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.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.