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?