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Red Bull get budget boost through Infiniti link-up

Mark Webber
Mark Webber recently put the Red Bull through its paces in Barcelona

By Andrew Benson

Red Bull has linked up with Japanese car maker Infiniti and will receive effectively free engines for the first time.

Red Bull previously had to pay the statutory 8m Euros (£6.8m) for their customer Renault engines but the funding from Infiniti will at least cover that amount.

The deal is being labelled a "marketing and technical agreement" with Infiniti, the premium brand of Japan's Nissan, which is part-owned by Renault.

The engines will still be called Renault, contrary to an earlier story on this site.

The move brings a Japanese road-car manufacturer back into F1 for the first time since Toyota quit at the end of the 2009 season - which followed Honda's withdrawal a year earlier.

And it is part of a trend that is seeing road-car manufacturers using F1 teams as a means of raising their profile.

Infiniti's link-up with Red Bull follows similar moves by two other manufacturers.

Group Lotus - part of Malaysia's Proton car company - is sponsoring the Renault team this season and the Russian sports car manufacturer Marussia has bought into Virgin.

It has not been revealed how much funding Infiniti is providing, but given its prominence - it will be on the front, side and rear of the far - it may well be more than the cost of the engines.

Even if it meant simply no longer having to pay for their engines, it would be a significant boost for Red Bull.

It means that money can be freed up to be spent in other areas, potentially increasing performance.

Red Bull were the only title-contending team who had to pay for their engines. The price for such deals is fixed at 8m euros by an agreement between all F1 engine manufacturers through the teams' umbrella group Fota.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel won the drivers' title in 2010, becoming the youngest champion in F1 history, while the team also took the constructors' championships.

They will start the new season in Australia on 27 March as favourites - their new car, the RB7, has looked the class of the field so far in pre-season testing.

Red Bull's closest rivals look set to be Ferrari, whose driver Fernando Alonso narrowly lost out in the drivers' title battle to Vettel last season.

Renault/Nissan is trying to boost Infiniti's presence in a highly competitive market, in which its rivals are giants such as Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes.

The two companies have been in partnership since 1999, with France's Renault holding a 44.3% shareholding in Nissan and the Japanese company owning 15% of Renault.

In contrast to its Infiniti brand, the parent Renault company is reducing its official and visible presence in F1.

Through 2010, the French company had retained only a 25% shareholding in the team that bears its name, and it has now sold its remaining equity so the outfit is now wholly owned by the Genii Capital private equity group that is running it.

Renault is now officially in F1 only as an engine supplier - to Red Bull, Renault and Team Lotus - and now, through Infiniti, as a sponsor of Red Bull.



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see also
Behind the scenes at F1 testing
20 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
Barcelona F1 test photos
20 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
The moment Vettel won F1 world title
14 Nov 10 |  Formula 1


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