Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2022

Hamilton: Red Bull “proved me wrong” after 2011 “drinks company” quote

2022 Dutch Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says Red Bull’s rising performance has shown he was wrong to refer to them as “just a drinks company” over a decade ago.

The Mercedes driver made the comment in 2011 when he was driving for McLaren. Red Bull had just won their first constructors’ championship and taken Sebastian Vettel to the drivers’ title.

Speaking ahead of that season, Hamilton said his team and other car manufacturers would not allow Red Bull to continue beating them.

“Red Bull are not a manufacturer, they are a drinks company,” he said. “It’s a drinks company versus McLaren, Ferrari history.

“I don’t know what their plan is. Our team is building to become a bigger manufacturer, like Ferrari, and I can only see our team being there for a ridiculous amount of time. It is a pure-bred racing team.”

Red Bull’s 2010 success was the first of four seasons in which they and Vettel swept both titles. Hamilton and Mercedes halted their winning run, but Max Verstappen narrowly took the drivers’ title last year, in contentious circumstances, and Red Bull are now dominating the 2022 season.

Hamilton said Red Bull’s success had shown he had been wrong to question their commitment to succeeding in F1, and singled out its chief technical officer Adrian Newey for praise.

“I think the team, it is a great team,” he said. “They’ve generally had really great cars for some time.

“I think that they used to have really high ride heights and had more drag before. I think they realised and experienced this year that their engine actually isn’t slower than others, it was more that they had a lot more drag in previous years. They’ve done a fantastic job.”

Hamilton’s “drinks company” comment rankled with many at Red Bull. Team principal Christian Horner referred to it ahead of last year’s championship showdown in Abu Dhabi.

But Hamilton insisted he did not mean it as a criticism. “Anything I would have said in the past about the team I didn’t mean it in a negative way,” he said.

“I think years ago I said something about them being a drinks company and stuff like that, and it was really just highlighting that car manufacturers, you would bet on a car manufacturer, more so. But they’ve proved me wrong and everyone and they’ve done a great job.”

Newey has done a particularly good job with Red Bull’s latest car, said Hamilton, following the team’s dominant one-two at Spa.

“Adrian obviously did his thesis on ground effect cars at university so it’s no surprise that what he’s done and created this year is impressive,” said Hamilton. “But I believe in the young guns in our team that we’ll catch up.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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12 comments on “Hamilton: Red Bull “proved me wrong” after 2011 “drinks company” quote”

  1. Yes, he was wrong because the drinks company…. is just the name of the team. Also, there’s some history here, Benetton being the 1st team I remember not having anything to do with cars but achieving some success with their F1 team. Or maybe he thought that a brand that has nothing to do with cars in general won’t be fully commited and interested for the long run in order to achieve success (and they’ll quit after few seasons of mediocre results)?!?! Anyway, the human component is the most important and it seems they got the right people to work for the team, Horner and Newey being hired from the beginning – 2005. Then, they were very serious and determined regarding their goals and the money wasn’t an issue by no means. Actually, after just 1 year, the owner entered the 2nd team, simply to help his main team – RBR – achieve their goals. This helps too.

    1. I think Lewis knew exactly what he was saying, and it was 100% meant as a dismissive insult reducing to a mere “fizzy drink company.” Of course it was meant negatively. But hey, at last he admitted he was wrong. But let’s not pretend that wasn’t mean as an insult

  2. I’d imagine he was proven wrong if not in 2011, then surely by 2012 or 2013. As @mg1982 pointed out there was a serious goal with serious funding from the onset. Labeling a team as “just a drinks company” in the past 20 years is akin to labeling a team as “just a tobacco company” in the 20 years prior, do not underestimate the funding available behind these “junk” brands. Perhaps this brute force approach to success we’ve seen from many championship-winning teams of the past is nearing an end in this era of cost caps and aero development limitations.

  3. Don’t worry Lewis. They’ve taken it as their nickname.

  4. They evolved a lot since 2009-10. They are by far the most efficient team for quite some time already. Great strategies, pitwork, designs, and now, also engines.

    For this reason, they’re always punching above their weight, whereas Ferrari is the exact opposite.

    By their cars and drivers, this should be a competitive season, but the teams are on opposite ends when it comes to efficiency.

    1. While I’m no mercedes fan, I have a hard time saying red bull has been more efficient than merc overall so far, merc still had the clear best car for way more seasons, the level of dominance they had in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020 red bull didn’t even match in 2011 and 2013 and merc always came with the best or joint best car every year from 2014 to 2021. No doubt about red bull being more efficient than ferrari, ferrari can’t rank high in that at all.

  5. Benetton, Red Bull, Alpha Tauri, Brawn GP, Daddy Stroll Racing. Two of them are clothing brands, one of them was just almost sponsorless surname team who was just meant to save thoulsands work places and Stroll is just bought and old and prestige car company just to keep his son racing.

    1. Don’t forget HRT, the only team ever dedicated to the cause of reducing menopause

  6. Benetton, just a silly clothing company.

  7. You would think Hamilton would be less ignorant.
    But the remark about ride height and drag, just confirms he really doesn’t know what he talks about. He just assumes things, or takes the whispers for granted.

    The narrative since 2014 has been that the Renault engine was underpowered and Red Bull could only compete through aerodynamic efficiency. Aerodynamic efficiency being the opposite of high drag. And therefore Hamilton being wrong in his assumptions and statements.

  8. Mercedes just a sponsor of an f1 team.

  9. Can’t wait until we get that famous hedge fund, Porsche, involved.

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