“Not in the spirit of the regulations” — Brown on the relationship between Red Bull and AlphaTauri

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In the 2023 season there were teams that proved to be up to the task from the start, there were others that started and finished poorly and some that performed well in some Grands Prix and not in others, but there was one team in particular that excelled in improving the performance of its car: McLaren.

From the Austrian Grand Prix until the end of the season, McLaren went on a run they had not had all year and managed to move from a lowly sixth into fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship, reaching over 300 points in the end.

Red Bull, meanwhile, took first place on 860 points, maintaining a flawless run since the Bahrain Grand Prix, with sister team AlphaTauri in eighth place on just 25 points, but this is considered a gain as the Faenza-based team found itself in last place for most of the season, which caused some teams to look at them with a raised eyebrow, and Zak Brown was no exception.

The Franz Tost-led team in the 2023 season made aggressive improvements, bringing over 60 upgrades to the track during the season.

Not only that, AlphaTauri’s improvements performed very well in the low-speed corners (Red Bull’s weakness), which concerned some teams who were worried about how far the Faneza team could climb in positions and wondered that it would share information and resources with Red Bull.

Despite the Milton Keynes team boss denying any such relationship and the FIA completing compliance checks, major concerns remain.

The McLaren CEO, who questioned the timing of Red Bull’s car updates, said to Motorsport Network the alliance between the energy drink-owned teams is worrying: “The million-dollar question that none of us know is how far in advance did they [Red Bull] switch off this year’s car?

“We know we’ve overtaken the others in the development race and we’ve closed the gap on Red Bull, but what no one knows is whether Red Bull stopped and we caught up, or whether they were still developing.

“We are also very concerned about the alliance between AlphaTauri and Red Bull. I think that’s something that needs to be addressed in the future. So, I still think the sport has a way to go to make sure that everybody is really independent.”

In Formula 1, there are just four power unit suppliers for the ten teams, so it is not uncommon for alliances to be formed, but they are formed to buy specific components such as suspension and gearboxes, like Haas and Ferrari.

Brown’s concerns, however, come as AlphaTauri has begun sending staff to the UK, specifically to Bicester, where Red Bull’s aerodynamics facility is located, as the Bulls appear to be looking to save money.

The Californian said that in no other sport is there common ownership of two different teams and stressed that it would be important to keep an eye on the sport’s rules regarding technical alliances: “It’s two teams under common ownership, something that doesn’t happen in other sports. It could benefit Red Bull in many ways.

“There is a reason why they are moving a lot of their people from Italy. As Helmut [Marko, Red Bull Motorsport advisor] has said, they are going to do absolutely everything they can to benefit from having two teams. I understand that because that’s what the rules say. But I think we have to look at the governance of the sport around technical alliances.”

Brown continued to talk about the Red Bull-AlphaTauri relationship in an open letter to McLaren fans on Thursday as he looks for change, stating in major sports such as football/soccer, no person or company is allowed to own more than one club.

“That said, there is an opportunity to improve some of the other processes in Formula 1 to strengthen the values of fairness and competition. The sport is not perfect, and as we look ahead to negotiating the next Concorde Agreement to unite the governing body with the teams and commercial rights holders, we should prioritise some of those rules that currently impact the impartiality between competitors.

“For example, most other major sports prohibit the ownership of two teams within the same league because of the obvious potential damage that it does to competition. It’s an unhealthy situation because it impacts decisions made both on and off the track. Whether it’s a case of having access to more data, sharing components/personnel, or even having influence over a strategic vote, it’s not in the spirit of the regulations.

“It’s important to stand up for independence, competition and fairness, and I’d like to see changes in the regulations to ensure that in future, they stop influence spreading from one team to another through strategic alliances and especially through ownership. Formula 1 should be true to its brand, and every team — except Power Units — should be totally independent of each other.”

Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool