Amongst the #ToroHondaRenaultMcLarenRosso hype during the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, news of around Aston Martin increasing its involvement in Formula One with Red Bull Racing has started to solidify. Andy Palmer, Aston Martin CEO, when quizzed on the grid by Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle confirmed the business is keeping a watching brief on 2021 engine regulations, which should they fall favourably towards independent manufacturers, could lead to increased involvement of the brand. Should this be the case Palmer confirmed Aston Martin may seek to preemptt the regulation change by enhancing their visibility with Red Bull Racing possibly from as early as 2018.
This news comes at a time in which the media are speculating Red Bull’s long-term interest in Formula One may be dwindling, which has lead some observers to suggest a change of ownership of Red Bull Racing under the guise of Aston Martin. Whilst this is entirely possible, there are, in my opinion, a few to many creative leaps being taken for this outcome to be viable.
Firstly, lets address Red Bull or more specifically Dietrich Mateschitz’s diminished interest in Formula One. Red Bull entered F1 to sell a product, this objective is the same today as it was 30 years ago. In 2016 the Red Bull achieved more than $1,000M in media coverage from through Formula One. This far exceeds any investment the brand makes into the sport. With budget caps on the horizon, the business rationale for a marketing focused business to be involved with F1 will only increase. Should a $150M budget cap be achieved, Red Bull Racing can be assured of achieving this investment through existing sponsors, and prize funds. Red Bull stand to benefit from $1000M in free advertising.
2017 saw Aston Martin return to profit for the first time in over a decade. The business has stated ambitions around going public in the coming 5 years and are focused on expanding their automotive range to increase revenues. At this time, and in the mid term they are not a business capable of sustaining any form of Formula One engine development plan. Aston Martin Racing is a completely separate business to the Aston Martin which sponsors Red Bull Racing.
Returning to Dietrich Mateschitz. A serial entrepreneurr and self made billionaire. In recent years, he has seen the likes of McLaren diversify into the production of cars, and Williams create successful businesses in the application of their technology within a commercial environment. He is aware that the technical capability of the Red Bull Racing group is under utilised, something which will only increase under a F1 budget cap. Projects such as Newey’s America’s Cup Project and the Aston Martin Valkyrie Hypercar project show an evaluation of ways in which the team can direct resources to other projects. Could this lead to an alternative direction for Red Bull Racing?
Rather than Aston Martin becoming title sponsor of Red Bull Racing, with a view to producing a power unit under the 2021 regulations. Could Red Bull be considering buying Aston Martin, supporting them in the acceleration of their automotive expansion plans, facilitating F1 power unit development, through their partnership with AVL, and using the proven brand power of Formula One allow Dietrich Mateschitz to evolve Aston Martin into a genuine competitor to the entire Ferrari Group.
Dietrich Mateschitz acquiring Aston Martin and reshaping his position in Formula One towards a Red Bull owned Aston Martin F1 Team, from a business perspective appears entirely more feasible than a company reporting $16M profit, having committed $550M to new road cars, suddenly investing $20M per annum in title sponsorship then paying to develop an F1 engine.
All that being said, Red Bull, through offering half stories and snippets of information continue to dominate F1 news despite being unable to challenge for a world championship. The business continues to offer a master class in media manipulation. As in 2014, when F1 news was dominated by stories of Red Bull looking set to quit Formula One, Red Bull have an ability to create their own news to ensure they dominate the F1 headlines between the races.
Finally, despite quotes to the contrary, Red Bull Racing are very well aware that the best chance they have of securing a return to a championship challenging position is with a fully funded manufacturer. Talk of Aston Martin, in my opinion, is nothing more than a negotiating tactic around the terms under which the Volkswagen Group will enter Formula One.
Credit to Sean Bull for the fantastic livery creation supporting this article.