AUGUST 22, 2005
Red Bull's little problem
Red Bull has a problem. The Austrian drinks firm has been sponsoring a young driver programme for the last few years and is keen to be seen to be backing young talent as this is apparently something which appeals to its young customers.
One of the problems that Red Bull now has in Europe is that it has been sponsoring so many drivers that it does not have enough places to put them in F1. This has resulted in Red Bull Racing having three race drivers this year rather than two and a backlog of others in GP2, where there are five cars running in Red Bull livery. The result of this is that Red Bull's number one hope: American Scott Speed is trying to get out of his Red Bull deal in order to break into F1 by another route because there are too many people in front of him in the Red Bull queue.
The Red Bull website lists no fewer than 15 youngsters who are involved in the Red Bull Junior Team in various different championships in Europe and this list does not even include three of the men who race in Red Bull colours in GP2. Before developing a similar scheme in the United States, Red Bull may need to consider this problem and perhaps it might even send some of its European-trained drivers to the US.
For the last four years Red Bull has been sponsoring Red Bull Cheever Racing in the Indy Racing League. Sadly this has not been a great success with the team winning only one race, back in 2002 when Tomas Scheckter won at Michigan.
"All the things that are in our control: reliability, pit stops and keeping the drivers focused have been very successful this year," says team boss Eddie Cheever, himself a former F1 driver. "We are working better and better with Toyota on using their engineering but unfortunately we are with Toyota in a difficult year. I think a measure of how we have done is how we compare to Ganassi's team who has also struggled under difficult circumstances this season."
This is all well and good but Red Bull wants results and Patrick Carpentier 10th and Alex Barron 12th overall is not that exciting a result.
There has been talk for some time now that the Red Bull deal with Cheever will end this year but Cheever himself says that things have yet to be discussed for next year but there are signs that Red Bull might be looking elsewhere with rumours of talks with Rahal Letterman Racing, which has an ace up its sleeve with the presence of media darling Danica Patrick, and talk of a deal in Champ Car with RuSport, which fields rising American star AJ Allmendinger. There is also talk of a series sponsorship of Formula Atlantic.
The problem with all of this is that if a driver programme gets the reputation of blighting the careers of young drivers the best no longer sign up and the value of the scheme reduces. This was a problem faced years ago by the Elf petrol company. The result was that Elf ended up feeding drivers (and money) into the Tyrrell, Renault and Ligier teams, in order to keep the escalator moving.
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