F1 - Infiniti: We came into the sport in a different way
"We weren’t making the engine, we didn’t own the team..."
At the launch of the Infiniti Red Bull Racing RB9, Simon Sproule, Corporate Vice President for Global Marketing & Communications for Infiniti talked about the new team partnership.
Simon, explain the thinking behind the strengthened relationship between Infiniti and Red Bull Racing?
Simon Sproule: "We entered the sport a couple of years ago in probably a very different way to a conventional automaker. We weren’t making the engine, we didn’t own the team, but like Red Bull Racing, we’re a young brand in terms of the car business and I think we went at it with a new approach. The evolution we’ve been through over the past couple of years in getting to know the team, getting to know the people involved meant that moving to full team partner status now just felt like the right thing to do. Effectively, we’ve been dating for the past couple of years and today I guess we’re getting married. Even the colour scheme, the purple, integrates very well into the whole team."
Infiniti is going to be a Technical Performance Partner as well. What does that mean on a practical level?
Simon Sproule: "At the end of the day, the RB9 has four wheels and that’s our business, so what we’ve found – in the last year particularly as we’ve started to work on technical projects with the team – is that there are quite a lot of common areas in which we can work, particularly some of the upstream work we’re doing on road cars. We’ve got some projects under way and I think that as a technical partner of the team in addition to the principal partnership I think we can open up a lot of different avenues for co-operation."
Christian Horner: "…that’s absolutely right. The exciting thing for Red Bull Racing as an independent team is that previously we haven’t had access to the type of R&D facilities a group like Infiniti and Nissan has at its disposal. It’s exciting for us and our engineering group to have those opportunities. We have a number of different initiatives already running on future technologies and future projects and more in the pipeline for the duration of this relationship. This type of partnership is part of the evolution of the team. It’s something that Red Bull wanted to do when we first came into Formula One but we wanted to do it with the right partner. We’ve been selective in who we’ve looked at. The relationship with Infiniti has grown over the past couple of years and has naturally developed into a title partnership."
Adrian Newey: "If I can pick up on something Simon was saying, it is definitely a technical partnership. It’s useful, I hope, for both sides. From our side, we can tap into Infiniti’s very large resources, large research facilities and their connections to key Japanese companies. I hope from Infiniti’s side they can see our working practices and how we are able to do things very quickly."
Is this something particularly relevant for the 2014 car?
Adrian Newey: It is and that’s where the partnership will really kick in. As Simon says, we’ve been getting to know each other over the past couple of years. Engineering lead times being what they are that’s a gradual process, but with the very large regulation changes coming in for 2014, there is a very real opportunity to cooperate.
Formula One is a tough sport and has frustrated car manufacturers in the past but this partnership is working out very well, isn’t it?
Simon Sproule: We came into the sport as a commercial partner with a great team that had a very open attitude to us getting involved in a very different way. It’s very tempting as a car manufacturer to want to play around with a Formula One team but we have a very strict rule that we don’t interfere with the race team. I believe that’s how it has worked so well – we have real respect for each other. However, what we need as an automaker, and the reason we are in the sport, is to get visibility for our brand. Obviously the team has done a great job by winning lots of races and getting us lots of exposure. I think we came into the sport in a different way and it has worked for us as a brand. Today is the next step in that journey."