McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says he is “concerned” about Red Bull’s ownership of AlphaTauri, at a time when the latter team is set for an increased presence in the United Kingdom. Up until now, AlphaTauri has been based entirely in Italy.
AlphaTauri’s new identity is yet to be revealed but it is the only team wholly owned by another Formula 1 team owner, with Red Bull GmbH also in control of Red Bull Racing. While RACER understands UK expansion relates to the existing aerodynamics department and marketing ahead of the team’s rebranding, Brown says dual ownership is no longer something that is necessary in modern F1.
“Clearly we want to continue to close the gap,” Brown said. “We finished up last year second, third quickest team, depending on which circuit you were at. The car development has been strong. Red Bull certainly seems like they didn’t develop last year to the level they could if they wanted to, so that could be an unpleasant surprise for all of us.
“Concerned over the AlphaTauri/Red Bull alliance. AlphaTauri is, from what I understand, moving to the UK which I think will benefit both teams. So this A/B team and co-ownership – which is a whole other level of A/B team – is of big concern, to ours and the health of the sport and the fairness of the sport.
“When these were put in place, the sport was in a different place. You had a huge gap between people like ourselves who had huge budgets and smaller teams. Now everybody is pretty much at the cap if not at the cap, so everyone’s playing with the same size bat, to use a baseball term. And therefore that’s not necessary, but it might give someone an unfair advantage, and I think that’s something we need to tackle with the sport quickly.”
However, despite seeing Red Bull dominate 2023 and Max Verstappen wrapping up the championship with six grands prix remaining, Brown says the budget cap has definitely closed the field up and Red Bull deserves credit for being able to deliver such performance.
“I think the cap has been outstanding for the sport,” he said. “It’s not yet perfect, but I don’t think something that’s so young wasn’t going to have some loopholes that the FIA is closing, such as the TD45 [ED: A technical directive introduced by the FIA in 2023 – backdated to January 1 of last year – that outlines how the governing body will interpret the costs of items that are a product of a team’s non-F1 activities (excluded from the cost cap) but become part of its F1 operation].“
“Max made it the most dominant season by one driver/team ever, and then if you take Max out of the equation – which you can’t – you’d have, I think for the first time, five teams with seven or more podiums, and I can’t recall a team 10th in the constructors always being a threat to being in Q3.
“I think we’re all used to the team in P10 being three seconds off pole. So I think the budget cap has had the intended consequence of making the field much more competitive. I can tell you from sitting on pitwall there’s no team, when we’re looking at times, that we don’t feel is a threat to getting into Q3, and I think that’s the benefit of the budget cap.
“Hats off to Adrian Newey and his team, they’ve just done a better job than all of us, and hopefully that sort of domination will be a thing of the past and what we will end up with is a much more competitive grid, because we do have that with 19 of the cars.”