Renault denies being late with 2020 car

The Renault launch...

As far as winter pre-seasons go, I'm giving Renault a big fat zero out of ten. We've all seen and heard almost nothing from them, were subjected to a 'launch' that featured the worst car renderings ever produced and no actual car, been promised that they are probably about to have another crap season, and seen a low-res, zoomed out and deliberately grainy photo of the unliveried 2020 car as it rolled out of the Barcelona pits. Well done, guys. Well done.

Red Bull, in total and stark contrast, gets twelve out of ten for a brilliant winter.

I'm not just talking about the fact that Max Verstappen really does look to be shaping up as Lewis Hamilton's main challenger in 2020. I'm really talking about Alpha Tauri (I know I'm supposed to write AlphaTauri, but I'm just not going to. Capital letters in the middle of words is wrong. Sue me).

The silly name with a capital T in the middle of it aside, and the fact that I am *sure* to accidentally write or say Alfa Tauri or Alpha Romeo or Romeo Tauri at some point during this long, long season of 22 (ahem: make that 21) races, the team that came out of the womb as Minardi deserves a gold star of the highest order.

Suddenly, it's fairly obvious why Pierre Gasly's glum mid-season mood last year, when he was unceremoniously dumped and demoted by the energy drink company's premier team, suddenly improved towards the end. Why? According to the good and grumpy Dr Helmut Marko, the former Toro Rosso team shall no longer foster an image of being the 'second' or 'junior' or 'subsidiary' or 'satellite' team. No, Alpha Tauri is now the *sister* team.

Sceptical? Fair enough. After all, Marko made clear that between 3 and 6 months after whiz-bang new developments are added to Verstappen's car, they'll eventually make their way to Faenza too. The most miserable of the purists may hate it, but there are plenty of parts that Red Bull is perfectly entitled to ship off to a second team. And the word on the street is that the 2020 Alpha Tauri platform is deliberately and especially designed to maximise every little component that is on that FIA approved list.

If that sounds a little less like a sister team and more like a daughter team, you are making a good point. But in terms of sheer marketing brilliance, Alpha Tauri is already the world champion.

Dietrich Mateschitz

Dietrich Mateschitz

Of course, we already know this about Dietrich Mateschitz. As far as I can recall (and my memory isn't great), he was backpacking in Thailand in the 80s when his jet-lag got the better of him and he held his nose and gulped down a sickly brown elixir called Krating Daeng. It translates perfectly to 'Red Bull', and that Thai brand even had the two-red-bulls-butting-heads logo ready to rumble. Gazillions of dollars later, nobody questions Herr Mateschitz's marketing pizzazz these days.

But in my mind, his latest marketing brainwave is one of his best - because it's a Holy Trinity of sorts. Already an owner of not one but two Formula 1 teams and the Austrian GP promoter, Mateschitz was probably sitting atop the Salzkammergut-Berge in Salzburg (or doing whatever Austrian billionaires do) when he realised he could not just sell millions more cans of sickly brown liquid and win world championships - he could combine both hobbies and also sell millions of ... wait for it ... trendy and obscenely expensive clothes.

You no doubt already know that Alpha Tauri is not just a giant red star of the Taurus constellation - it is also Red Bull's new-in-2016 fashion label. And my bet is you'll probably want one of those oversized puffy florescent yellow jackets with a $800 price-tag or something by the end of the year.

I must confess, writing non-stop and every single day about Red Bull for the past 15 years means I'm always asking pubs if they'll pour a can of the disgustingly addictive brew over my shot of vodka, and I doubt that's because it's better than the other horrible brown goo put out by rival energy drink brands. No, it's because Mateschitz, by using Formula 1, made Red Bull uber-cool.

And now, Mateschitz and Formula 1 and Red Bull are about to make Alpha Tauri clothes uber-doober cool. I just hope you have a credit card with a decent limit, because cheap brown goo this stuff ain't.

That, however, is beside the point. Gasly, once down in the dumps about being dumped by Red Bull Racing last year, is now the pretty poster boy of the coolest new fashion label on the planet - and the car should be pretty handy too. "I have moved to Milan," the handsome and young Frenchman said at the launch the other day. "Alpha Tauri has a big shop there and I'm a fashion fan - it's one of the reasons why I was drawn to Milan."

Good boy, Pierre - keep that up and your career as part runway model, part Formula 1 driver will keep racing for now.

AlphaTauri eyes Honda driver Tsunoda

Daniil Kvyat, Franz Tost Pierre Gasly speaking with David Coulthard during the Scuderia AlphaTauri AT01 Livery launch

According to Franz Tost, the team boss, the launch of the 2020 car (actually a 2019 Toro Rosso with a beautiful new white-based livery) was "one of the most exciting and entertaining I have ever experienced in Formula 1". He is, of course, not really telling the truth. It was easily the best launch I've ever seen - bar none. How did it stand out? Well, it was the only one I've ever watched until the end. Some of them, I don't even watch until the start.

Now, it may have been because I was onto my fourth vodka with sickly brown stuff by that point of my Australian evening. But I was actually just gobsmacked by the event and the concept's brilliance. Even Chase Carey stopped by to check out how Mateschitz is making his new fashion label the unofficially coolest fashion label in F1 history, and he didn't rip his ridiculous moustache off in frustration. He seems to love the idea too. There was awesome music, lights, scintillatingly beautiful Austrian models, and all the rest of it. But above all, it was fun, trendy, exciting and smile-inspiring.

He may be no spring chicken these days, but for my money (if I've got any left after browsing the Spring/Summer Collection), Herr Mateschitz is definitely still among the smartest marketers in the world. And I'll drink a sickly brown brew (with vodka) to that!


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