Late one night over the Sochi weekend, I was trying to unravel the conundrum that is Red Bull Racing in Formula One Land. I found a reference to a mysterious character, who shall remain nameless.
In something of a trance like state brought on by pondering the mind of Vladimir Putin, the shadowy character came to me and explained my search was an attempt to see beyond the Red Bull illusion.
Holding out a capsule on each of his palms, he described my choice:
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more”.
Red Bull Racing in effect in 2015 became a works team. They and their little sister team Toro Rosso were the only customers of an F1 engine manufacturer who does run an F1 works team. This pot of gold is something McLaren set out to pursue some time ago. It is the Nirvana of Formula One as big Ron says: “Our goal is to win the world championship. And that objective would not be within our reach if we continued with a customer engine”.
Yet Red Bull Racing are disillusioned with this privileged ‘works’ engine relationship and some months ago served notice on Renault that they wanted out of the contract.
It’s undeniable that Renault have produced a poor V6 Turbo Hybrid power unit to date, but in time they will turn it around as history has demonstrated, then the mighty Bull’s could reign supreme once more.
So the mystery over the fizzy drinks family’s behaviour is multi layered. Firstly, why don’t they just suffer a few years of pain with Renault, just as McLaren, Ferrari and Williams – all great F1 champions have done.
We have been given the reason as to why Red Bull cannot accept not being number one in Formula One; and why number two in the constructors race last year following four years at the top is unacceptable. Equally their probable number four position in 2015 is unacceptable.
In the press conference in Japan, Christian Horner repeated the Red Bull F1 philosophy we have heard many times before.
“Red Bull’s position is different to teams such as McLaren or Williams or Ferrari. Formula One has to provide a return. A marketing return globally. And, in order to do that, you need to be able to not be restricted in terms of the tools at your disposal”.
I am now too weak to resist. I must know the meaning of this. I reach out and grab the red pill from the hand before my eyes– and INSTANTLY I know I’m unplugged.
So Red Bull are not like McLaren, Williams and Ferrari. They are not in Formula One primarily to compete – is the Horner message. They are in Formula One first and foremost for its marketing value. Racing is at best a secondary objective.
Then a distant memory breaks into view my consciousness. Hasn’t this been revealed to me before I took the red pill?
The answer – yes it has.
I feel cheated. The red pill must itself have been an illusion. It in reality offered me insight into something I already knew. The shadowy figure spoke, laying bare my deepest thoughts.
“The truth is not in what is before you – but what is missing.”
The fog again began to descend on my mind. I frantically read again Horner’s comments looking for the truth, the meaning, the reason…
Like the Damascus road light – it was suddenly clear. The missing link is now obvious and the reason for Red Bull’s angst is now instantly apparent. Horner’s list of F1 teams excluded one rather significant name.
Mercedes – the team dominating Formula One; dominating in a way Red Bull never quite did. Mercedes of course are using Formula One as a marketing platform to sell their cars. ‘Win a race on Sunday, sell cars on Monday’, as one great thinker once said.
The reality is that Mercedes have played the great RB marketers at their own game and are beating them hands down. Red Bull has been out bullied in the marketing department, and this is not good.
(Quick note to all, we’ll forgive Spice boy for not believing Ferrari also gains huge marketing value form Formula One)
So how can Merc be trumping Red Bull at their own marketing game? Red Bull boss Dietricht Mateschitz has more money than God? Surely this man can do what is required to be top dog in the F1 marketing stakes?
Like a stream of numbers scrolling up the screen before me, the matrix is being revealed. Mercedes have performed this previously thought impossible feat of defeating King Bull and his cronies.
How? Because they are a car manufacturer. Every day Mercedes build tens of thousands of motorcars. And by the way, motor vehicles are a fundamental component of automotive racing.
And so Mercedes have the desire, the will and the know how to deliver the best prototype racing machines – and they do this because – Formula One is a perfect marketing platform for an auto manufacturer. Whereas fizzy drinks play no part in any part of the design, manufacture or running of a motorcar.
Red Bull are simply in the wrong marketing game.
The threat that Mateschitz may just start his own Red Bull global racing series may only have recently become public, but the persistent claims that the Red Bull and Toro Rosso workforces can be deployed on other projects easily demonstrates the reality of this consideration has been around for some time. There is no way 800 people in Milton Keynes who are dedicated to building racing cars will suddenly change tack and design yachts – or even the most aerodynamically efficient paper clip ever. They will carry on building racing cars, just not for Formula One.
Another thought then zipped across my minds eye like a lightening bolt. Maybe Formula One racing should be all about cars, automotive technology and racing – and then, and only then – will the desire to compete in F1 be anywhere near pure and true.
All other corrupt and perverted reasons for participating Formula One should be viewed as mere chaff. These sinful desires lead to irrational thinking that in turn leads to a nonsensical rationale – such as, having to win at all costs, but not enjoying journey and the competition – and also believing your need for a marketing ‘return’ is more important than anyone else’s.
Nobody buys/starts an F1 team to finish last – but someone always does so. No one is truly content with any finishing position other than first, but hey, not everyone can win.
TJ13’s poll last week asked “Are Red Bull necessary for the future of Formula One”, and we had an unprecedented response.
938 (78%) people said no.
263 (22%) people said yes.
The red pill is not good for my state of tranquillity. I am outraged at the covert hijack Red Bull have attempted to pull on Formula One. Yes, they have a recognised and long established genius designer who provides them with some credibility; and the team have produced market leading chassis designs which are worthy of admiration.
However, the Mateschitz F1 empire is fundamentally opposed to the values one would ascribe to Formula One. Red Bull has ingratiated itself on a historic annual motorsports competition and suddenly their threat to withdraw their CASH from the sport is perceived as the final straw which will take F1 down.
The reality is F1 is not and never will be dependent on Red Bull. Bernie Ecclestone may more urgently require their services to meet his contractual obligations with race promoters – but in reality Formula One should extract the Red Bull philosophical cancer from its presence.
And for the TJ13 doubters who think F1 will do down without Red Bull – you too can take the red pill. It’s not too difficult to swallow and there are few adverse after effects. We have reserve tablets to spare.
Any F1 fan should ask the question; ‘why would anyone want to see the raison d’etre of the sport I love – be abused at the hands of a bunch of marketing Charlatans?’
“Red Bull’s position is different to teams such as McLaren or Williams or Ferrari. Formula One has to provide [us with] a return.” Whilst refreshingly honest, this is a monumentally stupid thing to say.
Of course F1 can’t forcibly expel Red Bull, but by damning the persistent winging and complaining of their senior management with indifference and not forcing Ferrari or Mercedes to provide them with an engine, we can but hope they will just go away.
And if Red Bull’s primary reason for being in Formula One is as they state, maybe the response should be – “go find your marketing ‘return’ elsewhere”.