When Red Bull threatens …
Here is Red Bull raising the tone. If Milton Keynes’ team does not get an engine freeze (or performance convergence) from the 2022 season, the threat has been raised: Red Bull could leave F1, and AlphaTauri with it.
Helmut Marko has thus repeated in recent days that Red Bull could “Radically reconsider” its commitment to F1 if it does not obtain satisfaction: because if the freeze is not decided, Red Bull, which will take over Honda’s program, will not have the resources to carry out the development.
Helmut Marko denies blackmailing, yet this “presence blackmail” is nothing new for top teams. Far from it since in 2020, Mercedes and Ferrari also threatened to leave the sport!
When Ferrari threatens …
We must see the context of April 2020. In the midst of a pandemic, the F1 teams were negotiating the next Concorde Agreements, and in particular a radical redistribution of income. Clearly, it was about giving less to the rich, and more to the poor, to share the cake more fairly. In the same vein, negotiations to lower the amount of the capped budgets, from 175 to 145 million dollars, were well underway. McLaren was even pushing for a ceiling budget of $ 100 million!
That made three victims: Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.
Ferrari’s historic bonus has also been called into question for a time. And inevitably, last April, Mattia Binotto had gone up to the front to brandish the threat, almost usual in every major negotiation, of the Scuderia’s withdrawal from the sport.
Let’s listen to the Mattia Binotto of then: “The level of $ 145 million is already a demanding drop from what was established last June. At Ferrari, it cannot be achieved without further significant sacrifices, especially in terms of human resources. If it were to go even lower, we wouldn’t want to be forced to look for other options to deploy our DNA in motorsport. “
Ferrari thus threatened to leave F1, to go towards endurance, Formula E, etc. We know what happened: Ferrari was able to keep its bonus and the capped budgets would remain at 145 million dollars.
When Mercedes threatens …
Also in the context of the renegotiation of the Concorde Agreements, and again this year, Mercedes also threatened Liberty Media to quit the sport! Toto Wolff, director of the German team, had still not signed the agreements a few days before the deadline of August 12, because Mercedes “Would be the biggest victim in terms of loss of income” income redistribution.
And again, Toto Wolff threatened: “Ferrari has maintained an advantageous position. Red Bull’s position is obviously balanced with AlphaTauri. We are therefore the most affected. I think Mercedes has contributed to the sport in recent years. We have, in addition to being competitive on the track, the driver who clearly has the most appeal at world level, and I saw in these negotiations that we were not treated as we should have been. That’s why there are a bunch of topics open to us, which are legal, business, and sports. And from our point of view, I don’t feel ready to sign the Concorde Agreements. “
Not signing the Concorde Agreements is therefore tantamount to leaving the sport … Here again, we know what happened.
2017 and 2014: when Mercedes and Ferrari still threaten …
And 2020 is no exception in the history of blackmail! Even in 2017, Mercedes and Ferrari threatened to leave the sport, because Toto Wolff no longer found F1 attractive enough, notably with a dead loss of income, and a takeover of F1 by Liberty Media which had not produced its effects.
When asked if Mercedes could leave F1, Toto Wolff replied (November 2017 …): “Such a scenario is more than conceivable. As it is for Ferrari. If we no longer see any interest in Formula 1, then we will have to ask ourselves the difficult question, which will not be whether we still want to participate in it. Where will we go to continue in high level motorsport? “
Same scenario in 2014, when Bernie Ecclestone suggested a return to V8s or V10s, since the V6s and their vacuuming noise disappointed fans so much. Mercedes, which had invested so much in the hybrid, could not find such a hypothesis sustainable.
“If the V8 comes back, Mercedes goes” warned then Niki lauda.
In short, threats of blackmail are common among top teams in recent years.
Moreover, Christian Horner was reassuring on October 2: “Our joint involvement for the rest of 2020 and the 2021 season remains unchanged, we want to fight for victories and play the championship. As a signatory to the latest Formula 1 Concorde Agreements, Red Bull Racing remains involved in the discipline for the long term, and we look forward to embarking on a new era. “
Does this mean that Red Bull will never follow through on its threats? There is no exact science …