Daniel Ricciardo, RB, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024

‘No other sport lets two teams have same owner’: RB-Red Bull link concerns rivals

Formula 1

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RB set the pace in the opening practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix. However the relationship between it and sister team Red Bull remains a point of concern for some of its rivals.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has been the most vocal on the subject. “No other major sport, to my knowledge, allows co-ownership of two teams that compete against each other,” he said during testing last week.

Red Bull purchased two F1 teams in consecutive years: First Jaguar at the end of 2004 and then Minardi a year later. They were respectively named Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso (Italian for ‘team Red Bull’). The latter has changed names twice since: First to AlphaTauri and, this year, RB.

In 2021 F1 introduced a budget cap intended to limit how much each team could spend. While Brown believes Red Bull are complying with the rules, he argues their ownership of two teams gives them an advantage under the financial restrictions.

“We now have the budget cap in place which was intended and is working, for the most part, to bring a level playing field to the sport, fiscally and in every other manner,” he said.

“I think the sport, as we’re now in the budget cap era, have moved on to where we’re trying to have 10 independent teams from a sporting, from a political, from a technical point of view.

“I think they’re very much playing by the rules, I have an issue with the rules and believe that FIA needs to address this.”

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New leadership has been installed at RB this year, for the first time in the history of Red Bull’s second team. The team has also said it will make greater use of parts designed by Red Bull Technology, which services both teams, as the rules allow.

Zak Brown, McLaren, 2024
McLaren’s Zak Brown is unhappy with RB’s Red Bull links
“As Helmut [Marko, Red Bull motorsport consultant] has stated he’s going to maximise the opportunity, which is what you would do if you own two teams, and the rules are what they are today,” Brown continued. “But I think we’re going to find, if the intent of the cap and all sports is to have an equal playing field, then the way the rules are currently written, aren’t the same for everyone and you have pockets of teams also the whole ‘A-B team’ situation, that doesn’t have that level playing field. So I think we now need to, address it and the FIA needs to address it through the rules.”

RB hired Laurent Mekies from Ferrari to lead the team this year. He defended the rules permitting teams to source components from their rivals, which other teams such as Haas and Aston Martin also take advantage of.

“As a sport, we wanted to have a closer field, less lap time difference between the guy who is winning and the guy who is tenth,” he said. “And it was felt that by allowing some components to be shared, you will avoid having too much spread between the top and the bottom of the grid.

“Now, if you look at the results of the championships last year and if you add up the points scored by the bottom four teams, we don’t even make up for the points that [Alpine] made in sixth position. So I think if you look at the face of the championship results, there is still quite a large spread between the guys struggling at the back to get a few points and what is actually the heart of the midfield.”

Mekies said F1’s customer parts rules are also needed to keep costs down. “Yes, we are in a very good string of years now commercially with the interest of Formula 1 and it’s fantastic,” he said. “However there is a very simple reality that most of the teams’ shareholders are still pumping money into it.

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“So I think before removing what is a more sustainable alternative into the business model of the teams, we need to have a bit of a long-term view on what it’s going to do for the sport in the next few years.”

Laurent Mekies, RB, 2024
Customer parts keeps field close, says Mekies
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner dismissed Brown’s criticism, claiming it is not unusual for rivals to have the same owners. “Red Bull own two teams that compete in the Champions League which is one of the biggest sporting competitions in the world,” he pointed out.

“The commitment that Red Bull has made to Formula 1, the commitment that Red Bull has made to these two teams, is outstanding and should be applauded and be grateful for, rather than derided and tried to compromise.”

He claimed other teams co-operate more closely than Red Bull and RB. “The two teams are totally separate,” he said. “One is based in Italy, one is based in the UK. The one that is based in Italy has a far larger turnover of staff that end up in Maranello than end up in Milton Keynes.

“They have different personalities, they have different characters and they comply continually with the regulations. Indeed, the relationship is far less tight than some of the teams that enjoy very tight relationships with their engine manufacturers.”

Horner believes the teams’ rivals are only raising complaints now because they are concerned RB will be more competitive this year.

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“I would take it as a compliment if I was Laurent that this issue is being raised now,” he said, “because with a change of stewardship the team had the opportunity to get its act together.

“They’ve got two quality drivers, they’re introducing quality people into that team. We expect them to be a competitor, not just of the rest of the field, but indeed of Red Bull Racing. We’re a team of racers and there are no pre-set rules, there are no agreements between the teams. I think you could pick out many highlights or opportunities or scenarios where that’s been the case over the years from even Toro Rosso cars parking in our garage doing a championship-deciding race.

“So, I don’t understand the fuss about it. I don’t understand the noise that’s being created about it and I think Red Bull should actually be applauded for the support and the commitment and the jobs that they’ve provided through the good times and particularly the bad times. So, for me, it really is a non-issue.”

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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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25 comments on “‘No other sport lets two teams have same owner’: RB-Red Bull link concerns rivals”

  1. 100% agree with Zak.

  2. 0% agree with Horner. Nuanced opinion anyone ?

  3. When Red Bull bought RB (Toro Rosso or Alpha Tauri), they were allowed by the FIA and kept up the number of teams on the grid. Had Red Bull of not bought the team, we would only have 18 cars on the grid for the majority of the last 10 years.

    Zak Brown has been generally fairly quiet about Red Bull owning 2 teams on the grid, with the exception of the passed few months, especially since Red Bull’s dominance last season. As others have said, Ferrari and Haas work very closely together, with Haas using as many Ferrari supplied parts as possible. It’s not like RBR are designing the RB car, they are merely providing some parts (less parts than Ferrari supply to Haas) and also using the RBR testing facilities (again some teams use other teams testing facilities, either in or out of F1).

    1. “When Red Bull bought RB (Toro Rosso or Alpha Tauri), they were allowed by the FIA and kept up the number of teams on the grid. Had Red Bull of not bought the team, we would only have 18 cars on the grid for the majority of the last 10 years.”

      This, in my opinion, is untrue. The main reason there are only 10 teams, is because only 10 teams get the share of F1 profits based on the final standings.

      It is very much possible that had the Red Bull been forced to sell off Torro Rosso by 2010 for example, that either Manor, Caterham or HTS would have themselves established in F1 by having constant guaranteed income.

      Since F1 turned (and economy in general) turned more profitable in circa 2017, there have been attempts by other subjects to enter F1, but the 10 teams wanted to keep it a 10-team competition so each one of them is rewarded a share of profits as agreed with FOM.

      Regarding Zak Brown criticism, I feel he directs this at Red Bull, not RB itself. He seems to hint that Red Bull could take advantage of this dependancy relationship, with set up or testing solutions and such.

      1. You’re applying the health of today’s F1 to a time when F1 was losing many teams and in danger of losing even more. Even Sauber was incredibly close to falling off the grid. So, it’s a totally illogical argument. F1 wouldn’t be in the position it is today without RBR. Jaguar was likely to be abandoned and Minardi was a near certainty.

  4. I agree with him, it’s not a good situation but it’s one that has existed for nearly 20 years and was done fully within the rules so there’s not a lot that can be done about it. As Horner says, RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg compete against each other but it was deemed ok because they have separate boards and “no individual or legal entity had a decisive influence over more than one club.” That perhaps could be tightened up in F1 but it’s looked to me like both teams are run fairly separately anyway – excluding their drivers, of course.

    It would be a legal minefield now to try and exclude one of their teams from the Championship now when it’s been previously allowed for the best part of the past 2 decades.

  5. The last time a Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri crashed with a Red Bull in was during the 2007 European Grand Prix. At that time, Sebastian Vettel, driving for Toro Rosso, collided with Mark Webber, who was driving for Red Bull Racing. It was an unfortunate incident that led to both drivers retiring from the race. I guess the two teams don’t fight with each other anymore.

    1. The key thing that Zak Horner and everyone here is missing is the ontrack advantage. The torro rossos defended way harder against Lewis in 2021 and wether there is a championship or not they let the redbull passed much easier in the races. Add in scenarios like last year when the bteam didn’t even send a representative to the stewards when the a team was being investigated for impeding the bteam and you can see why it’s an issue.

  6. Throughout the history of the sport there have been cases where teams had close ties with another team.

    We used to have customer teams as well as customer cars and occasions where one team ran 3-4+ cars.

    So i don’t see any issue with the current Red Bull/RB relationship as it’s just a modern take on something thats been a normal part of the sport since it’s conception.

  7. If they were having all 4 cars in the top 4 week in and week out I would happily call foul play, but this isn’t the case.

  8. I don’t like two teams being owned by the same people because that just means 4 cars on the grid don’t battle with each other properly. But it was also the case with Mercedes/Williams (remember Toto blaming Russell for his crash with Bottas at Imola?). Same with Sauber/Ferrari when Sauber was their only customer team…

    As soon as one team depends on the other, the influence one imposes over the other is noticeable. I don’t know what could be done to prevent that…

    1. Yeah, it is not exactly new. I always think back to the 2012 championship decider, when the Toro Rosso cars got out of the way of a recovering Vettel with such enthusiasm that they almost got him caught out for overtaking under yellow flags (though he avoided a penalty in the end).

      Looking further back, Sauber often functioned as an unofficial Ferrari B team – was it Norberto Fontana who let a lapping Michael Schumacher through, then held up a chasing Jacques Villeneuve for ages? And you also had a situation in the mid-90s when Flavio Briatore bought Ligier in order to secure their Renault engine supply for Benetton.

    2. Yes, we’ve seen blatant examples over the years of Toro Rossos jumping out of the way to let Red Bull drivers through and it is that as much as the parts/design of the cars which is worrying. In the case of Russell and Williams, I thought that was more to do with Russell being part of the Merc junior drivers programe than with the relationship bettween Williams and Merc. That still isn’t a good situation though.

      On the tech front, I think it can work. Do you remember some years back that Merc worked with Force India in a technical programme aimed at making the Force India more competitve, and I think Ferrari were doing the same with another back marker team, all under the encouragement of FIA. It might have been a combination of engine supply and tech staff on secondment, I cannot remember exactly now. That was a healthy set up though, the Indias were still competing with Merc on track, no freebie passes etc, no shared engineering workshops, and no question that these were two entirely separate teams. Same with Ferrari and the team they were asissting. The current relationships between teams seem rather murkier.

    3. To be fair; that crash was absolutely Russell’s responsibility and I still consider his treatment of Bottas in the immediate aftermath of the crash below all standards. I was surprised he wasn’t given any penalty by the FIA for that, as Verstappen for example was given for shoving Ocon.

      But dependencies between F1 teams are nothing new and they are the consequence of the complexity of the sport. It will always be there, in one way or the other.

  9. José Lopes da Silva
    29th February 2024, 15:58

    This is money “ox manure”. Secondary client teams always happened, as above mentioned by several commentators, and apparently it was not a problem.
    The big problem, apparently, is and 11th team, let alone a 12th, 13th, etc. Same reasons.

    The business model should be changed. Team CEO defend their interests, but not the fans interests.

  10. This has been known for almost 20 years. Red Bull and whatever they call that team were already sharing designs by its 2nd year. And their first car was Red Bull’s previous car.

    Why is that an issue now? Because they seem to be competitive? It should’ve been forbidden 20 years ago, not now that it was allowed for so long.

    1. Why is that an issue now?

      Because of the budget cap, and the strong and growing integration of RB1 and RB2 and their ‘supplier’ which is also owned by Red Bull.

    2. A lot of people expressed big concerns when this happened 20 years ago, but the mitigating factors at the time were that this was necessary to stop yet another team going bust, that them using the previous year’s Red Bull was tolerated because it wasn’t a dominant car at that time and again it stopped the team going bust, and that this was probably just a temporary situation and it would only be a atter of time before someone else came in to take the team off Red Bull’s hands. And people have continued to express those concerns over the years especially as Red Bull themselves now openly talk about it being their B team and expect drivers in the B team to not obstruct the A team.

  11. Will Brown be protesting VAG owning two teams when (if?) they bring Porsche & Audi to the grid?

    Or is it just a case that because his boss Torger “I hide behind my wife to make my wrongdoing disappear” Wolff wants Red Bull to be pegged back he is now being a good lap dog?

    Red Bull have owned 2 teams for nearly two decades, and are doing nothing other teams haven’t already being doing for years too.
    It is just a case of not wnating Red Bull to be able to do what others can.

    1. Amped, given how difficult it is for anyone to get a new team into F1, it seems unliky that VAG could get both Porsche and Audi into F1 at the same time. I am also curious to know who else you think has been owning two teams for years? I wonder why Andretti or VAG don’t simply buy the Toro Rosso team and restore independence, though it would be interesting to hear Red Bull’s reaction if that was proposed. Would they go crazy saying that handing over the TR team would reveal all the Red Bull design secrets? If the TR is independently dedigned, that shouldn’t be an issue, just as someone buying out Haas shouldn’t be a threat to Ferrari.

      1. Porsche Williams is a possibility, even Porsche enstone if Renault realise they’re not really getting anywhere. Can’t imagine Williams saying no to the investment and the works status

  12. Agreed, no other sport also lets someone own and operate a team while managing players/drivers for other teams (ie Toto). F1 is all weird nepotism and corruption. Unless they stamp it all out it’s going to still favor someone.

  13. Toto and Brown really need a hot cup of shut the f up. They’re doing everything they can to destroy Horner and RBR. And, while I’ve always disliked RBR, Horner and especially Max, these are all cheap shots considering Toto manages or has managed half the drivers in the field and Mercedes and Ferrari have a lot of power of half the teams in the field.

  14. If having the same owner for two teams in F1 is to be forbidden, then they should also forbid other potential conflicts of interest (even if on paper, the entities are completely separate). One example is having a Team Principal also be a driver manager. Maybe they should also revisit how feeder series and driver academies work and replace it with a form of driver draft — if they’re going to do like other sports, then might as well go all the way. /s

  15. Don’t like it, never have. Horner being integral to decisions on who drives for the B team suggests the comparison to the Red Bull owned football teams isn’t accurate.

Comments are closed.