As one of the most recognisable brands in the world, Red Bull are accustomed to building bridges with business partners, but over the past few months, relations between them and their F1 engine supplier Renault have become fractious. With the engine manufacturer’s future in the sport being a debate topic, it seems that Red Bull are looking to smooth over the cracks, with Dr Helmut Marko suggesting that Toro Rosso’s livery could be an area in which Renault can receive improved exposure. In other words, get more ‘bang’ for their F1 ‘buck’
It was the juiciest topic of a particularly fruity team personnel’s press conference in Malaysia. Head of Renault Sport, Cyril Abiteboul sat alongside Christian Horner and the journalists proceeded to have their fun, drawing some intriguing responses from Renault’s chief. Cyril hinted at the prospect of the French manufacturer purchasing Toro Rosso – a proposition which seemed to delight the outfit’s Team Principal, Franz Tost.
The plot thickened today, as Red Bull’s ‘head of talent,’ Dr Helmut Marko, suggested that Red Bull’s sister team could be rebranded with a Renault livery, to give them greater exposure. This would in turn make their F1 investment more worthwhile from a marketing perspective.
Could this be an acknowledgement by Red Bull, that they have to make the marriage with Renault work? Quite probably. Red Bull have discredited claims that they would be interested in building engines in-house and with neither Mercedes nor Ferrari are open to filling a Renault sized hole, a Renault withdrawal would likely be imminently followed by a Red Bull withdrawal from the sport. It is therefore in Red Bull’s interest to provide Renault with the best possible experience and providing them greater exposure would undoubtedly help relations and improve the mood in the Renault boardroom.
Ultimately, in the current climate, it is difficult to see how Renault’s investment is benefiting them in the wider motoring world. Mercedes and Ferrari have their own team’s and Honda have entered with significant fanfare, (albeit, a slow start in more ways than one.) Renault have had the championship success in the past while at Enstone, but even their powering Red Bull to quadruple title successes seemed lost with all the publicity heading to Mateschitz’s brand and a certain Sebastian Vettel.
Renault leaving the sport could set off a hugely damaging chain reaction. If painting the Toro Rosso’s yellow can appease the manufacturers marketing men and women, then it is a measure which should be taken.
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