Red Bull co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz, a major global business figure thanks to his energy drink empire, has died aged 78.
Mateschitz was the driving force behind the establishment of what became the market leader in energy drinks.
He used the resulting fortune to create a Formula 1 team that has become one of the sport’s dominant forces.
His death is not believed to threaten the future of Red Bull or its sister team Alpha Tauri.
Austrian Mateschitz was a salesman for the consumer goods company Procter & Gamble when he discovered Krating Daeng, the drink that would become Red Bull, during his travels in Thailand.
In 1984, he co-founded Red Bull with the drink’s creator, Thai Chaleo Yoovidhya, and launched the Red Bull brand in 1987, eventually becoming the world’s largest energy drink and earning himself a fortune of $25 billion.
The brand began to be associated with extreme sports such as surfing, diving, winter sports and mountain biking, and Red Bull was involved as a sponsor in many of them.
His involvement in F1 began with the Swiss team Sauber, which became a 60% shareholder in Red Bull, before the two companies parted ways following a row over driver selection. Mateschitz wanted Red Bull protégé Enrique Bernoldi to choose.
Three years later, Red Bull bought the failing Jaguar team from owner Ford and renamed it, hiring former Formula 2 driver Christian Horner as team principal and the sport’s chief design engineer Adrian Newey as technical director, on a salary of $10 million.
They set about turning Red Bull into a dominant force, becoming F1’s fastest team by 2009 and winning the drivers’ and constructors’ titles with German Sebastian Vettel in 2010, the team’s first of four consecutive championship doubles.
Red Bull also expanded its sporting interests into soccer, buying teams in Fuschl am See in Salzburg, the city closest to Mateschitz’s home in Austria, Leipzig in Germany, and the former New York/New Jersey MetroStars, Campinas in Brazil. Starting a club in Ghana and hosting an ice hockey team in Munich.
Red Bull built a reputation for combining Newey’s design genius and competitiveness with a relentless and combative attitude in all areas of the sport, exploiting technical gray areas, taking an abrasive approach to rule-makers and rivals and relishing the role of disruptor.
The arrival of turbo-hybrid engines in 2014 put an end to their dominance, as Mercedes began its reign.
Red Bull continued to produce competitive cars, but its Renault engines fell behind. Meanwhile, they were laying the groundwork for their return to the front.
Helmut Marko Mateschitz’s right-hand man signed Max Verstappen in 2014 midway through his first season in motor racing, making him the youngest driver to take part in a grand prix weekend when he was handed a Toro Rosso. First practice at the Japanese Grand Prix, 17 years and three days old.
Verstappen was signed for Toro Rosso – formerly Alpha Tauri, which now bears the name of a team fashion brand – in 2015 and moved up to Red Bull in the fifth race of 2016, winning the Spanish Grand Prix on his debut. for the senior team.
After abandoning their engine partnership with Renault in 2019 and joining forces with Honda, Red Bull have been increasingly competitive, and in 2021 they have their first fully competitive car since 2013.
Verstappen used it against Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in one of the fiercest title battles in F1 history, with the Red Bull driver eventually crowned champion after a controversial final in which he won the race, beating Hamilton, the FIA race director continued after leaving rules properly safety car time.
When the new rules came out in 2022, Red Bull emerged as the dominant team, as they finally did in 2009, the first year of another major rule change.
During this period, Mateschitz, although a reclusive figure who rarely gave interviews, was one of F1’s most important power brokers.
At the same time, he used his money to help regenerate his native Styria in Austria, promoting local crafts and arts. He also founded Wings For Life in support of spinal cord research.
He has made a significant legacy in motorsport and global business. But his death inevitably leaves long-term question marks hanging over every aspect of the business, although Chalerm Yoovidhya, Chaleo’s eldest son and believed to be the majority shareholder of Red Bull, is said to be an F1 fan.