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A few websites have been running a story about Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz and his warning that the group could leave Formula 1. I guess that possibility exists but I’m not sure I read Dietrich’s comments as a warning so much as answering a question that was asked.

Mateschitz was asked about his previous comments concerning leaving F1 should it not be economically beneficial. Dietrich’s answer was addressing that question and suggested that it won’t be for economic reasons that they would leave but for political and sportsmanship reasons.

This is an answer that would naturally lead to the current appeal that Red Bull has lodged in regards to their disqualification in the Australian Grand Prix after Daniel Ricciardo finished a terrific 2nd in the race only to be accused of exceeding the 100kgs/hr fuel-flow rate.

Mateschitz defended their position on the issue but what I found more interesting in this interview, which you can see here, are his thoughts on the current state of F1. This, to me, would be more of a reason for departure and perhaps the websites running the story are pointing to these comments as proof they could leave the sport.

The interviewer asks Mateschitz about F1’s struggle to appeal to new fans and as a marketing expert, what he feels should be done. To this, Dietrich offers an indictment. Here is a Google translation:

“The formula 1 again to make to what it always was: the supreme discipline. It is there neither to set new records in gasoline consumption, nor that you can talk in a whisper during a race, the loudest of the pit radio and the greatest feeling is a squealing tires. I consider it equally absurd that we go to a second slower than last year and that the junior series GP2 partially already offers more motor sports and martial and almost equal fast times goes like Formula 1 at a fraction of the budget.”

Although the translation is a bit jolting, I think you can get the idea—he’s not happy with the current format. To those ends, I don’t think Ferrari is either.

Ferrari started an online survey on their website asking fans if they are happy with F1 now. To be exact, they ask the simple question, “Do you like this new Formula 1?” and so far there have been 8,245 votes with 60% saying “No” and 40% saying “Yes”.

Our own survey on the engine noise is 70% against, 20% in favor and 10% indifferent. While our survey is directly related to the engine sound, Ferrari’s is more inclusive to the entirety of F1 and very open and subjective.

In the end, Dietrich Mateschitz is not happy with the direction of F1 and I don’t think that has much to do with their being on the back foot or offering sour grapes. That’s how it will be perceived by those who relish a season without Sebastian Vettel at the front of the grid but I’m not sure that takes into account the political undertow that is currently sucking people under in F1.

The regulations are massive, expensive and have not been received very well. The future of F1 is obfuscated with the German trial in April of Bernie Ecclestone and the current majority-owners who aren’t too keen to re-invest in F1 so much as skim 100’s of millions out of the series for stakeholders.

I believe Dietrich in that F1 will remain salient to his organization so long as it dovetails with what he believes to be the best appeal of F1 and that may not be where the series is right now.

You could suggest that this is reactionary due to their current struggles but I would suggest Honda, BMW and Toyota as examples of organizations who left F1 due to the lack of economic viability and relevancy (yes, they said it wasn’t relevant to their business model and I know that was a bit of a smoke screen for global economic crunch but nonetheless, they said it).

The bigger question for me is the current state of F1. We talked about it on our most recent podcast here and one wonders if F1 isn’t actually tagging 2014 as the year the bottom fell out. Not in a sky-is-falling way but in a political and economic way.

Will the series experience another decline of 50 million viewers? Will Ecclestone be removed from the leadership of F1? Are the teams comfortable with the fan reaction to the new F1? Will they want to carry that brand equity nightmare into their road car sales efforts at Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren? All big questions but at the lest of these is Red Bull threatening to leave F1 over their appeal case.

The appeal is more to do with the regulatory measurement of F1 not being in line with what perfection should be and we’re talking about a bunch of engineering wonks here folks so a variance of +/- .010 is unacceptable.

What do you think Dietrich meant by his comments? Do you think he’s suggesting Red Bull could leave over this appeal process should it not go in their favor?

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • MIE

    If they do choose to leave, it just shows the danger of having teams in the hands of those who are there purely for the marketing benefit and not because they exist only to race. If this happens Red Bull could follow the Enstone team in losing title sponsor(s) and struggling to survive despite the quality and experience of the staff employed.
    Despite their recent success, Red Bull are not Ferrari, and F1 would survive without them, as they managed without Brabham, Lotus, Tyrrell, Benetton, Renault and countless other teams that left without winning the championship.

    • jeff

      Whilst lost-sponsorship would of course hurt, I think of Red Bull as a constructor-team in that its budget derives from within; participation depends on whether the project is achieving the constructor’s goals. For MB/Ferrari etc, it’s a proving ground for technologies/car sales/brand cachet. For Red Bull, it’s “hipness” ultimately leading to drinks-sold.

      Unlike the true constructors of course, the technology is impertinent to their actual product, and so have felt ultimately RBR would ultimately be sold; I didn’t and don’t think it will be occurring for, say another 5 years or so.

      Mr. Mateschitz is being a typical and savvy CEO, riding a populist wave that coincides w/ his fortunes. Little should be read into his comments other than that. If RBR was doing well and the media was reporting as it is now, his comments would read “While we welcome Green message and agree w/ the F1 pushing the technical boundaries, we should perhaps also look at modifications towards improving the show for the fans.” And, if the media was reporting positive spin on the new reg changes, the release would be along the lines of “We are ecstatic w/ F1 2014, and our engineers are invigorated with the new technical challenges presented them. RBR is proud to be at the forefront in developing new relevant road car technologies that will enhance efficiency and safety.”

      Or something along those lines; these guys are CEO’s/interested parties where perception is everything. Even Ferrari, the quintessential racing team, would be much more quiet if its car was front-running.

      None of this is news.

    • Ground Effects

      THE Lotus has won the championship several times.

      • MIE

        As have Brabham, Tyrrell, Benetton and Renault. F1 survived when they left the sport, it would survive if Red Bull chose to leave. Ferrari seems to have some special hold over Bernie Ecclestone and as a result their threats to leave the championship are treated differently from other teams.

    • Oh, that call came in earlier than expected :)

      Yes, F1 would survive without them, but RBR won’t do anything like that (quitting) as they have simply invested too much already.
      They are absolutely aware just how good they are, what the potential of the team is, and that’s why nobody believes they will quit. It will be a wrong move.
      Furthermore, today Aldo Costa praises the performance of the Renault engine and thinks Red Bull will soon catch up.

    • ovvio they would live the FIA do not allowed o breack the role. i grandi campioni decisamente avranno un ruolo di conparse!

    • John

      Jeff

      I think you are being a little naive about teams showing up to race vs teams showing up to advertise. Keep in mind that Ferrari alone gets $60 mil a year just for being there .. of course they will continue to turn up. At every level of every team, it’s all about financial viability.

      If the Red Bulls of the world stop seeing benefit in participating in F1 then you have to question F1, not Red Bull. When the automakers cannot see benefit in F1, and of course they have, who’s left but those looking for a marketing outlet?

      Actually Dietrich Mateschitz has been a long time racing and F1 proponent .. F1’s friend, and good for the series. But he could just as easily turn his efforts towards the IndyCar series, LeMans, etc, and leave F1 behind. Of course they have the infrastructure to do that too. There is no shortage of joint efforts available by engine mfrs to participate in such an effort too.

      When need to seriously consider the ramifications of ANY team that walks away from F1. They are all, in their own way important to the sport.

      • jeff

        Hi John, good point about RBR being a consummate racing team. I’d agree, Horner, Newey, et al are petrol-blooded racers. I’m not really getting your point about motives regarding Mr. Mateschitz. Red Bull Racing and Red Bull the parent company are different entities to me.

        I’m sure he enjoys motorsport, but if you look at Mateschitz’ sponsorship/acquisition choices for Red Bull for the last decade, they’ve been in the extreme sports or high-adrenaline or active-lifestyle realm… To promote Red Bull energy drinks as the choice for the sexy people that partake or enjoy said lifestyles. They’v diversified into many forms and levels of motorsport, Euro-rules football, yachting, biking, and even aviation, as well as celebrity stuff and I think a record label.

        “At every level of every team, it’s all about financial viability.” Yes, I’d agree, but if you’re talking profit, then I don’t think so. They all want to make money, but with a team as diversified as Red Bull, one might take a loss for participation in a sport due to the visibility and prestige; it’s a loss maker that is compensated for by its other revenue-makers. I’m not saying F1 is a loss maker, but it could be; benefits of a diversified portfolio and market-awareness campaigns :)

        It’s not a criticism to say Mr. Mateschitz is savvy; he’s a marketing guy with great brand awareness. As an advertising wonk, I respect how entrenched Red Bull is to the 18-34, upwardly-mobile demographic. But to say he’s in F1 for the racing’s sake or pure profit? Anyone using F1 as their sole or primary income source is pretty stupid.

        All parent companies save Sauber IMO use F1 for the exposure/research/prestige/pride, rather than money terms. Of them all, only Sauber I see does it solely for the love of racing with no consumer goods to hawk or world presence to trump; one more reason I love them so much.

  • clay

    I would strongly disagree with you RE: the reasons Honda, Toyota and BMW left the sport. They all left because the results they have achieved not only failed to justify the dollar investment but, more pointedly, failed to give those brands the prestige they were hoping for. In short, they all stank and no board would tolerate for long the kind of bad publicity that these teams were generating for the brand. Indeed, we were all wondering whether Mercedes was eyeing an exit a couple of years back, before good results started coming in.

    I doubt very much that any F1 powerplant ever had any real ‘road relevance.’ Those types of brands enter the circus for street cred, not road relevance.

    • jeff

      Well said emphasizing performance; I didn’t hit that as hard as intended in my post.

      I agree the primary benefit is exposure, but for the auto manufacturers, a significant benefit as well is the technological research. Sure, we don’t see pneumatic valves or 12-21K rpm, but we do see tungsten bolts, moveable aero, and CVT’s in current road cars, all developed from F1. The time frame is what me as an audience member doesn’t appreciate; I believe it was Steve Matchett that said many technologies take 10+ years mature or become cost-/manufacturing-efficient for road cars.

      Spyker, a road car “manufacturer” taking Ford engines and common sense-albeit advanced mechanical know-how were in it for exposure and pulled when they sucked and couldn’t place a championship placard on its car, I agree. MB, Porsche to LeMans, Ferrari, etc., I feel have further motivations.

      And, I agree about the fan-whining. With internet dialogue, we all feel it’s our right to editorialize, and further express outrage. It’s far more interesting being contradictory or contentious than positive. It doesn’t make complaints any less legitimate, but goes to show human nature; because we’ve joined a club we take ownership of the topic without the responsibility, so get free rain to bitch and moan. And since we’re collectively resistant to any change, the brunt of it goes negative.

  • clay

    So let me ask you the same question in a different way. When was the last time the sport as a whole generated positive feelings?

    It seems to me that, for most of Mosley’s and all of Todd’s tenure, F1 seasons have been defined by either a scandal, controversial rules, or both. Maybe I don’t remember it right, but it seems to me that, back in the day, the fan community was impressed by the Williams FW14’s miraculous active suspension. Or wowed at the Prost/Senna rivalry. We appreciated what was good about the sport, even if there were bullshit decisions and rules.

    When was the last time we all (ok, most of us) were positively moved by F1?

    Instead, we get crashgate, $100MM fines, DRS, Pirelli, fuel-sensor-gate, Bernie’s court case… not to mention the hideous optics of Malaysian hotel reservations. Hell, you’re even *negative* camber… What hope do we have, really?

  • simonsez

    Goodbye

  • Tom Firth

    Aren’t political games fun ;-)

    • jeff

      Love it. Not too proud to say the Soap Opera aspect is appealing to me. :D

  • I find it somewhat ironic that the more F1 struggles to attract more fans, the more fans get turned off it.

  • wchrisg

    F1 gives me joy, it holds my interest, it excites my mind and i’m tickled by the absurdity
    I love f1 like a person loves their dog. F1 is the dog that impregnates the neighbor’s poodle in their living room at Christmas then steals the Turkey. It has to make you laugh, cringe and fills you with admiration simultaneously. What company wouldn’t want to be part of that?

  • GoldStandard

    First thing (before my own point): What point are you making here:

    ” Honda, BMW and Toyota as examples of organizations who left F1 due to the lack of economic viability and relevancy (yes, they said it wasn’t relevant to their business model and I know that was a bit of a smoke screen for global economic crunch but nonetheless, they said it).”

    If you believe it was smoke screen, then don’t repeat it just because “they said it”.

    Actually, as corporations, their statements ring true: ‘success or failure on track…… what are we getting out of this?’

    However; the closer a ‘corporation’ gets to having a single key administrator (autocratic ruler), the more likely personal views will come to the fore (not being pre-processed by a PR team).

    As successful people, their views are often ‘on the money’, but never discount the fact that they can get pissed off because things haven’t gone their way….. especially after a long period where things have always gone their way.

    Spitting dummies, and throwing toys ‘IS’ a fact of life.
    Whether this is the case here…… only those close to DM will know.

  • Yeti

    I definitely think the F1 is moving in the right direction (except maybe for he sound), to be innovative again and relevant for the car industry. It has been a while since that was the case and it is the reason Honda is coming back to F1. And almost lured Porsche back if they couldn’t compete in the Le Mans Series.

    The technology used in F1 for the new turbo engines combined with ERS and fuel efficiency (hence the 100kg/hour fuel flow limit) will find their way into the road cars.

    And since i think that form (or sound) follows function, I do not mind the (lack of) sound all that much. It will not take away the magic of F1. Although a little bit louder will be preferable.

    By the way, most of the loss of viewers was accountable for moving TV from open air to pay television and going regional in China and thus has nothing to do with the current state of F1.

  • dan

    Bring back formula 1 . I’m a die hard fan of formula 1 and everyone that was watching it around me in the bar including myself was commenting on the the sound. I was going to buy tickets for the f1 in Melbourne but pulled out due to them running v6 engines and sounding like go karts. The excitement was there. The deafening sound was there. It was very weird watching the cars go ahead the track with hardly hearing them. V8 supercars was much better. with sound comes excitement. Seeing and hearing the races race and roar around the track is what I call good motor sport. F1 has lost that. Bring it back. stop being was politically correct. Motorsport is motor sport.

  • mini696

    “Our own survey on the engine noise is 70% against, 20% in favor and 10% indifferent. While our survey is directly related to the engine sound, Ferrari’s is more inclusive to the entirety of F1 and very open and subjective.”

    Just on this – I think you will find it is the whingers and complainers who are most vocal. I am indifferent, yet I don’t feel the need to vote, because I don’t care.

  • ch

    Personally glad to hear such a thought voiced by someone of a significance. This on heels of Motorsport magazine’s recent ‘revolution’ article adds to a tiny glimmer of hope that the real governing body, CVC, will get the grip loosened. I don’t expect any change in that, much less a breakaway, but nice to hear any words that threaten their cozy cash cow status quo.

  • Tom

    Let me help you with a translation of the part of the interview that you quoted:

    Red Bull as a brand explicitly targets young people, Formula 1 is having a hard time generating new fans. What would be your advice as an expert in marketing?

    Turning Formula 1 again into was it has always been: The pinnacle of motor racing. It neither exists in order to post new records in fuel mileage and neither in order to be able to whisper to one another during a race, that the pit radio is the noisiest aspect and that squealing tires are the ultimate feeling. I find it absurd that we’re seconds slower than last year and that the feeder series GP2 in parts offers us more motor sport and fighting spirit and that it almost reaches the same lap times as Formula 1 with a fraction of the budget.

  • Tom

    As for my thoughts:

    I think F1 has made a step into the right direction with the new formula. It was definitely about time.

    Having said that, there’s an underlying trend that I don’t like and that is ever more spec parts, homologated engines, etc.

    I think F1 needs a reboot. Unlikely for now, but maybe 5 years down the road? F1 need to open up again and in a big way. They should get rid of virtually all regulations and start over. Let the engineers and designers come up with something completely new…if that’s what they think would work.

    This move towards spec parts and tight engineering boundaries have been justified with the argument that it would save costs. I argue that it does exactly the opposite. When all essential parts are either the same or so similar that they might well be the same, the focus shifts to the details. We have seen that over the past decades, how aero has become ever more important. These small advances however are usually not the result of a genius thinking hard and creatively, but rather of brute force. The big teams still have massive budgets, just like they always did, but now they throw it at details like little winglets on the driver’s a$$. Stuff they wouldn’t have wasted their time with in the old days. In terms of $ per second of lap time, F1 has gotten worse and worse.

    On the flip side, when you open up the regulations, ingenuity once again becomes more important than brute force. One brilliant idea can change the fortunes of a team and the great thing is, brilliant ideas aren’t expensive. You don’t need a budget of 500 million, you need just 1 idea. Taking risks or just being different may pay off again. Whereas the big teams would continue to focus on polishing their cars, the smaller ones would have the incentive to go wild, because one idea might just be the one that takes them to the podium.

    • jeff

      I agree conceptually. Give the engineers a few key regulations which promote whatever message FIA intends to project, such as fuel efficiency, cost constraints, and safety. Regulations could be 100kg/hr fuel flow (I actually prefer this over fuel load due to ECU manipulation, 5 power units per year, and a rev limit. To limit the discussion, I’m concentrating on engines/power units.

      The flow limit would force teams to look into alternative power density, whether diesel or ERS, finite engine supply supposedly equalizes the field’s spending, and rev limit in conjunction w/ fuel flow limit dictates power band and thus engine output. Teams would be experimenting w/ alternative fuels, engine formats, weight distribution and packaging. Hybrid technology would most-certainly be used for performance benefits, as now. We the audience wins with distinct looking/sounding/behaving cars, FIA wins w/ F1 again being a wide open book.

      However, I grudgingly admit that type of formula would be difficult to revert to. Increased analytical tools means teams can subvert broad rules more fully. How would FIA regulate fuel flow, as diesel is generally denser than petrol, and at times can vary greatly in its compound density itself? How easily would it be for the teams to introduce torque-based traction control, as no common ECU is viable? I personally feel that since say the mid 80’s, regulations have inevitably constricted technological diversity, coinciding with the availability and capabilities of computer analysis.

      One could argue that FIA need not regulate team spending limits/economics, and that curtailing circuit racing’s premier series w/ fuel flow further neuters its romantic image. I’d argue that allowing a free spending, forgoing even token or ill-thought out economic measures as currently employed, would rapidly shrink the grid in today’s shrinking sponsor market. And, w/o limitations on traditional engine power, we’d have 900/1500/2000hp cars that have completely outgrown any contemporary track’s safety boundaries.

      I think that a somewhat constricted Formula is, therefore, an unfortunate necessity. To me, we’d have a petrol engine formula with restricted fuel flow, with a specific displacement and cylinder count (like 1.6, V6 as current). I’d love more variety, but again, spec ECU. However, allow the teams to run whatever architecture they want within that mould, bank angle, VVT/Induction, single or twin turbos, exhaust configuration. ERS would inevitably be employed, so regulate its safety, but not its power output. Homologate the engines yearly, but NOT the ERS systems. Let the engineers place batteries wherever they want.

      I think FIA could safely regulate engines, and we’d have development that continues throughout the year. Engineers would be spending finite resources increasing power/packaging efficiency instead of a tweak to the diffusor or front element cascade. The engines would still be quieter, but hopefully have even more variation due to fundamental mechanical distinctions and ERS employment.

      • jeff

        Thinking of my days playing w/ programmable road car ECU’s, perhaps even ICE format could be opened up to an extent. If the ECU is looking at spark tables/VE figures and not valve events/compression, and ERS mandates component usage (MGU-K/H e.g.), perhaps a common ECU could be used for a flat-4/V6/V8 etc.

        It would be a programming nightmare ensuring legality, but I guess doable w/ really smart and meticulous investigation.

  • Rapierman

    Maybe I’m wrong, but doesn’t it sound like both the FIA and Red Bull are getting a bit “uppity”? Whatever happened to minding one’s manners and respecting people? Did that go out with the V8s also? That’s certainly no way to retain fandom. I suppose it’s just me. :-/

  • I made an analysis about what could happen in Sepang:
    http://news.playf1.net/analysis/what-are-we-to-expect-in-malaysia-2014

  • Rapierman

    It’s like the FIA and Red Bull are two spoiled brats fighting over a sandbox and I have to separate them before I send them off to bed without supper.

  • sir EL

    when Redbull won 4 championships in a row all was cool, now things twisted they in a spin and all their crap starts surfacing, aint others the right to also win plus most switched off due to the Boring Redbull domination…..so cheerio/tata/ciao…remember F1 been around long before R E D B U L L

    • Brody

      SIR EL……I hope that you don’t mind me adding…….Adios!

  • He has to say something, didn’t he? Over 3000 euro prizes at F1 Manager http://playf1.net

  • Kimi is rubbing his hands with glee thinking of the prospect of being paid not to drive to make way for Vettel. Might have been his exit strategy all along!

  • Tom

    There was an interesting article in AMuS today:
    http://www.auto-motor-und-sport.de/formel-1/hat-red-bull-eine-chance-jede-runde-ueber-dem-limit-8221034.html

    The core points:

    – It really is about how to treat Technical Directives. Horner said that they are “the opinion of the technical delegate.” The court first has to agree to this assessment (with all its enormous consequences for F1) before assessing the validity of Red Bulls claims regarding their fuel usage becomes even relevant.

    – Red Bull’s numbers are based on a mathematical model. Preventing a reliance on such model was the entire point of the FFM, as it measures fuel flow directly.

    – Inaccurate sensor reading can also be caused by the team itself. That is in line with what Porsche said, namely that the environment of the sensor can play a role. Apparently Ferrari modified their fuel pump before the season in order for the FFM to work properly while Lotus installed a dampener in their injection rig in order to prevent pressure fluctuations.

    – The teams purchase and own the FFM. Red Bull only brought four sensors to Australia, other teams had as much as 12.

    – For the first time, the article presents some real numbers, though I cannot really interpret them. It not only says that Ricciardo was constantly over the limit, not just peaks, but always and they give the figure of 25g per lap. I don’t know what that is supposed to mean. My guess is that if you add all the surplus consumption within the 5Hz monitoring intervals during one lap you end up with that number.
    Apparently the FIA allows up to 3g per lap. Mercedes had up to 4g during free practice but they then reduced fuel flow on their own before the FIA said anything. So 25g per lap seems to be massive.

    – In an opinion piece that was published with the article, the author wondered why Red Bull would so blatantly break the rules, knowing full well that the FIA would have no other chance but to disqualify them. His conspiracy theory: Red Bull and Bernie Ecclestone want to create a break off series. While he makes some good points as to why Red Bull would want to do that and how Bernie’s recent antics would play into that plan, and while he also describes the potential allure for other teams, I don’t see how “fuel gate” plays into this, so for the time being, I don’t buy it.

    Lastly, I really wonder why Red Bull didn’t protest on Saturday, before the race and before they were ordered to put the old FFM back into Ricciardo’s car. All the information was on the table then. Red Bull knew already on Saturday that they would ignore the FIA’s request to reduce fuel flow. Why then wait until the race? That doesn’t make any sense at all if your goal is to race under fair conditions. They could have argued their case on Saturday just as well, that the FFM is faulty and that they should be allowed to use their own measurements (which I think one team was allowed to do…can’t remember, possibly one of the Force India cars…), or they could have requested a new FFM.

    • Rapierman

      Regarding your last paragraph, I suspect that Red Bull’s purpose was to embarrass the FIA and show them who’s boss. The FIA, in turn, retaliates. Things go from there. You can draw your own conclusions from that.