Dietrich Mateschitz, the billionaire whose Red Bull energy drinks business has grown into one of the biggest sponsors in motorsport, has died at the age of 78, following a long illness.
Red Bull’s presence in Formula 1 alone includes two teams: the eponymous championship-winning squad and its sister squad based in Italy, named after the company’s fashion label AlphaTauri. It also holds a round of the world championship at the Red Bull Ring, while its Servus TV channel has the rights to broadcast the sport in Austria.
It also runs Junior Teams to develop future motor racing talent in single-seaters and off-road motorsport. The brand’s logos can be found across many other championships on two and four wheels.
Mateschitz, who co-founded Red Bull in 1984 with Chaleo Yoovidhya after discovering the recipe for the drink in Thailand, began using motorsport to promote the brand soon after it went on sale. Gerhard Berger became the first driver to be sponsored by the company in 1987.
Red Bull increased its presence in F1 when it took over as the title sponsor of the Sauber Formula 1 team in 1995. By the early noughties Mateschitz was looking elsewhere and after considering a takeover of Jordan he opted to buy the Jaguar team, which Ford had put up for sale in 2004. He asked Arden team founder Christian Horner, who had taken Vitantonio Liuzzi to the Formula 3000 title that year, to meet him in Salzburg and offered him the job of running his new F1 team.
While Horner built Red Bull Racing into a championship-winning force, Mateschitz pounced on the opportunity to buy another F1 team the following year. He transformed Minardi into Toro Rosso – Italian for ‘Red Bull’ – to serve as a finishing school for its future champions. By 2010 Sebastian Vettel, an early graduate of Toro Rosso, had become the first driver to win the world championship in a Red Bull.
That began a string of title wins for Vettel and Red Bull which wasn’t halted until 2014, when new power unit rules were introduced to F1 and Mercedes came to the fore. Red Bull finally ended their uninterrupted title run last year when Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the world championship in a controversial finale.
Verstappen took his second title in dominant fashion this year, clinching the crown with four races to spare at Suzuka. Red Bull is poised to win its first constructors championship since 2013 at the Circuit of the Americas this weekend.
Mateschitz has only occasionally appeared in person to witness his team’s success, and had not been seen in an F1 paddock for several years. Widely considered one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, his fortune was estimated at being in excess of $15 billion (£13bn).
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