His teams, Red Bull and AlphaTauri, and Austria’s Red Bull Ring circuit are just the most prominent examples. However, along with the Formula 1 teams, Dietrich Mateschitz made a huge contribution in many other ways within motorsport and motorsport in general, from MotoGP to NASCAR. It gave dozens of young drivers a chance, many of whom would not have progressed without the support of the energy drink brand.
Mateschitz was born in Styria in May 1944 during World War II, the son of two primary school teachers. After graduating in marketing at age 28, in 1972 (he somehow managed to stretch his stay as a student at the University of Vienna to a decade), he joined Unilever , promoting detergents. She then moved on to the cosmetics company Blendax , where her products included toothpaste.
It was during a business trip through Asia that he discovered by chance the drink that he would eventually launch in Europe as Red Bull , after founding the company with that name in 1984 , in association with the Thai businessman and partner of Blendax Chaleo Yoovidhya, with an initial investment of $500,000.
From the beginning, Mateschitz believed in motorsports and extreme sports as promotional tools. His first link to Formula 1 was through a personal agreement with Gerhard Berger, and then in 1995 he began a partnership with the Sauber team, eventually acquiring 60% of the Swiss organisation. In the first year, Heinz-Harald Frentzen took the team’s first podium finish with a third place finish at Monza.
Drivers who passed through Sauber during the Red Bull era include Johnny Herbert, Jean Alesi, Mika Salo, Nick Heidfeld, Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa.
In parallel to Sauber, Mateschitz also supported drivers in lower categories, initially through a relationship with the owner of the F3000/F3 team, Helmut Marko , who would later become his main adviser and motorsport guru.
Team boss Peter Sauber had a falling out with Mateschitz after signing Formula Renault driver Kimi Raikkonen for 2001, ignoring the preferred option of his protégé’s sponsor Enrique Bernoldi, although Red Bull helped the Brazilian secure a seat in Arrows.
Mateschitz-based Red Bull was a key Sauber sponsor in the late 1990s and early 2000s
Mateschitz also supported Christian Klien , another of his protégés, at Jaguar in 2004. The relationship took an unexpected turn when, at the end of the year, Ford Motor Company wanted to ditch the Milton Keynes outfit and withdraw from the sport, and Mateschitz was delighted. to take charge of it for a symbolic sum, while separating from Sauber.
In one move, he and Marko hired Arden’s F3000 boss, Christian Horner , to run the team, while also bringing in David Coulthard to join former Jaguar driver Mark Webber. A year later, Mateschitz also acquired the struggling Minardi team, renaming it Scuderia Toro Rosso . The general idea was to use it to develop young drivers for Red Bull.
At first, they were nothing more than Jaguar with Cosworth engines. However, Horner proved to be a very effective leader and set out to change the culture. At the end of 2005, with the encouragement of Mateschitz, he persuaded Adrian Newey to join the team as technical director, setting in motion an extraordinary reversal of fortunes.
It wasn’t immediate, but after a difficult year with Ferrari engines in 2006, the team progressed with Newey’s first Renault-powered car in 2007. The other key ingredient was Sebastian Vettel. Supported by Mateschitz since his karting days, the young German joined Toro Rosso at the end of 2007, before scoring a memorable win at Monza the following year.
The Faenza outfit may have claimed the first victory before Red Bull, but with Vettel on board in 2009 the main outfit became a title contender, rising from seventh to runners-up in the constructors’ championship. Vettel won four races and Webber took another two wins.
It was the start of an astonishing era of success, as Vettel won four titles in a row between 2010 and 2013, and the team clinched the constructors’ championship in those years. Mateschitz’s vision was fulfilled, and his faith in Horner and Newey fully rewarded.
In 2014, the series switched to V6 hybrid engines, and Red Bull struggled with engine partner Renault, straining an already difficult partnership. Daniel Ricciardo managed to win three races with the tricky RB10, but before the end of the year a frustrated Vettel signed for Ferrari.
Following the purchase of Jaguar, Mateschitz appointed Christian Horner as team principal at Red Bull
He had lost his talisman, but Mateschitz was quick to replace it with another, as he was convinced to give 17-year-old Max Verstappen, who had not come through the Red Bull ranks, a seat at Toro Rosso for 2015. The Dutchman he made an immediate impact, and after being promoted to Red Bull in early 2016, he won his first race in Spain.
As the relationship with Renault deteriorated further, Horner and Marko began looking at other engine options. They convinced Mateschitz that Honda was a viable option, despite the Japanese brand’s problems with McLaren. It was a big gamble, but the company was able to use Toro Rosso to, in effect, test the Honda in 2018. After an encouraging season, RBR was also traded for 2019.
Another piece of history was made when Verstappen gave Honda its first win of the hybrid era in Austria, at the old A1 Ring circuit that Mateschitz had bought and, after some initial delays, completely rebuilt. It was one of the best days in the history of the Red Bull organization.
Verstappen won two more races that year and continued to build momentum with more wins in 2020, before claiming his first title – and the fifth for a Red Bull driver – on the final lap of the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi GP. Ironically, it was done. on the eve of Honda’s official withdrawal at the end of the season.
Horner and Marko had already convinced Honda to continue supplying the team with engines, but they had other long-term plans. In what was one of his last major strategic decisions, Mateschitz approved the creation of Red Bull Powertrains with a view to creating an engine for the 2026 regulations. The hope was to form a partnership with Porsche , but the deal fell apart a few weeks ago. .
Outside of motorsports, Mateschitz supported athletes from dozens of other sports, created his own television channel, Servus , and indulged his passion for aviation with an impressive collection of vintage aircraft, some of which were demonstrated at the Austrian GP.
Despite his enormous success in business and sport, Mateschitz remained essentially a humble man, rarely speaking to the media except to a few close associates back home.
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