When Aston Martin signed on as a title sponsor to Red Bull Racing’s F1 team earlier this week, many saw it as a marketing move for the stories British brand. A way, in other words, for Aston to elevate its global image and more effectively compete against the Italian Ferrari brand. Few, however, see the move for what I think it really is: a prelude to a branded engine deal that will put a Mercedes engine in the back of a Red Bull.
I’ve been wrong about stuff before, sure- but this one seems like a slam dunk to me. So, strap on your tin hats, follow the links to the source material, and let me know what you think about the coming era of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Flame suits on, kids!
1. Aston and Mercedes Already Have an Engine Deal
While Mercedes has been hesitant to provide F1 engines to Red Bull in the past, Mercedes has had no qualms about providing AMG engines to its new partner, Aston Martin. Why wouldn’t Mercedes want to keep a good thing going there?
You might hear yourself saying that Mercedes wouldn’t want to help propel another luxury brand to victory- but Red Bull has already proven that Mercedes can have its F1 cake and eat it, too.
2. Red Bull’s Tag Engine Deal Shows How It’ll be Done
After nearly a full season of very public complaining, Red Bull tried- in vain!- to find another engine supplier. In the end, however, it was stuck with Renault. Renault was stung by the criticism, though, and didn’t want to continue giving Red Bull “works status”. The resulting engine deal laid the groundwork for what I think is coming next.
Enter: Red Bull TAG. Red Bull would continue with engines that were built by Renault, but they would be “developed” by TAG Heuer. Yes, the watch company.
That deal was the best of all possible worlds. It allowed Red Bull to continue with Renault power, but public criticism (if any came) would have to be directed at a TAG engine- not a Renault. Considering the millions TAG was paying Red Bull to paste its name on the car, such criticism seemed unlikely. Further, now that the car has started winning again?
Well, nobody really calls that engine a TAG, do they?
Still, Red Bull finds itself without an engine in 2019. With an Aston Martin-branded Mercedes powering Red Bull, Mercedes could also enjoy that “best of both worlds” scenario that Renault is getting now. If the car is slow, Red Bull would be forced, by their branding agreement, to complain about an Aston Martin engine. If it wins, the announcers would be quick to point out that there was “really” a Mercedes engine in that fast Bull.
3. Mercedes Doesn’t Want to Keep a Works Team
There have been rumors that Mercedes is set to quit F1 circulating since June, at least. Rumors that Mercedes have vehemently denied, sure- but, if Mercedes dumps the works team and stays on as a supplier, then they haven’t really “quit”, have they?
Mercedes’ dominance in F1’s recent seasons has done wonders for the brand, globally, with its latest flagship models setting the bar in the Porsche 911/entry-Ferrari class. Mercedes would be mad to step away from F1, altogether. Consider, also, that the company spent more than 300 million Euro on the works team in 2016, alone. And that massive number doesn’t count developing the power unit. That’s. Just. The. Team.
Mercedes’ accountants might start to wonder if a Mercedes-powered team might be enough to fly the three-pointed
star flag once again. And Red Bull might be the team to do that for them, just as McLaren had been in the 90’s and 00’s.
“But, Jo,” I hear you asking, “Why wouldn’t Mercedes go back to McLaren?” Of course, I have an answer for that.
4. Mercedes Wants to Get the Band Back Together
Do you remember the name, Michael Schumacher? I sure do. Schumacher scored a record 91 wins and 7 (seven!) World Drivers’ Championships between 1993 and 2013. He was a dominant force, and he only really had one rival in all that time. That rival wasn’t a driver, though- it was the alien brain of Adrian Newey.
For the uninitiated, Adrian Newey is the legendary F1 car designer, and the Williams and McLaren cars were the only rivals Schumacher had in his long career. When Schumacher didn’t win the WDC, odds are that it was a car designed by Adrian Newey that did. That was true in 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, leaving 2005 and 2006 (Fernando Alonso, driving cars overseen by Bob Bell) and 2009 (Jenson Button, driving a car designed by Ross Brawn) as the only outliers. Adrian Newey brought the McLaren-Mercedes marriage almost all of their past glory, including McLaren’s last WDC in 2008, and Mercedes might be convinced that he’s the guy to go back to. A safe set of hands, as it were.
As for McLaren? A lot has changed since the old days. McLaren’s management team believes strongly in their new racing director, Eric Boullier, formerly of Renault. They also believe in their legendary driver, Fernando Alonso- who won Renault’s last two championships for them. If that wasn’t enough, Flavio Briatore was the one-time owner of what is, now, the works Renault team- and he’s also Fernando Alonso’s manager.
McLaren, too, is trying to get the band back together. It just happens to be a different band than Mercedes’.
5. Because it Would Be Good for F1
Finally, a branded engine move like this would be tremendous for F1. Manufacturers like Volkswagen and Hyundai have been rumored to be considering a move into F1 for years, but the very public failures of Toyota and, more recently, Honda have brought sobering realizations. They may spend hundreds of millions of dollars, only to suck and lose in front of a viewing audience larger than the Super Bowl’s.
And that, at least twenty times a year.
Imagine a world, however, where a manufacturer could buy in to a more-or-less proven engine design. It’s not quite a customer car, but Renault partners with Nissan “in the real world”, so a Nissan branded Renault makes sense. If the partnership between Aston Martin and Mercedes Benz plays out successfully in F1, we might see more brands- if not more manufacturers- coming to F1, and that would be amazing!
That’s just what I think, though- what about you? You made it this far, let us know what you think about all this in the comments.
Original content from Gas 2.