Ever since Red Bull supremo Dietrich Mateschitz was handed shares in Formula One’s parent company, the energy drink’s influence over the sport has been treated with a mixture of suspicion and begrudging recognition; that without its presence, certain areas of the sport just wouldn’t exist. Red Bull’s dual spectre over WRC and Formula One gives it considerable clout in decision making processes in motorsport’s two premier classes.
Mateschitz’s €70m reconstruction of the A-1 Ring (now aptly names the ‘Red Bull Ring’) in 2008 is one of his most admirable achievements. When talks between the Magna International group, Volkswagen and KTM failed to deliver a neuer Österreichring, the Austrian magnate put his carbonated beverage moolah where his mouth was and – in the process –rescued an ever dwindling European leg of the Formula One calendar, with Austria making a return to hosting Grand Prix’s this year.
Like I said a commendable move. But with a first class facility at Red Bull’s disposal allied with increased political leverage presents a unique opportunity for Formula One to return to its more fan friendly roots.
Last year the Red Bull Ring granted an open invitation to the European B.O.S.S. Festival. The festival (standing for ‘Big Open Single Seater’) host some of the most spectacular machinery around; including former V10 and V8 Formula Ones, V8 Champcars, Indycars, GP2 and Formula 3000. In short, the fastest and most thrilling single seaters from the past and present.
The B.O.S.S. series is a massive hit with motorsport fans; and was no doubt recognized by the Red Bull Ring organisers by virtue of their invitation. But why not go one better and use the event as a one-off non-championship F1 event? Current Formula One and reserve drivers could pit their talents up against up-and-coming stars of the future (and cross-Atlantic personalities) in a similar vain to the old International Trophy at Silverstone and Race of Champions at Brands Hatch (last held in 1983) used to.
The modern day Race of Champions (RoC) is a relatively pedestrian and clinical affair that has a “hurry up and wait for something to happen” vibe. The pyrotechnics might dazzle the average Top Gear Live connoisseur, but as a motorsport experience, its dynamic is less than visceral. Felipe Massa’s Desafio Internacional das Estralas (International Challenge of the Stars) kart race will be held next week and while a fantastic event, is mainly for the benefit of a South American audience – as is Juan Pablo Montoya’s annual charity kart race around the streets of Medellin, Columbia.
With many expecting an Ecclestone power transition to involve a Red Bull flavour, it seems ludicrous that a company renowned for staging popular, eye-catching motorsport events wouldn’t see an opportunity to utilise the Red Bull Ring to bring back a bit of the old-style Formula One razzamatazz to what is becoming an ever disjoined championship calendar.
If Red Bull can handle demo runs in the Tibetan mountains and Beach runs in the Dominican Republic, then surely an event at their home track would be a walk in the park.
It might even go some way towards quelling some of that quiet suspicion in the paddock. For the moment at least.
Images courtesy of Red Bull and BossGP.com