Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz dies aged seventy-eight

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Red Bull co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz has died at the age of seventy-eight following a long illness. The Austrian was the driving force behind the establishment of what became the global market leader in energy drinks.

Mateschitz owned 49% of the energy drinks brand and was the driving force behind its move into racing, which began in the mid-1990s. He founded the brand in 1984 which has been in F1 in some form since the 1990s following a deal with Sauber (Alfa Romeo) growing to a sixty per cent stake before the deal ended in 2001.

In 2004 he brought the Jaguar team from Ford as well as the A1-Ring, which was rebuilt over the next six years before reopening in 2011. A year later, he and Gerhard Berger teamed up to buy the Minardi team from Paul Stoddart, renaming it Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Mateschitz started his career as a salesman for consumer goods company Procter & Gamble when he discovered Krating Daeng, the drink that would become Red Bull, on his travels in Thailand.

He then founded Red Bull with Chaleo Yoovidhya which launched in 1987, becoming the worlds biggest extreme sport brands through sponsorship of things like surfing, cliff diving, winter sports and mountain biking.

His involvement in F1 began with the Swiss-based Sauber team, of which Red Bull became a 60% shareholder, before the two parted company following a row over driver choice, Sauber signed the inexperienced Finn Kimi Raikkonen for his debut season in 2001, when Mateschitz wanted him to pick Red Bull protege Enrique Bernoldi.

Three years later he brought Jaguar from owner Ford and renamed it, employed ex-Formula 2 driver Christian Horner as team principal and signed the sport’s leading design engineer Adrian Newey as technical director on a $10m salary. Over the next five years they transformed the team into a championship winning team.

They challenged Brawn in 2009 despite being the fastest team they finished runner-up. The following season saw Sebastian Vettel win the first of four consecutive championship doubles for the team.

Red Bull also extended its sporting interests into football, buying teams in Salzburg, the city closest to Mateschitz’s home in Fuschl am See in Austria, and Leipzig in Germany, as well as what was the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, Campinas in Brazil, founding a club in Ghana and taking over an ice hockey team in Munich.

The Horner/Newey partnership in 2010-13 was defined by Newey’s design genius and competitiveness with a ruthless, combative attitude to all areas of the sport, from exploiting technical grey areas, taking an abrasive approach to rule-makers and rivals and revelling in the role of disruptors.

That came to an end in 2014 when Mercedes emerged as the dominant force, despite producing competitive cars the team struggled with Renault engines leading to the switch to Honda in 2019.

Mateschitz’s right-hand man in motorsport, Helmut Marko, signed up Verstappen in 2014 midway through his first season in car racing, and made him the youngest driver to take part in a Grand Prix weekend when he was handed a Toro Rosso for his first practice at the Japanese Grand Prix, aged 17 years and three days.

After just a season and four races into 2016, the Dutchman was prompted to Red Bull winning on his debut in Barcelona.

After abandoning its engine partnership with Renault and joining forces with Honda in 2019, Red Bull became increasingly competitive, and in 2021 had its first absolutely competitive car since 2013.

Verstappen won his first world title, in a season defined by an intense and bitter rivalry with Lewis Hamilton. The controversies around that title continue, Verstappen pasted Hamilton after the FIA race director failed to follow the rules correctly during a late safety-car period.

The other controversy dominating this weekend after Red Bull were found to have breached the cap introduced last year, which the team denies. However, the accusations of cheating and libel.

With the advent of new rules in 2022, Red Bull emerged as the dominant team, culminating in Verstappen’s commanding charge to a second world title.

At the same time, he used his fortune to help regenerate his native area of Styria in Austria, promoting local crafts and arts. He also set up the Wings For Life charity in aid of spinal cord research. Mateschitz never married but did have a son.


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