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Red Bull tightens Renault links with Infiniti partnership
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Red Bull tightens Renault links with Infiniti partnership
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Mar 2011   |  12:50 pm GMT  |  35 comments

Red Bull Racing has announced today that it has signed an interesting new partnership deal with Infiniti, the luxury Nissan brand, which is part of the Renault family. Reuters has valued the deal at around £8 million.


The deal is principally a branding play at this stage; Red Bull is very high profile, its cars are winning races and championships, its drivers are always in the news for a multitude of reasons and Infiniti will have branding on the cars and drivers during the season. If performance in testing is anything to go by, rival drivers will spend plenty of time this season starting at the Infiniti branding on the RB7′s rear wing.

Contrary to some reports on the internet in the last 24 hours, Infiniti will not rebrand the Renault engines in the back of the Red Bull cars, however the door is open in the deal for technical collaboration in the future on areas like KERS and battery technology.

What makes this move so interesting is that Renault has been in the process of pulling back from F1 in the last two years and yet this is a move in the opposite direction for the group. Red Bull is the happening team, but it’s an interesting fit in terms of the edgy, youth appeal of Red Bull with the steady image of Infiniti, a luxury brand which has been focussed on the US market primarily. Clearly the objective on Infiniti’s side is primarily to sell more cars in markets where F1 is strong, like Europe and Asia and to lower its customer age, as has always been the aim for Mercedes in F1.

It is also going against the flow of Japanese manufacturers quitting the sport, as Toyota and Honda did in 2008/9 in the teeth of the global financial crisis. This is good news for the sport and is welcomed by team principals throughout the grid. It follows Mercedes’ enhanced commitment to the sport yesterday as a very positive indicator of the sport’s value as a platform and its relative stability after several years of turmoil. As some of the big names have walked out, some smaller names have been walking in, such as Lada, Lotus, Infiniti, Marussia and even Tata.

“It’s a good news story for Red Bull and for Formula One that a prestige brand like Infiniti has chosen to come into the sport at a time when, in the recent past, manufacturers have elected to leave, “said Red Bull racing boss Christian Horner. “There are facilities within Infiniti and Nissan we can only dream of as an independent team, so an alliance like this allows us to tap into some of the key technical know-how.”


Renault meanwhile, has gone from owning and funding its own team to being solely an engine and technology supplier to three teams in F1. Its former team, based at Enstone and now owned 100% by Genii Capital, is still called Renault due to penalties in the Concorde Agreement for changing the chassis name. A deal with Group Lotus has led to the official name changing to Lotus Renault GP Team. Lotus has a call option to purchase a “substantial” shareholding in the team in 2012 and we will see what happens to the team and its name after that.

This deal will inevitably bring RBR closer to the Renault Sport F1 operation in Paris.

As it fights the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren, the Red Bull management know that their weakness is in R&D in areas which have crossover in the automotive field, like hybrid and battery technology and packaging.

Red Bull Racing had enjoyed strong links with Audi for many years now without it leading to a manufacturer engine deal or a technology deal; the key personnel have traditionally been driven about in Audis.

Audi has yet to decide whether the new age of F1 post 2013, with its emphasis on sustainable racing technology is the right environment for it. Perhaps this move by Red Bull with a rival brand will help to focus their minds.

* As F1 moves towards a new technology for 2013 and the world moves towards Electric Vehicles, I’ve got together with some friends in the publishing world to produce an all new website explaining EVs, looking behind the scenes at the reality of owning and running an EV and pulling together the best thinking and writing about the subject. I want to learn more about it and you can join me on the journey. Think of it like a JA on F1 of EVs. Check it out on www.thechargingpoint.com

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35 Comments
  1. Ward Safi says:

    I recall Mateschitz saying he possibly saw selling Red Bull off to a ‘premium brand’ in the future.

    In this context this could hypothetically mean turning the outfit into an Infiniti racing team with Red Bull sponsorship.

    1. Stefanos says:

      Doesn’t sound like a bad idea actually, he might even get all his money back. A great example of value creation.

    2. Jason C says:

      Though for me it seems odd for Renault to offload one racing team to then buy another.

    3. JJ MUPPET says:

      Stefanos

      I think he has spent far too much over the years to get back that investment. But I like the Infinity name over RB which sounds silly for a racing team in F1. RB have sponsored F1 for a long time though and do deserve their respect. I simply hate Vettel so that and the name spoils it for me. This seems like a very smart move for the annual investment and bragging rights for Infinity. I thnk the story of the year however will be Torro Rosso, they are looking very quick in last years…. OOPS sorry Adrian…. This years TR looks great, Williams would look worried with better TR drivers. I know it would have been a bit of a come down, but given their car could be very quick this year, a Heidfeld woould have been brilliant for them.

      It certainly is looking good this year for surprises, but I disagree with you James about the names going out of the sport in any way being rivalled by those coming in, especially in terms of their respective operations. comparison.

      1. James Allen says:

        I never said the new ones rivalled the outgoing ones. In fact I was saying big ones were going out and niche ones coming in..

      2. JJ MUPPET says:

        YES INDEED :<)

        My small issue with the names coming in is the lack of commitment or clarity compared to before, naming rights disputes, car companies as sponsors, it is confusing, financially ofcourse the mass expenditures of past seasons was the problem. I am not a fan of MAX but the budget cap idea at least in theory (and I will throw a figure of say $100m) would help I think.

  2. Henry says:

    I read that the VW group link (audi) had cooled down quite alot over the past years, and that that move seemed unlikely…

    Having said that it makes sense. There are lots of signs pointing to VW moving into F1 as an engine supplier, are there not? but Williams has often been touted as the team…then again with he new complications over the VW and Porsche merger, they may be a little wrapped up in their own business come 2013.

  3. Speed F1 says:

    So is the team going to be called ‘Lotus Renault Infiniti’ now?

    1. Phil C says:

      Nope – Infiniti are partnering with Red bull, not Lotus Renault GP

  4. sut says:

    How is using the brand name of a posh Datsun benefiting F1 at large ?
    In the UK they are just known for rusty taxis. I must be missing the point.

    1. mohamed south africa says:

      nissan gtr?

    2. That is precisely why they would want to do this. If they win another championship with the Infiniti logo on their RBR chassis then you will be less inclined to associate Infiniti with rusty taxis and more with a hi-tech F1 championship winning race car.

  5. Speed F1 says:

    Red Bull Renault Inifiniti rather?

  6. akuma says:

    Will this not affect the budget each team is allowed to use per season? Extra money to go in to “thin air” ? James?

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      1) They are hoping to work together on technology. That will lower their costs.

      2) F1 teams don’t just spend money on the car; they also have to market themselves and their sponsors.

      3) More sponsorship money = less Red Bull investment money = more profit or less cost for Red Bull. If Red Bull is paying $100 right now, a big sponsorship could mean that they only have to pay $50 since the sponsor pays the other $50. Red Bull won’t continue to pay $100. See where I’m going?

  7. jonrob says:

    So basically all that is happening is that the Renault-Nissan partnership is changing the name on F1 engines from Renault to a a Nissan owned name.
    It’s an example of what should have happened with Proton and Lotus. The lesser known name in the world market being given a boost by becoming a major F1 name.
    We should have been seeing Proton Lotus and team Lotus, which would have got the Proton name the publicity it desperately needs while Bahar drains all its funds. Meanwhile Tony would have promoted the Lotus brand for free.
    I would bet that next year the name Renault will not be found at all in F1.

    Renault will be in the Enstone team’s name until at least the end of 2012 contractually

    1. James Allen says:

      No, that is not what’s happening. Unfortunately for RBR and Infiniti a few journos shot the bolt early before the announcement and have put it out that it’s an engine branding deal – it isn’t. It’s a sponsorship deal

      1. What is the big deal if they do rebrand the engines? It isn’t like the Renault F1 engine is sourced from a Renault street car and tuned for the track. These are bespoke engines built specifically for F1. Not by the Renault that builds the Mégane, but by the larger multi-national Renault corporation. If you think of Renault in terms of a large automotive conglomerate with many brands under it’s umbrella then it really doesn’t matter what retail name they slap on the engine. The Infiniti or Nissan name is as legitimate as any of their other brands and this deal seems to fit more closely with Infiniti’s marketing goals than it does with Renault’s.

        I’ve always thought it a bit odd that Renault, who are know more for fairly pedestrian transportation, were involved in F1. WRC always seemed a better fit for them in my opinion.

      2. BurgerF1 says:

        I agree. Reminds me of Honda and Toyota. Why those manufacturers didn’t brand their teams with Acura and Lexus resepectively is beyond me. My Toyota Camry doesn’t remind me of an F1 car at all, but the Lexus IS-F is at least on the sporty side of Toyota’s car offering.

        Renault shifting its sponsorship to Infiniti, and perhaps ultimately a re-branding of it’s F1 technology (engine, KERS, etc.) to Infiniti makes a lot more sense.

      3. Nicolas says:

        Well Renault history is very tight to competition.
        In the early 1900s Renault was already producing racing cars.
        http://www.renault.com/en/passionsport/la-saga-renault/pages/la-saga-renault.aspx

      4. Phil C says:

        It’s all about branding – and having Renault on the No. 1 car, having achieved the title the previous year, is something that has only ever happened once – in 2006.

  8. Luke Robbins says:

    Hi James,

    In a deal such as this, would it be the F1 team approaching the Nissan/Renault guys or the other way around, i.e Nissan coming to Red Bull through Renault connections etc.

    Just interested to get a feel for how these types of deals come about in F1.

    Cheers.

    1. James Allen says:

      Good question – I will find out. Reading the statements from all parties I get the sense that it’s Infiniti who wanted in to F1 and their agent/broker who probably steered them towards RBR. That’s often the way it happens. Sometimes they get steered towards FOM and the sponsor buys signage, title sponsorship of races etc

  9. Tim Parry says:

    I think Honda and Toyota quit the sport because of a lack of success. In Honda’s case, it was just as the team was about to put on the winning charge in the final lap (I imagined heads rolled over that). Nothing changes the corporate mind quicker than being associated with a winner. And Red Bull is that winner the Renault corporation has been looking for since first departure.

  10. unoc vII says:

    — site error when accessing the linked page. It loads the header and down to the black box on the middle left of the inital screen when I click the website but then I get an error telling me it is closing. Tried several times. Using Windows Vista HP x32 with the latest Internet Explorer. Haven’t had that problem on any other website.

    Just something for your coders to get into. Myself being a bit of a web coder in my spare time it looks like someone has mucked up the language of the code somewhere, maybe inserting another file (php or something) into it and not closing it off which is clashing with something else. A bit strange, not too sure myself. Quite probably wrong with my assessment and I didn’t have a good enough look before crashing.

    —-

    As for the article, it’s interesting that as manafacturers are pulling out from owning and running a team, others are coming in with sponsorship of a team already existing.
    Marussia joining Virgin to create Marussia Virgin
    Lotus Cars joining Renault to create Lotus Renault
    Infiti joining Red Bull Racing

    Sort of they want the branding and the connection with the technology, but don’t want to pay up the cash. I don’t mind it so much aslong as the f1 teams aren’t just becoming well manafacturer whores willing to sleep with anyone to stay in the game and we get a constant change of whos with who

  11. Craig Jobling says:

    Hi James,

    This is completely unrelated to this particular article but I have been wanting to raise a point with you but have never seen a relevant article to link it too. (I know you probably can’t answer it, that’s fine but I need to get it off my chest)

    In recent years I have begun to worry about some of the things Bernie Ecclestone says. At one time he seems crazy with the things he says & then another time as sharp as anything & all seems fine again.

    I have just read on the autosport website some recent comments made by Bernie. He thinks the adjustable rear wing will not work (a fair opinion I’m not keen on it myself) and why not add sprinklers to tracks to make it rain & encourage overtaking (back to crazy again!).

    Now I’m going to ignore his crazy idea as it’s laughable. Possible yes but if F1 has to implement this kind of system for us to be entertained we may as well give up & get rid of F1 altogether.

    No…. My main bugbear is this medals system which he brings up YET again as a solution to overtaking. Forget about all the other implications a medal system would bring I just have 2 points that I wish to get off of my chest.

    1. This will NOT aid overtaking. Is our memory so short that we cannot remember that Fernando Alonso spent almost an entire grand prix tucked up behind Vitaly Petrov when the DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP was the prize not a shiny gold medal?!?!

    2. Team orders. You think the fallout of the Massa, Alonso switch was bad? Imagine the fallout if a medal system was in place! What that win would have been worth other than a couple more points! Ferrari make no secret that they are happy to favour their “number 1″ driver and the other has to tow the line. If a medals system was in place Ferrari would be happy to stack all of it’s wins onto one driver. The only way any of the top teams would realistically be able to compete would be to do the same. With the team orders ban now relaxed this would be made all the more easy.

    Sorry for the rant & hijacking this unrelated article but I felt I needed to say it somewhere.

  12. irish con says:

    hi did anybody see the piece with williams and autosport in the special features in there plus section. williams say that ferrari and redbull are 4tenths faster than anyone then renault williams sauber and toro rosso with mercedes and mclaren after that. what do you make of this james. does this tally with what your sources are suggesting.

    1. James Allen says:

      Sam Michael said it at lunch the other day at Williams and I was there when he said it. It’s interesting. My sources suggest that RBR is ahead on raw pace although the Ferrari is right with it on long runs. That said, Ferrari is the less developed car so I do expect them to be pretty level. McLaren and Merc are some way behind and yes, Renault, Williams, Toro R and maybe even Sauber are around 0.4 to 0.5s off the front runners’ pace.

  13. Mario says:

    The EV website is handy for someone like me who is interested in this sort of stuff. I like the section with manufacturers news, all in one place.

    Electrics are slowly but surely seeping in to the mainstream. It is inevitable the industry will grow, maybe even it is an answer to the recession the automotive world seems to have trouble recovering from. A recession is nothing more than a need for change anyway.

    If they sort out battery (power storage – range) problem, petrol soon will be old fashioned. Mr. Polar Bear, stay tuned!

    1. Rich C says:

      Just dont forget to build more power plants to feed ‘em! I’ve read it takes 20 years from inception to online for them.

      This will be a problem in places that really want to promote them like California. With its NIMBY attitude they won’t build them, so it has to buy lots of electricity from elsewhere and still has rolling blackouts in the summer.

      And ofc “elsewhere” might want the electricity for themselves!

  14. Neil says:

    This could be the start of something big for Red Bull.

    To Infiniti and beyond…..

    Sorry, couldn’t resist!

    I’ll get my coat. Make that spacesuit.

    Buzz.

  15. Stefanos says:

    If the next Concorde agreement does go further in alternative energies (i.e. past KERS), then hybrid engines would be the only half-way house between internal combustion and full electric (which may be a step too far). This automatically opens F1 to many more manufacturers who want a proving ground for new technologies and a great way to publicise them (a la Audi diesel in Le Mans, etc.). Even Porsche now make hybrid cars. Perhaps Infititi is anticipating this change and we may see more of the same. Great news for Sauber and Toro Rosso who have been looking for new owners for a while and all the smaller teams in desparate need for money (but less good for Williams who already went public).

    Thechargingpoint.com seems a great idea and already does show how much is going on in the EV space. I guess you were born to be a journalist, James..:)

  16. Andy c says:

    Is this a single year prelim deal?

    I wonder whether it’s a redbull move to remind vag that if they don’t get on the rbr boat soon someone else might get onboard soon.

    Either way it’s a win win for both parties for this year.

  17. Nick F says:

    Since Renualt and Nissan are are staking their future to a degree on electric cars, it may make sense to be in F1. With KERS and energy recovery being a bigger factor after 2013 they may be able to learn some valaubale things that they can put in their road cars.

    …OR the main factor in the deal could just be the standard marketing your brand to different markets stuff.

    I hope though that they are taking a long view about future automotive technology.

  18. ACB says:

    I think this is a great development, and I hope we’ll see a few more auto manufacturer’s as sponsors.

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