Red Bull co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz, a major global business figure due to his energy drink empire, has died aged 78.
Mateschitz was the driving force behind the creation of what has become the world’s leading energy drink market.
He used the fortune created by this to create a Formula 1 team which became one of the main forces in the sport.
“It’s very, very sad, what a great man,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
“What he has achieved and what he has done for so many people, across the world in different sports, is second to none.”
Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of qualifying for the United States Grand Prix on Saturday, moments after Mateschitz’s death was announced, Horner said his team was determined to “do the best for him” when qualifying and Sunday’s race.
“A lot of us have to be very grateful to him for the opportunities he presented and the vision he had, the strength of character and never being afraid to pursue his dreams.
“That’s what he’s done here in Formula 1, proving you can make a difference. We’re just incredibly grateful.”
Horner said ‘luckily’ Mateschitz got to see Red Bull’s Max Verstappen win his second consecutive world title when the Dutch driver won the Japanese Grand Prix two weeks ago.
“He was very proud of the team,” added Horner.
Mateschitz’s death is not believed to threaten the future of Red Bull or its sister team Alpha Tauri.
Formula 1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali said he was “deeply saddened” and called Mateschitz a “hugely respected and much loved member of the Formula 1 family”.
The Italian added: “He was an incredible visionary entrepreneur and a man who helped transform our sport and created the world famous Red Bull brand.”
From Salesman to Founder of a $25 Billion Beverage Giant
Austrian Mateschitz was a salesman for consumer goods company Procter & Gamble when he discovered Krating Daeng, the drink that would become Red Bull, during his travels in Thailand.
In 1984, he founded Red Bull with the drink’s founder, Thai Chaleo Yoovidhya, and launched the Red Bull brand in 1987, eventually transforming it into the world’s largest energy drink and making an estimated fortune of $25 billion.
He began to associate the brand with extreme sports such as surfing, cliff diving, winter sports and mountain biking, and Red Bull became involved as a sponsor in many of them.
His involvement in F1 began with the Swiss-based Sauber team, of which Red Bull became a 60% shareholder, before the two companies went their separate ways following a row over driver choice – Sauber signed inexperienced Finn Kimi Raikkonen for his first season in 2001, when Mateschitz wanted him to choose Red Bull protege Enrique Bernoldi.
Three years later, Red Bull bought the failing Jaguar team from owner Ford and renamed it, employed former Formula 2 driver Christian Horner as team principal and hired the lead design engineer. of sport Adrian Newey as technical director with a salary of 10 million dollars.
They set out to make Red Bull a leading force, became F1’s fastest team in 2009 and won their first drivers’ and constructors’ titles with Germany’s Sebastian Vettel in 2010, the first of four consecutive doubles for the team.
Red Bull also expanded its sporting interests into football, buying teams in Salzburg, the town closest to Mateschitz’s home of 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.
Red Bull has earned a reputation for combining Newey’s design genius and competitiveness with a ruthless, combative attitude in all areas of the sport, from exploiting technical gray areas, to taking an abrasive approach to decision makers and rivals and reveling in the role of disruptors.
The advent of turbo-hybrid engines in 2014 ended their dominance, as Mercedes entered its own period of command.
Red Bull continued to produce competitive cars, but were held back by their Renault engines. In the meantime, they were laying the foundations for their return to the front.
Mateschitz’s right-hand man in motorsport, Helmut Marko, signed Verstappen in 2014 in the middle of his first season in motor racing and made him the youngest driver to compete in a Grand Prix weekend when he received a Toro Rosso for first practice at the Japanese Grand Prix, aged 17 years and three days.
Verstappen was signed for the Toro Rosso team – the former name of Alpha Tauri, which now bears the name of a group fashion brand – in 2015 and in the fifth race of 2016 he was promoted to Red Bull , winning the Spanish Grand Prix on his debut. for the senior team.
After abandoning their engine partnership with Renault and allying with Honda in 2019, Red Bull has become increasingly competitive and in 2021 had its first absolutely competitive car since 2013.
Verstappen used it against Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in one of the most intense title battles in F1 history, with the Red Bull driver eventually declared champion after a controversial finale in which he won the race, overtaking Hamilton, after the FIA race director failed to follow. the rules correctly during a late safety car period.
With the advent of new rules in 2022, Red Bull emerged as the dominant team, culminating in Verstappen’s dominant charge to a second world title.
Throughout his F1 involvement, Mateschitz, despite being a reclusive character who rarely gave interviews, became one of the sport’s most important power brokers.
At the same time, he used his fortune to help regenerate his native region of Styria in Austria, promoting local crafts and arts. He also created the charity Wings For Life to benefit spinal cord research.
He left an important legacy in motorsport and global commerce. But his passing inevitably leaves long-term question marks over all aspects of the business, even though Chalerm Yoovidhya, Chaleo’s eldest son and considered Red Bull’s majority shareholder from the start, would be passionate about F1.