’s not that the establishment rejects ‘new money’ out of hand, but they demand to be fully part of a very long established club, one must dedicate themselves to years of playing the game. Playing the game means losing as well as winning.

What’s more, those who have been around the block many times and run the game, won’t have ‘new money’ upstarts demanding the rules of engagement be changed – merely to suit their ‘upstart’ thirst for immediate and perpetual success.

This kind of petulant behaviour Dietrich – is simply just not cricket… Old boy.

14 responses to “A History lesson for Red Bull Racing: Part 1

  1. Dietrich may not be cricket, but he sure is entertaining, with about as much pop as the canned fizz he sells. Life moves on. Vettel certainly drank the Forever #1 kool-aid when he was the Bull’s Golden Boy, with his single digit jammed onto our screens several times a season. And now all that’s gone. He’s humble Seb. Weeping Seb. Philosophical Seb. Grateful Seb. Maybe Dietrich’s Year of Living Unpresumptuously will be good for his soul as well, if not for his pocketbook.

    • “Dietrich’s Year of Living Unpresumptuously” – that expression just made my day (well, at least my morning) 😀 😀

    • @lulumoretti

      Thank you for commenting – please don’t be a stranger in future.

      “Dietrich’s Year of Living Unpresumtuously….” – is an immortal line. Thank you

  2. I’m just wondering how the hundreds of employees at Milton Keynes feel when they continue to hear things like this coming from the ‘three amigos’?

    I hope they’ve started to update their CV’s/resumes just in case. I know I would be if my boss kept saying things like that …….

    • It is well known that when workers are uncertain about their jobs, it is the most talented and in demand who jump ship first. With an influx of money into Ferrari and McClaren surely desperate for some new blood, this seems like a poor time to make your employees worry about keeping their job.

  3. What was Lewis saying: something about being just a fizzy drinks company? Their behavior certainly seems to be confirming this hunch…

  4. Just goes to show money can’t buy a man a brain. All this guff on the same day they sign a new sponsor. Imagine what Hisense are thinking and the message it sends about their new partner “Hey, thanks for the cash guys but we’re f@cking off soon, welcome to the business!”
    Do they really think we’re that gullible? It’s all getting tiresome now from Red Bull. They won a few championships and think their voice is going to change things. They weren’t ever threatening to quit before they built a decent car were they? Because they knew no-one would care. Unfortunately they now think they’ve got some leeway but still people don’t really care.

    Mateschitz is going to want some of his money back I imagine so until they find a buyer they’ll be around for a bit. Unfortunately

  5. “Indeed, some of the manufacturers such as BMW, Toyota and Honda did just that and no one now bemoans their absence.”

    I remember them when it’s time to buy my next car.

  6. Great comments, but never forget the age demographic who buy Red Bull drinks, and then look at rivals like Monster who have really come from no where and compare the results….I would bet on Red Bull doing a ‘switch’ deal with a manufacturer and simply becoming a sponsor’s name again, but this time maybe of the whole F1 Series?

    • I’m not sure it’s currently allowed under the FIA regulations….

      “The FIA Red Bull Formula One Series”

      Then again, the FIA gave up its regulatory control rights for $40m

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