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.

Alexander Rossi ‘fits like a glove’ with his new IndyCar teammates at Arrow McLaren Racing

Alexander Rossi McLaren
Nate Ryan
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – There are more than three dozen fresh faces on the Arrow McLaren Racing IndyCar team, but there was one that Felix Rosenqvist was particularly keen to know – Alexander Rossi.

The driver of the No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet is the most high-profile new hire for McLaren, which has expanded to a third car to pair with the No. 6 of Rosenqvist and No. 5 of Pato O’Ward.

And there is another layer than Rossi just being the new kid. McLaren marks only his second team in NTT IndyCar Series after seven seasons at Andretti Autosport, where he began with a victory in the 2016 Indy 500 and was a championship contender for several seasons.

Rossi is a mercurial talent, and when things go wrong, the red mist quickly descends (and sometimes has led to feuds with teammates). He went winless during two of his final seasons at Andretti and was out of contention more often than not, often bringing out the prickly side of his personality.

Yet there has been no trace of the dour Rossi since joining McLaren. The pragmatic Californian is quick to remind everyone he hasn’t worked with the team yet at a track (much less been in its car), and there surely will be times he gets frustrated.

But it’s clear that Rossi, who made five Formula One starts in 2015 after several years racing in Europe, already is meshing well with an organization whose England-based parent company has deep roots in F1.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Rosenqvist said Tuesday during IndyCar’s preseason media availabilities. “I think Alex kind of has that bad-guy role a little bit in IndyCar. He’s always been that guy, which is cool. I think we need those guys, as well.

“Actually having gotten to know him, he’s been super nice, super kind. He fits like a glove in the team. I think it fills a role where Pato is kind of like the crazy guy, I’m somewhere in the middle, and Alex is the more engineering guy in the team. I think Alex has more experience, as well. He just feels like a guy who knows what he wants.

“Yeah, good addition to the team and great guy at the same time.”

There are many reasons why Rossi’s transition from Andretti to McLaren should be smoother than his abrupt move from F1 to IndyCar seven years ago. Namely, he no longer is the only newcomer to the team’s culture.

“It’s been kind of a good time to come in because everyone is finding a new role and position and kind of learning who’s who, finding everyone’s strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

But while Rossi might have questions about the team, he has none about the series. Unlike when he arrived at Andretti without any oval experience, Rossi joins McLaren with his IndyCar credentials secured as an established star with eight victories, seven poles and 28 podiums over 114 starts.

Even in his swan song with Andretti, Rossi still managed a farewell victory last July at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course that snapped a 49-race, three-year winless drought. It seems reasonable to believe he immediately could re-emerge in his 2017-19 title contender form.

“I know the series, and I know kind of everything that goes into American open-wheel racing vs. the European open-wheel racing, which is really the biggest transition,” Rossi said. “Certainly it’s the largest kind of team switch. I’ve obviously driven for different teams in the past in Europe, in sports cars, whatever, but never really in my full-time job. I’ve driven for the same organization for a very long time and have a lot of respect and fabulous memories with those people.

“So it has been a big kind of shift, trying to compare and contrast areas that I can bring kind of recommendations and experience to maybe help fill the gaps that exist at Arrow McLaren. Again, all of this is in theory, right? I don’t really know anything. We’ll have a much better idea and plan going into St. Pete (the March 5 season opener).”

He has gotten a good handle on how things work at its Indianapolis headquarters, though, and has been pleased by the leadership of new racing director Gavin Ward (who worked in F1 before a championship stint with Josef Newgarden at Team Penske). McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown also seems omnipresent on both sides of the Atlantic, making appearances at IndyCar races seemingly as much as in the F1 paddock.

“I think what’s very cool about Arrow McLaren is we do have the resources of the McLaren F1 team,” Rossi said. “They very much are being integrated in a lot of respects. It’s not two separate entities. McLaren Racing is one organization that has its people and resources and intellect in kind of everything. It’s been pretty cool to see how that can be an advantage to us in terms of people, resources, simulations, software, kind of everything. We’ve been able to kind of rely on that and use that as a tool that maybe other teams certainly don’t have.”

That will be helpful for Rossi with the methodologies and nuances of racing a Chevrolet for the first time after seven seasons with Honda.

And of course, there will be the relationship with O’Ward, who has been McLaren’s alpha star since 2020.

Rossi was in a similar role for Andretti, which raises questions about how McLaren will handle having two stars accustomed to being the face of the team. But O’Ward said IndyCar regulations should allow each driver to maintain their own style without being forced to adapt as in other series.

“At the end of the day, as much as teammates will help in order to gather data, it doesn’t mean they’re going to specifically help you in what you need because it’s a series where you can really tailor the car to what you want,” O’Ward said. “Rather than in Formula 1, (it’s) ‘This is the car, you need to learn how to drive this certain car.’ In IndyCar, it’s very different where you can customize it to what you want it to feel like or drive like.

“From past experience, I think Alex likes a car similar to what I do. I do think we have a very strong car in certain areas, but I definitely think he’s coming from a car where that other car has been stronger than us in other racetracks. I feel like if we can just find gains where we haven’t quite had a winning car, a podium car, that’s just going to help all of us.”

Though Thursday at The Thermal Club will mark the first time the trio works together at a track, Rosenqvist said he’s hung out a lot with Rossi (both are 31 years old) and deems his new teammate “well-integrated” in the simulator.

“I think the fit has been good with him, me and Pato,” Rosenqvist said. “On a trackside perspective, it’s obviously huge to have always a third opinion on things. Every driver’s opinion is valuable in its own way.”

Said O’Ward, 23: “It’s been great. (Rossi has) been great to have around. I think he needed a fresh start. I think he’s excited to really work with all of us, create the strongest package.”

Ever the realist, though, Rossi still is tempering some of his enthusiasm.

“Again, we haven’t really done anything yet other than some meetings and some team activities together,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done in IndyCar and also their prior careers. I think that we all bring something a little bit different to the table, which I think is really unique in terms of not only personalities but driving styles and experience levels.

“I think we have the ingredients to really be able to develop the team and continue to push the team forward to even a better level than what they’ve shown in the past. It’s been a really positive experience. Really I have nothing at all negative to say and can’t actually wait to get to work, get on track and start working together.”