The time-honoured threat to abandon Formula One in the face of defeat has again manifested, with Red Bull – not for the first time, issuing the ultimatum “if we are totally dissatisfied we could contemplate an F1 exit.”
Following Mercedes’ dominant 1-2 at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, where Daniel Ricciardo was forced to settle for sixth, and Daniil Kvyat a non-starter following a gearbox issue on a reconnaissance lap, motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has warned that the patience of the energy drink giant’s owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, is wearing thin.
“The danger is there that Mr Mateschitz loses his passion for F1”, the Austrian remarked, claiming the present 1.6 litre, V6 power units “are the wrong solution… we would say this even if Renault were in the lead.”
The Milton Keynes outfit is evidently struggling with the notion of their gradual decline from its’ halcyon days, having swept all titles between 2010 and 2013.
Failure to collaborate adequately with long-term engine supplier Renault has compromised the operation’s competitiveness since the current regulations took effect ahead of the 2014 season, yet there’s no excusing their repeated persecution of the French marque each time a Red Bull isn’t victorious.
Adrian Newey’s notoriously tight packaging doesn’t permit much scope for the powertrain, and perhaps it has reached a level where a fresh design philosophy needs to be considered – this might be the case as the technical guru takes a step back.
It is true that both parties share a responsibility to attain synergy, for that to work, transparency is essential. To that end, Renault’s resentment regarding the lack of credit received throughout the golden era – with praise lavished almost exclusively on Newey, is completely understandable.
Reports that Viry-Châtillon wants to restore its’ factory status – having retreated from ownership of the Enstone operation now known as Lotus in 2009, through the purchase of a current outfit, with Red Bull owned Scuderia Toro Rosso a front-runner, ties in with this.
Mercedes sacrificed short-term success for the fruits they are now enjoying, absorbing heat for recruiting “too many cooks for the kitchen” in Wolff, Lowe, Lauda and Costa. Each has been pivotal to their current prosperity, the German marque has no reason to feel as though it needs to be supporting a push to equalise proceedings.
Ferrari parted with team principal Stefano Domenicali as well as his successor Marco Mattiacci, parted with long-term chairman Luca di Montezemolo and ultimately parted with Fernando Alonso. Everybody was saying Ferrari were no longer relevant. One pre-season and a race into their new chapter, and the Italian marque is – albeit a considerable distance behind Mercedes, ostensibly the best of the rest.
Newly appointed team principal Maurizio Arrivabene has been a breath of fresh air for Maranello. The former Philip Morris man has transcended expectations that he’d adhere to the beliefs of the old guard, that if Ferrari isn’t winning, it’s up to Formula One to change it.
In contrast, Arrivabene possesses a disarmingly realistic vision for success. He forecast two victories as success this season, rather than yesteryear’s tiresome “this year, we win” rhetoric. In the wake of Sebastian Vettel’s third place at Melbourne, rather than bemoan how far the German trailed behind the Mercedes duo and lodge some form of protest, Arrivabene has promised to take the fight to the Silver Arrows, stating “we need to start to be a bit more convinced about ourselves” rather than relying on incendiary measures to reign in the Brackley operation’s superiority.
Williams’ head of vehicle performance, Rob Smedley – formerly of Ferrari, is complimentary of Mercedes’ dominance, remarking “I’m not going to bitch and moan that they are quicker than us.” The cynic would say that as a customer of Mercedes, Smedley is obliged to sign their praises, however the Briton readily acknowledges that he was once privileged to be in such a position “I think Formula 1 is about levels of excellence.” This line epitomises the sport, at least what it should – it’s just a shame this is lost almost exclusively to those who are winding down from a sustained period of success.
Formula One is cyclical in nature, and seldom have teams whose long-term dominance has come to an end departed the sport. Williams is still here – approaching two decades since their previous title, McLaren is still here – despite only one title to show from their past sixteen campaigns, whilst Ferrari is still here, for all of their sportscar posturing under the di Montezemolo regime.
As much as Red Bull’s primary motivation is to sell cans of Red Bull, this shouldn’t mean it’s time to bail the moment things get tough. They’d certainly win over many if they recommitted to the sport, especially in the midst of yet another set of regulation changes in 2017. Newey arrived at Red Bull in 2006, yet it wasn’t until the revolutionary changes ushered in ahead of the 2009 season that they were propelled into race-winning status, and one year later, champions.
You’d love to believe they’d back themselves to achieve these heights again, but ultimately it’s their call if two or three seasons on the receiving end is too much to handle.
What’s more, we’re one race into a nineteen, perhaps twenty-event season. Enough of the insurrection from day one – if this is the philosophy now, imagine how it’s going to be at the mid-season break, should this defeatist mentality be upheld for the duration?
Red Bull – shut up and drive!