Cash App branding on Max Verstappen's Red Bull, 2021

Does ‘Visa Cash App RB’ signal a depressing new trend in F1 team names?

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Visa Cash App RB, the new name for the team previously known as AlphaTauri, will jar more than a little with the grander names on the grid like Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren.

But is there really anything significant about a team making a marketing-led change of identity? Whether the grievance is the choice of a new name or loss of an old one, it feels like this ship sailed a long time ago.

F1 has been littered with dreary marketing names for years. It’s had teams named after refrigerators (LEC) and real estate companies (Leyton House).

The practice hasn’t been confined to teams. We’ve seen engines named after computers (Acer). One team even used the names of two different fashion brands (owned by the same company) for its chassis and engine (Benetton-Playlife).

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Imola, 2020
Hamilton won the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in his W11
Then there’s the phenomenon of over-long (or ‘under-edited’) names. Surely no one outside Mercedes ever referred to Lewis Hamilton’s last world championship-winning car by its full name of ‘F1 W11 EQ Performance’, instead of just ‘W11’? And who could be bothered to call the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix by its exhausting official title ‘Formula 1 Pirelli Gran Premio del Made in Italy e dell’Emilia Romagna’?

Indulging the creators of these tedious titles feels like sycophancy. But there is an easy workaround: Ignore it.

Is anyone actually going to say “there goes Daniel Ricciardo on a quick lap in the Visa Cash App RB”? I very much doubt it. The shorthand ‘RB’ will surely be preferred by those outside the team and Formula 1’s official content channel. (Even ‘VCARB’, a shorthand Red Bull have used, feels a bit much).

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Do the teams’ marketing divisions actually expect to trot out these titles, particularly the more polysyllabic ones, every time we see their products? Again, I have my doubts. After all, even F1’s drivers aren’t drilled to rattle off a roster of sponsors every time a microphone is thrust at them, as is the fashion in IndyCar.

David Purely, LEC, 1977
Purley’s LEC ran in the podium place at Zolder in 1977
I suspect some of the hostility towards ‘Visa Cash App RB’ is rooted in the view that F1 is becoming more ‘Americanised’ under Liberty Media. That may be true, but you can’t pretend these nonsense names only started to appear in the last few years.

For me the greater pity is the how so much of F1’s heritage has been lost over the years. This has often happened due to teams collapsing, as in the cases of Lotus, Brabham and others. It also has occured when teams were sold or merged.

The very team which has rebranded today makes for an interesting case study. Giancarlo Minardi founded his eponymous squad in 1985. A decade later he sold two-thirds of it to Italian business Beppe Lucchini, who was closing his Scuderia Italia F1 team. Although the team was officially entered as ‘Minardi-Scuderia Italia’ at this time, the ‘Minardi’ name stuck. So much so that when Paul Stoddart bought the team in 2001 he left the name unchanged.

But the Minardi name is long lost to F1, having gone when Red Bull imaginatively renamed the team ‘Toro Rosso’, Italian for… Red Bull. Yes, the loss of a historic name was regrettable, but it was surely preferable to the alternative of losing a team and its staff losing their jobs.

Tarso Marques, Paul Stoddart, Fernando Alonso, Minardi, Melbourne, 2001
Stoddart kept Minardi name when he bought team
For all that, there is a regrettable development behind the emergence of not just ‘Visa Cash App RB’ but also Sauber’s rebranding in honour of another sponsor, ‘Stake’. What Red Bull, Benetton, Leyton House and the rest had in common was they all owned the teams they named. But Visa and Cash App are merely renting the identity of Red Bull’s second team.

So where is this going to lead us to? Are we already seeing other teams treat their identities in the same way, as in the case of Sauber and Stake? Perhaps, though that case differs in that they already know they will become Audi in 2026, and the manufacturer presumably plans to remain for the long term.

‘Visa Cash App RB’ is unusual among its F1 competitors in that it is effectively the secondary operation of another team. Those circumstances may make it the only team willing to accept becoming a ‘white label’ operation for whichever sponsor it does a deal with. Other teams which have adopted new identities recently have usually done so due to changes in ownership (Aston Martin) or in some cases marketing strategies (Alpine).

The case of Williams, which was bought by Dorilton in 2020 but kept its original branding, surely gives cause for optimism that some great old F1 names will stand the test of time. Williams has been on the F1 grid since 1975. Would anyone care to offer the odds on ‘Visa Cash App RB’ still being there in 2073?

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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...

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40 comments on “Does ‘Visa Cash App RB’ signal a depressing new trend in F1 team names?”

  1. Visa Cash App AB is not nearly as bad as some of the other names we’ve had. Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber is obviously the worst, but we have had double-name sponsors before like Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team. Isn’t Visa just a sign of financial health, that major major sponsors are entering F1?

    1. VCarb or Decarb? At least a motoring reference! But the full name, no thanks!

    2. Sauber is an anchor in that name though, it has some heritage and consistency to fall back on. RB doesn’t seem to even mean anything, it’s just there to avoid the entire name being sponsors.

      1. The team already didn’t have an anchor given the name change from Torro Rosso to Alpha Tauri, which is also just a brand.

        Arguably they are doing exactly what you want by putting RB in the name as the anchor, assuming that they stick with it across sponsor deals.

    3. Hm, maybe not. But surely the marketing people of Red Bull could have come up with a more inspiring name than Visa Cash GrabRB ?

      Anyone else read it like that right away? Cash grab?

    4. @chrischrill One _big_ difference: Stake is just a placeholder until Audi comes in, and there’s still a non-sponsor name in there. Red Bull seems to want this to be actual team name, and there’s no proper team identity.

  2. I’m honestly surprised it hasn’t happened more often over the years. This is just a widely accepted practice in cycling where most team names are just sponsors. Since this is happening, I’m just going to sit back and be entertained by Brundle audibly withering as he tries to get the name out, and Red Bull’s hissy fit when nobody uses it properly.

    Cycling also gives a delightfully bleak example, when Leopard Trek got all huffy about everyone, including commentators pronouncing the name wrong because, delightfully, leopard is not pronounced like, you know, the animal, but as ‘Lay-oh-pard’ (). I fear there are new depths of ennui yet to be dredged.

    1. That link is a brilliant read. If you refer this comment to anyone please be sure to pronounce it as BRILL-EYE-ANT, not brill-ee-ant

    2. I came here to say pretty much what you just did!

    3. Cycling does suffer for it though, as none of the teams have fan bases.

  3. It’s also a reflection of the times that these two most recent sponsorships don’t represent physical things you may buy, if you’re so inclined, but gambling and just the very act of spending.

    1. @maciek on the contrary, it is hardly a new phenomenon – Ligier changed their team name to “Ligier Loto” to incorporate the branding of the French state lottery company in 1987.

      As for “the very act of spending” – in the early 1960s, you had the “Yeoman Credit Racing” team, which was a pretty unsubtle advert for one of the UK’s largest private loan companies for people wanting to buy cars on credit.

  4. Reminds me of Mastercard Lola.
    They’re keeping Andretti out for this?

    1. Good point there @Bullfrog!

    2. At least Visa are paying for the privilege of title sponsorship, which wasn’t the case for Mastercard.

  5. Just waiting for some “You better by at Walmart …” team. There should be some approval-process to prevent such names. It makes F1 look silly.

  6. I think Visa is a cool team name with a brands that’s famous and known to many. Nobody will be using the full name in general use anyways just like nobody uses “Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS” or “Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One”.

  7. I don’t mind sponsors paying for being a title sponsor. Red Bull used to be called Infinity Red Bull Racing Renault not long ago, wasn’t it? or West McLaren Mercedes. That’s 3 entitites in one single title.

    But the constructor was still there. All the other stuff was for the sponsors. Alpha Tauri existed for such a short period of time that it’s still not recognizable enough, so what do you call them these days? no one is going to call them Visa Cash App RB. Are they Alpha Tauri? or Toro Rosso?

    I think I’ll call them Toro Rosso still…

    1. Racing Bulls.

    2. I’ll call them Cash Grabr @fer-no65, when I’m feeling especially generous maybe Visa Cash grabr.

  8. I don’t think most teams would give up their brand identity. But Red Bull can afford to, thanks to having two teams. (as can Sauber, knowing full well they won’t be Sauber for much longer anyway)

    I can’t see the value of losing the brand identity for the teams that trade off it or obviously the manufacturers. HAAS is probably the one other team I can see going this route.

    1. HAAS is probably the one other team I can see going this route.

      We’ll they issued the boat with
      “Kick Haas”.

    2. Haas is literally there for the purpose of promoting Haas Automation

  9. So, the sponsor is Cash App, with a tie in from Visa. That then makes the team itself simply ‘RB’. Really kind of plain and uninspiring.

  10. Hasn’t this always been the case, and just like with the names of the other teams or the Grand Prix themselves, people just ignore the sponsors and call it what it is: Ferrari and the Italian Grand Prix.

    Fair play to the Americans for actually remembering to say all those long-winded sponsor-filled names of the Indycar races, but that’s not how it tends to go in F1.

  11. Visa Cash App RB (formerly AlphaTauri (formerly Toro Rosso (formerly Minardi))) would be a better name.

  12. Who driving for them, chip or pin?

    1. Face recognition or maybe fingerprint

  13. Does this mean the car’s an RB-RBPT?

    1. notagrumpyfan
      25th January 2024, 8:09

      Almost. It’s an RB-Honda RBPT.
      That’s what FIA Will call the car in the official documents.

    1. osnola, it went even further than just the changes to the team name – starting in 1974, Lotus went to the point of changing their entire chassis naming and numbering system to include the initials “JPS” to reflect their title sponsor.

      To that end, back in 1974, Autosport was sneering at Lotus and mocking them for the fact that they’d given the two Lotus 76’s the chassis number JPS/9 and JPS/10, saying “in 10 years’ time historians will call it Lotus 76/2” – basically, for as long as we have had advertising exist in motorsport, we’ve had people complaining that sponsors are being too intrusive.

      It’s also worth pointing out that, although we refer to it as the Lotus 76, that was Lotus’s internal designation for the car. Officially, the actual name of that car was the “John Player Special Mk I”, whilst the Lotus 79, one of Lotus’s most famous cars, was the “John Player Special Mk. IV” when it appeared in 1978 (though they did drop that convention in 1979 when Martini started sponsoring them instead).

  14. Coventry Climax
    24th January 2024, 23:08

    The first team that changed it’s name to their sponsor’s, was the Yeoman Credit Racing team. Yep, financial company as well. And it was back in 1960, just ten years into F1’s existence. That’s 64 years ago!
    In ’72 we had Team Eiffelland Caravans, not a particularly fancy name either.
    So, naming your team after your sponsor and/or come up with an ugly name certainly isn’t new, but I must say this is an alltime new low.

  15. Fans should just call it Mastercard Lola to spite them for the silly name and watch the sponsors get as p*d off as it’s possible for a sponsor to be that a competitor gets free advertisment paid by them just for being there.

  16. There’s nothing more depressing than overweight turbo hybrid with limited fuel flow on street circuits. Team names are just a nuisance

  17. Wuoldnt worry about this nor call this a depressing trend. There are way bigger issues over the direction F1 is taking away from sport into entertainment under the current ownership.

  18. Hello Minardi!

  19. Good luck attracting any fans. Minardi had fans. Toro Rosso had fans. Alpha Tauri didn’t have fans. Visa cash app Arbies isn’t going to have fans.

  20. Visa Cash App RB is a pittfull name…

    But worst that that… when everybody is arguing about new teams entering F1…

    WHY AN ORGANIZATION – RED BULL – HAS TWO TEAMS IN A SPORT THAT ONLY HAS 10 TEAMS PARTICIPATING…???

    That’s more important that the sad name of the team…

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