As the Chinese Grand Prix looms, Formula 1 faces its third major negative set back in as many races, as Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has again threatened that his company will quit the sport if they cannot get a competitive engine.
This is the second damaging Red Bull-related story to emerge this year after the very public spat between the team and engine supplier emerged prior to the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Speaking to the Austria Press Agency, Mateschitz commented: “We’ll only stay in Formula 1 if we have a competitive team, and we need a competitive power unit for that. If we don’t have one, we can race with the best car and the best drivers and still have no chance of competing for victory.”
Getting its house in order
It is perhaps now time that Formula 1 Holdings and the FIA stepped in on such matters, as to have three highly controversial, public and frankly unprofessional disputes from teams played out in the media is having a considerably detrimental impact on the F1 brand and its supporters.
Fans watch racing for the on-track entertainment but with so many rumours circulating about bankruptcy of teams and the sport itself, contractual disputes and regulatory politics, supporters face an uncertain time.
While the cat-and-mouse nature of using the media to play out the sports latest dramas can provide some entertainment, it gives the impression that the sport is not being governed properly and that greater issues could be on the horizon.
Bullish quit credibility?
It is fair to speculate that much of Mateschitz current stance is bluster as the team seeks a better deal for its engines and is placing pressure on the FIA to open up the regulations to allow greater parity between power units.
However, it is doubtful that the team would quit the sport, particularly having reportedly invested upwards of €200 million in the upgrading of the Red Bull Ring circuit, which made its return to the F1 calendar in 2014.
Furthermore, the business has benefitted from its sporting affiliations, with over €5 billion worth of energy drinks sold in 2013 (according to Euromonitor) as increases in product sales aligned with their F1 World Championship winning campaigns.
This approach is unlikely to gain many friends in the paddock and is also highly off-putting to fans. Red Bull has had its successes, and many of them, but for various reasons they are less competitive this season – perhaps private negotiations would provide a better pay-off without damaging their reputation in the long-term.
Here’s hoping for an entertaining weekend of close and exciting racing that draws focus away from the off-track reputation battles.