Red Bull issues F1 quit threat over current rules

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Red Bull Racing advisor Helmut Marko has said that the team could quit Formula 1 unless changes are made to the current regulations.

The energy drink brand established its team back in 2005 after buying Jaguar, and won four straight drivers’ and constructors’ championship between 2010 and 2013.

However, the team has recently experienced a dip in form, with the lowest ebb coming in yesterday’s Australian Grand Prix as Daniel Ricciardo struggled to sixth place. His teammate, Daniil Kvyat, failed to make the start after an engine failure.

The change in the technical regulations for the 2014 season and switch to V6 turbo engines has seen Mercedes rise as the dominant force in F1, with its works team claiming both championships last year with a record number of wins and pole positions.

Much of Red Bull’s anger has been directed at engine supplier Renault, who admitted yesterday that “we would even seem to have moved backwards” over the winter.

All of this has resulted in Marko issuing a quit threat, saying that Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz may have grown tired of F1.

“We will evaluate the situation again as every year and look into costs and revenues,” Marko explained to the Austrian media in Melbourne.

“If we are totally dissatisfied, we could contemplate an F1 exit. The danger is there that Mr Mateschitz loses his passion for F1.”

All manufacturers in F1 regularly analyze their participation in the sport and any possible future. In 2013, Mercedes was reported to be considering quitting after just four seasons as a works outfit, but decided to continue with the project that eventually bore fruit last year.

The current ‘engine formula’ is expected to last until 2017 at the earliest, with most within the paddock predicting that Mercedes will retain its advantage throughout this period.

As a result, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner thinks that the FIA should take steps to try and cut Mercedes’ advantage to help the racing and close the field.

“When we were winning – and we were never winning with an advantage that Mercedes has – double diffusers were banned, exhausts were moved, flexible bodywork was banned, engine mapping was changed mid-season – anything was done to pull us back,” Horner said on Sunday.

“That was not just us, it was done to McLaren and Williams in other years. The FIA, within the rules, have an equalisation mechanism. I think it’s something that perhaps they need to look at.

“I fear the interest will wane. I didn’t see Mercedes much on the TV this afternoon and I can only imagine that’s because it’s not interesting watching a precession and the producer was looking to pick out other battles in the race.

“There weren’t that many cars out there. The highlight for me was to see Arnie on the podium!

It is worth noting that under the terms of the commercial agreement that all teams have with F1, the team is committed to the sport until 2020 at the earliest.

However, should Red Bull decide that enough is enough after 11 years of participation in F1, it could have serious ramifications on the sport. Mateschitz also owns Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s B-team, and is the main financier of the Austrian Grand Prix, which returned to the sport in 2014.

One name that has been linked with a possible buy-out of Red Bull is Audi. Just as F1 teams ponder quitting the sport each year, Audi frequently discusses a possible entry, and it could be that the Red Bull operation presents the perfect grounding.

In spite of its engine woes, Renault is known to be considering a return to F1 with a works team, having last raced with one back in 2009 before selling up to Lotus. Given that Toro Rosso has fulfilled its purpose of producing future Red Bull talent – Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat – Mateschitz may consider selling up to the French marque.

Marko’s warning may sound like nothing more than sour grapes, but in reality, a Red Bull exit from F1 is both understandable and feasible at this moment in time.

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).