Unexpectedly, Red Bull Advanced Technologies, one of the companies created by and for the Red Bull Racing F1 team, announced the production of a hypercar with insane performance and a prohibitive price tag; the RB17, which would also allow them to fill the gap left between the RB16B, for the 2021 season, and the RB18, for the 2022 Formula 1 season. With the announcement of this car, comes the announcement that Red Bull has joined in with the legal budget cap loophole.
Red Bull promises a hybrid vehicle with more than 1,100 horsepower, closer to a prototype than a production vehicle, with Formula 1 inspiration and possibly not even approved for open road use. Something that in reality already exists with Ferrari’s FXX in 2004, a beast not permitted to be driven on the road and not suitable for any existing competition, being reserved for private driveways and the collections of millionaires.
This new creation headed by Adrian Newey will have a starting price of £5 million excluding taxes, and will allow the famous British designer to rid himself of the frustration of the Aston Martin Valkyrie, where Red Bull Advanced Technologies participated in the design but with the change of owners and the break with with Aston Martin, it has remained out of production. The Hypercar has suffered numerous delays despite the fact that Red Bull drivers were seen driving with it a couple of years ago.
So why is Red Bull involved in this kind of drama, expensive and arguably a pointless exercise? While it makes some sense that an energy drink brand would use Formula 1 to promote itself, it is completely unknown territory to enter into building a production car, even if production is limited to 50 units.
The reason is, oddly enough, the Formula 1 budget cap, which Horner has complained about insistently in recent months, in the background of the terrible inflation that European countries are currently suffering, and which in the case of Great Britain, the team’s home, started as soon as Brexit was actioned.
Red Bull has already warned that if the budget cap was not raised it would be forced to lay off staff, something it would not want. The construction of this Hypercar, which by its very nature doesn’t make it eligible for Le Mans or anything like it, suddenly and actually makes perfect sense.
The energy drink team can now move people from Red Bull Racing to Red Bull Advanced Technologies, staff who will be focused on developing technology for a prototype, studying materials, aerodynamics, and other areas of a car, but those people no longer work in Formula 1 and their salaries no longer count against the budget cap. In fact, it is well known that Horner and other senior staff members are already under the umbrella of a Red Bull subsidiary, this time the engine developement business called Red Bull Powertrains.
Two birds with one stone: you don’t lose efficient staff, you avoid them ending up in rival teams, and you also have them developing technology that could perhaps be used in F1 in the future, as Red Bull Advanced Technologies is a supplier of both Red Bull Racing and Alpha Tauri.
A totally legal manoeuvre whose problems were contemplated from day one but were never addressed because there was a pressing need to impose the budget limit as soon as possible. Undoubtedly, it is not the ideal solution, as the staff will be working on other tasks and their advances do not necessarily have to be applicable in Formula 1, but in any case, it is a great solution.
Red Bull is putting the current cost accounting system in check, and it is only a matter of time before the other powerful teams copy it, if they are not already doing so, as Mercedes has been working on the Mercedes AMG One for years, and Ferrari has never stopped developing the aforementioned Ferrari FXX.
Further, in many ways Red Bull are simply copying these historic teams who also run road car businesses, McLaren and Ferrari being the obvious pair doing so.
Stand by for finger pointing.