Formula One has for weeks been dominated by the wailing and gnashing of teeth emanating from Milton Keynes who insist they must have a ‘competitive engine for 2016’. Bernie did his best to assist them in Sochi with his impression of a UN diplomat as he shuttled up and down the paddock desperately trying to persuade Mercedes and Ferrari to relent.
Dieter Mateschitz – the glorious bull ringmaster, has stated it is HE “he who giveth” and will be HE who taketh away” his two F1 teams at the end of October unless he gets what he wants. Despite the implied threat to their livelihoods, the Red Bull employees continue to assemble for their daily pre-work worship muttering, “Blessed be the name of Mateschitz,” and drinking from the Holy Cup of Taurine.
The Austrian fizzy drinks emperor is through an interesting character and TJ13 has previously reported those who have worked closely with him believe he sees himself as some kind of re-incarnation of the great Styrian moderniser, Archduke Johann.
The archduke was a benefactor to the Styrian region of Austria and such was his love of area he chose to daily wear the Upper Styrian frock coat with its green fringe. Johann studied the land and the people intensively and believed he could therefore make significant contributions to development – primarily to that of the rural population.
In 1811, he laid the foundation for the Joanneum in Graz, the precursor to the Technical University. He founded the Styrian State Library, the State Archive, the savings bank, a mutual fire insurance institution, the Landesoberrealschule (State Upper Secondary School) and the Historical Association.
Yet he was not just a rich benefactor. During the famine of 1816/17, he personally distributed potatoes and also made sure that they were planted for the following season. He introduced farmers to new plants, seeds and varieties. He propagated new methods of livestock breeding and of orchard and crop plantation.
He also bought land and property in the region, most famously Stainz Castle, where two exhibitions to his life are currently on display. Further, he developed the infrastructure of Styria, and was a great patron of the railway. For a long time, the line between Mürzzuschlag and Graz was known as the “Erzherzog Johann Bahn” (“Archduke Johann Train”).
In Archduke Johann style, Dieter Mateschitz has refurbished the famous Styrian ‘A’ ring and was fundamental to the return of F1 racing to Austria. However, more recently he has been on something of a shopping spree in Upper Styria, where he already owns numerous hotels and grounds adjacent to the Red Bull Ring.
In 2014, Mateschitz purchased almost all the property owned by the HMZ private foundation of the late industrialist Helmut Zoidl. This includes the grand, though past its former glory, Seehotel am Grundisee whose 2,000 hectares of grounds see the property sit adjacent to head of the lake Grundisee
Mateschitz is to invest tens of millions into his new project which will develop the nearby castle Gabelhofen Fohnsdorf . It was here during the years of the A1 ring where many of the F1 drivers from yesteryear were hosted for the GP weekend. This development will become a haven of rest for the current crop of drivers, away from the grime and toil of the race track and garages littered with oily rags.
So Dieter believes himself to be perfectly reasonable having done all this for Formula One and his people in Styria to be afforded the best F1 engine his money can buy. Yet despite Bernie’s best diplomatic efforts in the Sochi paddock, the standoff between Red Bull and the other engine manufacturers remains as resolute as that between Israel and Palestine. So the leader of the Bulls is now faced with Hobson’s choice.
Thomas Hobson was a livery stable owner in Cambridge, England during the middle ages, and he famously offered a customer the choice of taking the horse in the stall nearest the door or taking none at all. In true Murica-land copycat fashion, they also have a hero who demonstrated more recently the nature of Hobson’s choice. Henry Ford told his customers, “You may pick any colour, so long as it is black”
‘You can have any engine you like for 2016 – Dieter, so long as it’s a Renault’ – was Bernie’s Russian conclusion.
To this end, Renault themselves have stepped up to the plate in what some may see as an attempt to remind their former lover of their previous joint conquests. After months of testing, Renault’s 2015 engine is good to go. 11 of their 12 tokens for this year have been deployed and it is there on a plinth for Dieter and his men to marvel at.
The French engine spokesman, Remi Taffin, has revealed the new design of the upgraded power unit has focused around the elements associated with the internal combustion engine elements.
“The principal changes involve the internals of the ICE to give improved power and efficiency,” he said. “We know that introducing the new PU will incur a grid penalty so the decision to use will be made in full consultation with the teams.
“At this point of the season obviously points are crucial so if circumstances allow then we will use [it] on track.”
The reality is that Red Bull’s fate in the constructor’s championship for 2015 is sealed. They are 71 points behind Williams, who ran well finishing 4ht and 5th in the US GP last year. So Red Bull’s current fourth place looks to be as high as they can achieve.
Force are 57 points behind the Bull’s, and whilst confident following Checo’s podium finish last time out in Russia it still looks a bridge too far for the Silverstone outfit to catch Red Bull. Regardless, for Red Bull whether they finish fourth or fifth in the 2015 constructors table is unimportant in comparison with the decisions looming large for 2016. And the clock is seconds away from midnight.
Given that Renault are Red Bull’s only engine option for 2016, If Mateschitz has any intention of remaining in Formula One, he will surely want to see the progress the French manufacturer has made with their power unit.
So despite the grid penalties and the challenge of Force India, Red Bull running in Austin with the engines they used for the Russian GP, will soon be followed by their pit wall monitor displaying, ‘Formula One – Game Over’.
The question for Dieter Mateschitz is – What would Archduke Johann do?