In Horner, the team boasts a shrewd operator who is always searching for an angle. His latest declarations, that teams will be forced to miss races this year because of the state of inflation and the knock-on effect of the cost of living crisis within the confines of a budget cap, could be translated as a typically outrageous play to win his team wiggle-room on development spend. Again, he’d say he’s just doing his job, that it’s about rising freight costs rather than giving Adrian Newey’s design team more scope to eke extra speed from the RB18 – but F1 will be wary, probably more so given who this unsettling warning is coming from. Give Red Bull an inch…
So credit where it’s due: Red Bull is devastatingly effective, on and off the track, and in its own inimitable way. But now throw a potential partnership with Porsche into the mix: how might this enhance – or unsettle – a potent but combustible alchemy? If the lengthy negotiations do lead to VW pressing the big green button, there will be plenty of questions left hanging about how it will work. Porsche would surely demand, for starters, a stake in not only the big decisions, but also day-to-day matters too. How could a major car maker not have at least some control, when its reputation and values are on the line? And how would Horner deal with that? What about that arch diplomat, Marko?
In its spirited independence and absolute faith in its own convictions, Red Bull carries some parallels to Williams from the days when Frank ’n Patrick were on top of their game. Red Bull could gain massively from a Porsche relationship, of course it could – certainly financially, also technically and perhaps even operationally. Although the marketing approaches might jar. Overall, it’s a scenario that one could imagine going the way of the Williams-BMW marriage in those first years of the new millennium. That one ended in a bad-tempered divorce, BMW feeling compelled to go its own way, control its own destiny, and buy another team (Sauber). Williams-BMW ended up a missed opportunity, and Red Bull-Porsche would be hard pressed to avoid a similar fate.
For now, Verstappen will continue to rail, to bitch and moan in the moment when things go wrong, and Red Bull will live with his raging self-entitlement for as long as Max remains the most effective racing driver on the grid. It works extremely well for mutual benefit. But the complications a major OEM would bring to the mix… from what we see today, does the current world champion possess the character traits, and specifically the patience, to deal with the inevitable wrinkles/bumps/hills/mountains such a partnership might create? And would Porsche be willing to put up with an edgy ‘punk’ racing star who lives on the brink of an explosion every time he steps into a cockpit?
Let’s hope it happens, just so we can find out.