Horner denies that Mateschitz wants to sell RBR as Audi waits in wings

Red Bull Racing’s struggles in Melbourne come in tandem with a much bigger picture as sources continue to suggest that Dietrich Mateschitz wants to sell the team that won the 2010-13 World Championships.

Indeed Bernie Ecclestone has been telling people that such a scenario is in the works.

Asked about it by this writer after the race Christian Horner said: “You’re wide of the mark. There’s been statements from Dietrich to clarify that, It’s a non-issue.”

However just minutes later Helmut Marko revved things up by telling German speaking media that it was possible, adding that every year the company conducts a cost/benefit analysis and that F1 has to pay for itself.

So what’s happening? Mateschitz was frustrated by the downturn in form last year, and even before this race weekend had recognised that if anything life would be tougher this year. In addition the talismanic Sebastian Vettel, with whom he is very close, has moved on.

Meanwhile RBR has been embarrassed by Toro Rosso in Melbourne, and it’s clear that the relationship with Renault has completely broken down.

A reorganisation of Renault last year, led by the returning Cyril Abiteboul, was supposed to improve the situation – as was the departure of Lotus to Mercedes, which left the two Red Bull teams able to forge a closer works-style relationship with the French manufacturer.

Renault in turn is hugely frustrated with Red Bull, feeling it has received little credit for its contribution to four World Championships – and in particular for example for the exhaust blowing technology it developed. That was followed by the very public criticism of Renault from the Red Bull camp last year.

That’s why Renault has been urgently seeking a partnership with another team which it could support as a de facto works effort. Renault has visited the obvious candidates such as Sauber, Toro Rosso, Force India and even its former works partner Lotus. Indeed the second Red Bull team could end up in the hands of Renault.

As for Red Bull Racing, the disenchanted Mateschitz has a problem in that having had a very good deal when he took the team off Jaguar’s hands at the end of 2004 and then invested huge sums to build it up it is now a very valuable property – and very different from a struggling team with debts that could be acquired for a relatively modest sum.

Realistically the only potential buyer is a car manufacturer, and that means VW/Audi. Sources suggest that the company’s consultant Stefano Domenicali has backed a plan to take over Milton Keynes and turn it into a works team – and not simply join as a partner. However Ferdinand Piech, the man who really matters, continues to procrastinate about whether or not he wants Audi to commit to such a project.

The struggles of Honda, which reflect how difficult it is to come into F1 with one team and restricted testing, have probably not impressed Audi. In addition there’s uncertainty about the future direction of the F1 rules.
Meanwhile if RBR and Renault are heading for a divorce, and Audi isn’t somewhere in the mix for 2016, then the team would need another engine supplier. Last year this blog broke the story that Mario Ilien was in the frame – and that there was now a possibility that Red Bull would pursue its own engine. At that time it looked likely to be done with a TAG Porsche-style partnership with Renault, but that now seems unlikely to say the least.

Mercedes already has four teams, and in any case historically Mateschitz has a very poor relationship with Stuttgart. Red Bull used Ferrari engines in its early days but offloaded the deal to STR at the first opportunity, and it’s hard to see a reunion happening. Honda does not appear to be a bet for the forseeable future, and it’s hard to see Ron Dennis sanctioning RBR as a second Honda team.

All of this means that the pressure is now really on RBR and in particular Horner, which helps to explain chat about banning wind tunnels and equalising the field. Watch this space…

22 Comments

Filed under F1, F1 News, Grand Prix News

22 responses to “Horner denies that Mateschitz wants to sell RBR as Audi waits in wings

  1. Mick

    Red Bull would do well to remember the fun, young, party image they traditionally promoted. Constant public moaning about F1 rules and partner Renault must be a big turn off for young fans. That will damage their reputation outside of F1, more than not winning the title.

    • ray

      what with being involved (and invested) heavily with german second tier football for at least another year and the pointless Austrian league and adding that the hockey team in Munich struggling in the Playoffs and likely remainig below expectations – dispite heavy investments, there are many troblesome areas for the sport management part of RB. However, they seem rather commited to mass-compatible sports rather than the extreme ones these days

  2. Jordan

    Hi Adam, do you know if there are testing restrictions for LMP1 in WEC? Could Audi possibly develop an F1 power unit that is also used in WEC and do a lot of the initial testing and development with their LMP1 cars? That could avoid the situation Honda are currently in, although it could also compromise their WEC program.

    • Jean Wiltshire

      Yes, there are testing restrictions in LMP1, Audi’s motorsport budget has also been cut as part of wider VAG cost savings. Unions are currently negotiating new pay deals for factory workers, and it’s seen as untenable to enter F1 for political, financial and sporting reasons.

      Everyone is aware Red Bull would like a new engine partner, however it’s fanciful to suggest Audi would step in, when ‘four times World Champions’ Renault are telling everyone what a poor return they’ve had on their use (almost) unprecedented success

    • anon

      Yes, the ACO has introduced new testing restrictions to try and cap development costs (Toyota have been very vocal on that topic). Testing for LMP1 teams are limited to 50 car days (i.e. 50 days with one car, 25 days with two cars etc.), and any tests in excess of 30 car days must be shared with another team.

  3. maxpam44

    Haha, F1 just had its most boring race in years and you think Horner’s ‘moaning’ will turn off young fans? Get real.

    Horner has a point. It doesnt matter whether Renault has been disgruntled about not getting enough attention, its their name being handed on a platter week in and week out. Their engines are blowing up and are falling behind. Probably even with open regulations it remains to be seen whether they (or anyone) can catch up woth Mercedes. And if Renault is really busy looking for their own team, today surely should have opened their eyes like Ferdinand Piech and the people at Honda. Indeed, F1 and all its testing restrictions has ecome a tombola: you better produce a good, reliable car at the end of january or youl be in a world of hurt the rest of the season.

    I cant see Renault staying in F1 and Honda proved in 08 that they can stop commitment to F1 in a day after just 3 seasons as a works team.

    The only solution is back to a spec engine, preferably a V10, without all the ‘green’ bullshit and no KERS or whatever the term is today. Nobody is gonna overhaul Mercedes. If not, well, good luck other teams in F1 with sponsoring if one of the sports biggest and most loyal (over 20 years sponsoring, way before they started a team)) Red Bull pulls out. If this stays as it is, you bet Mateschitz pulls out. And rightly so.

  4. Jean Wiltshire

    Audi have recently constructed a multi-million Euro Motorsport facility for their LMP and DTM programs, in fact the 2016 LMP design is already well underway, as is an all new hybrid drivetrain.

    The Domenicali plan was rejected at the turn of the year, it would be pointless to see investment wasted, and moving Audi Sport wholesale to England. What’s more, with each passing day, F1 looks ever more a sport in crises, where Mercedes’ exploits are overshadowed by politics and infighting.

    Renault are correct to say their part in Red Bull’s success has been underplayed, I’d suggest anyone not intimately involved on the sport has absolutely no idea who supplies Red Bull. For this reason too, it makes little sense for manufacturers just to supply teams, they get little to no credit. We have Mercedes and Ferrari vs an energy drink company, and a bunch of specialist constructors, doesn’t make for a particularly attractive story.

    Honda’s arrival was seen as a new dawn for the sport, instead it’s been a PR disaster. Further, the sports tight technological and testing restrictions mean Honda has little chance of being remotely competitive this year, or even en next.

    As Bernie Ecclestone’s made it abundantly clear, F1 is now entertainment, Mercedes are outliers, few others see the sport as a good platform to promote themselves or their technology. Mercedes will only see F1 as a good platform while they are dominant, the moment they aren’t, the PR value dismisses greatly.

  5. What about their primary sponsor Infiniti? Could Nissan not be seen to partner? Could they use what they’re learning in WEC to build an engine for F1?

  6. Mike

    I see no reason for Audi to join a sinking ship now that the WEC is growing stronger every year.

  7. JETWAKE

    Did anyone see the television interview with Daniel Ricciardo? He implied the pieces were not the same as in practice. He also noted how Team Mercedes lapped the entire field except for Vettel in the Ferrari.

  8. jiffyhelper

    I can’t say I would be bothered if RBR left F1.
    At the moment we can’t hear the engines over the constant whingeing coming from Red Bull!

  9. I would love to see Audi come into F1, to take on Mercedes. Ferrari strong (Alfa Romeo) and it’s like the 30s all over again! Red Bull could sell up and move back to sponsorship, if they don’t want to take over the entire series from Bernie.

  10. GeorgeK

    Renault has been rumored to want to become a factory team again. Just read that Renault are interested in Toro Rosso. Which suggests that Red Bull’s threat to leave the sport is rather empty.

    It’s hard to conceive of Audi picking up someone else’s team; I would imaging them as a clean new start up.

  11. Steve W

    I have to say it would be pretty sweet if Reno get back in with STR and Audi buy RBR…then we will have some real constructor clout to battle away with…Unfortunate if Audi think Honda is a yardstick…Merc were able to produce a good engine off the bat – VW built the Veyron…Im sure they can do an F1 engine…

  12. John

    How’s about Horner shuts the hell up. He wasn’t saying anything when RBR where getting away everything for 4 years. He’s like a little child who is threatening to take his ball away let him and he can go spit his dummy out somewhere else.

  13. DW

    There are other factors at play that will keep VW Audi out of F1 as long as Bernie is in charge.

    Besides …
    If they didn’t enter when F1 was at it’s peak a few years ago, why would they be considering it now when F1 is clearly in decline, & the series they are known for / provides better chance to develop future road-going technologies is on the up at the moment?

    I know from inside that Red Bull are looking to build an engine in-house, but have it financed at badged by a manufacturer … and up to this point the ‘big’ manufacturers aren’t too interested because of cost and IP issues.
    We might, however, see RBR with a non-Japanese Asian branded engine fairly soon …

  14. mick

    F1 IS KILLING ITS SELF WITH RULES !!
    RBR should start a new premium race series. If you want 4 turbos, 6 wheels & a 747 wing on your car, go for it

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