Red Bull: “Dietrich Mateschitz did it for the love of sport”

News of Mateschitz’s death came just before qualifying on Saturday

The emotion was unmistakable on Max Verstappen’s face and voice as he paid tribute to Red Bull co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz after qualifying for the United States Grand Prix.

Mateschitz, who died earlier on Saturday aged 78, left a huge legacy in Formula 1 and in global business as the man who effectively invented energy drinks and created one of the most successful F1 teams of the modern era.

Red Bull wanted to make Verstappen the youngest champion in F1 history when they brought him into the sport in 2015 at the age of 17.

Mercedes’ top performance from 2014-2020 delivered on that ambition. But Mateschitz, who has been ill for some time, lived long enough to see Verstappen win not one, but two world titles. And his team are now embarking on what could be a second dominant era in the sport for rivals, following on from the first four years of 2010 they enjoyed with Sebastian Vettel.

The news of Mateschitz’s death came less than an hour before qualifying in Austin, Texas, and the entire Red Bull team was summoned to paddock headquarters to hear it.

After qualifying third fastest behind the two Ferrari drivers, Verstappen, his face dark and his voice slightly breaking, said he owed his success to Mateschitz, and decided to fire second place on the grid at the Circuit of the Americas – he moves. moved up one place due to a Charles Leclerc penalty – he won on Sunday.

“It was a tough entry for qualifying,” said Verstappen. “And even then you don’t care about the result. It doesn’t matter.

“It’s more about what happened and what it means to everyone in the team, what’s built in F1, the company itself. And for me personally, without him I wouldn’t be sitting here and I wouldn’t be.” I haven’t had the success I’ve had. It’s incredibly hard for everyone in the team.

“Thankfully I saw him a couple of weeks ago so we could spend some time together, but it’s still a tough day.”

Mateschitz was a reclusive figure, famous for the achievements of his company and the teams he sponsored in various sports, but never sought the limelight. He was so little known outside the small circle of people who let him approach.

“Dietrich was always very kind and supportive,” Verstappen said. “He didn’t like being in the spotlight. He was always there but he didn’t want to be in front of the cameras.

“When you got to know him more personally, he was really nice. He was a big fan of racing. The commitment he’s shown to F1, and having two racing teams, it’s incredible and the amount of young talent he’s helped out with everyone over the years.

“For me, believing in me from such a young age and seeing that relationship grow year by year was very special.

“I will always remember the last visit I had with him, what we talked about and the time we spent that day. It was already very special at the time and it is even more special now.”

Mateschitz will not only be missing inside Red Bull. In hindsight, he has been the most influential figure in the sport for more than two decades, and those who addressed him also paid tribute to him on Saturday.

“The man was larger than life,” said Austrian Toto Wolff in Salzburg, the city closest to Mateschitz’s base.

“What he has done in Austria in football, in ice hockey, in Leipzig, in the racing program – probably the biggest contribution of any single individual to F1.

“The man was very thoughtful and as usual a bit of a Mercedes-Red Bull debate started [between us] then it took hours and it ended in a very personal discussion about families and everything and I enjoyed it.

“The biggest achievement for me is the brand. It appeared in the 1990s, so we are talking about 32 years. And I don’t know how many million euros the company earns, but by creating a new product that only existed in Thailand. different collections and making a global player around sports all that exists is to put it in the shade.

“But in our microcosm, I remember he once said to me: ‘I have no problem doing a sports project that loses money, as long as I enjoy doing it.’ There are not many entrepreneurs who say that, and he did it for the love of sport.”

Sainz realistic about Sunday’s race

For Verstappen and Red Bull, a win on Sunday would be the perfect way to honor Mateschitz’s memory, while at least for a few moments in the background the politics and controversy surrounding the team after they announced their break from F1 last week. last year’s budget limit.

Verstappen’s record this year sees him start as a strong favourite, although he is behind Carlos Sainz on the grid after the Ferrari driver finally secured his first pole position in the dry after coming close in the final races.

Sainz, another product of the Red Bull young driver programme, paid tribute to Mateschitzi, adding that he was “realistic” about his prospects for the race.

“We will try everything we can to try to win the race, but we know what Red Bull is capable of on Sundays,” said Sainz.

“They are the favorites for tomorrow, because they always manage to put together very good Sundays. It will be a big challenge, I would like to win, I will try, but it will be very tough.”

Sainz – and possibly Verstappen too – will face a threat from the Mercedes drivers as they start side by side on the second row, with Lewis Hamilton ahead of George Russell for the sixth consecutive race after an engine penalty for the Reds. Bull’s Sergio Perez, fourth fastest.

The Red Bulls were both slower than Hamilton after the first races of the final qualifying session and although the seven-time champion bounced back with a less efficient second lap, Mercedes looked in fine form this weekend after introducing a major aerodynamic upgrade to its floor.

“Austin didn’t look great on paper a few weeks ago,” Wolff said, “and we brought in the upgrade and we’re 0.6 seconds away and Lewis could probably add 0.2 seconds, and Austin’s 0.4 seconds looks solid. .considering chassis weaknesses in general.

“Obviously the favorites start in front of us. It’s a good sign for tomorrow. We have two cars, so in terms of strategy, maybe we have a few more options. And we have to have the mindset: ‘We’re going to race’. win’, even though Verstappen and If only Sainz had better options.”

Victory for Verstappen would tie Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel for the all-time record of 13 wins in a season, with three races to go. But he said he wasn’t thinking about that.

“I know the opportunity is there and we have a fast car,” he said. “I’m not too busy with the stats, because you can’t compare anyway because we’re racing more, so if you have a competitive car, there’s a better chance of getting there.”

Verstappen doesn’t need extra incentive to go for the win, but losing Mateschitz certainly does.

“We’re going to try to make them proud,” he said.

Christian Horner
It was a very uneventful weekend for Red Bull with the team accusing their rivals of a “concerted campaign” over the budget cap dispute.

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