Pinch of Salt: Should Red Bull’s Exit Threats be Taken Seriously?
It hasn’t really been surprising to hear that Red Bull are once again considering a departure from Formula 1 at the end of 2020 if the proposed major 2021 rule changes and regulations do not provide them with enough reason to stay, possibly targeting a turn to Le Mans. Considering now that they’ve other motorsports to turn to and other places to go. Should F1 be really worried or is this just another Ferrari type “If we don’t get our way, we’re going to quit” threat?
There’s certainly no denying the fact that Red Bull has given so much to Formula 1 since becoming a team in 2005, taking over from the struggling Jaguar team. Red Bull had been in the sport since as early as 1994, as a frequent sponsor to the Sauber team. Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz was keen to show the world of F1 that his new team was not just a marketing or advertising ploy, employing the likes of 13-time Grand Prix winner David Coulthard to head the team, as well as plucking renowned designer Adrian Newey from McLaren in 2006.
Red Bull also took over long time backmarkers Minardi to create the Scuderia Toro Rosso team, using this to prompt a full on young driver programme while also sponsoring teams and drivers in lower formulae. This programme as been quite successful, giving us drivers such as Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Mateschitz also took over the struggling A1 Ring (Osterreichring) and started renovation work in 2008, with the circuit eventually becoming the current Red Bull Ring and prompting a return to the Austrian Grand Prix from 2014. To this day, the Red Bull Racing time has taken four straight constructors titles from 2010-2013, with Vettel taking the drivers honours while with the team also in those years.
Despite being not as strong in the post 2014 hybrid era, Red Bull have stayed somewhat successful and have won races. A change to Honda from Renault (Tag Heuer) for 2019 garners hopes they can return to their winning ways. However, thanks to Liberty Media’s hopes to revolutionize and change the commercial aspect of F1 post 2020 when the Concorde Agreement is up, Red Bull are worried for its future in F1.
“As long as there is no engine regulation and no Concorde Agreement, neither Red Bull nor Honda will make a decision,” Red Bull advisor Dr. Helmut Marko told Autosport in a recent interview. “However, we will certainly not become dependent again, as we have been in the past, when we were begging others and statements and promises were not kept.”
So a possible exit from Red Bull in 2020? It could be very possible as given the fact that both Honda’s engine deal and the mentioned Concorde Agreement expires at the end of 2020 and gives Red Bull ultimate free reign to their future in the sport. Taking into account that Newey has been working alongside current Red Bull Racing title sponsor Aston Martin to create they’re brutal Valkyrie hypercar, this coincidentally ties in with the WEC rule changes, making way for hypercar based entries in 2020, so it could become a real concern that Red Bull could jump ship with Aston Martin to the WEC, don’t be surprised if they crop up as a major sponsor even if they stay in F1. Even looking at other options, rise of sports such as Formula E could also give Red Bull a cheaper and easier alternative to compete in top level motorsport as well as targeting a whole new generation of race fans.
Sebastian Vettel celebrates his and the team's fourth straight World Championship victory, Indian Grand Prix 2013.
If you think of the top teams in F1 and asked anybody what name comes to mind when you mention the sport, Red Bull is bound to be up there. They have given a lot to the sport, and in a generation where relatively new owners Liberty Media are drastically trying to round up new sponsors, suppliers and entries, a major loss such as Red Bull, who are fielding two teams as well let’s not forget, could be quite a major blow to the American Owner’s campaign. Hopefully an agreement can come to terms in 2020 for all teams, the Red Bull/Honda partnership works relatively well, and that post 2020, Formula One as a whole can rise, Red Bull alongside.