Taurine, or 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, is an organic acid widely distributed in animal tissues. It is a major constituent of bile and can be found in the large intestine.
It is also one of the main ingredients of Red Bull.
It might come as little shock to motorsport fans that the energy drink and bile should have such a chief component in common, so forthcoming has the bitterness spewed from the once all-conquering Formula 1 team been in the aftermath of the Australian Grand Prix. Down on power and down on luck, the target men of the opening half of the decade were lapped in the opening race of the 2015 season and could barely put up a fight to a team which had failed to score a single point the season before.
But the concept that anyone is to blame for the situation Red Bull finds itself in other than them is laughable.
Red Bull Racing opted to align itself with Renault some years ago. Once the engine manufacturer gave up its role as a Formula 1 constructor to focus on its primary function, Red Bull essentially became its factory team. It was a symbiotic relationship and yet not one without flaws. Red Bull took, as its title sponsor, Infiniti. Although owned by Nissan and thus part of the same family as Renault, it deflected attention away from the French company, which was vocal in its disappointment that more was not made of its input into Red Bull’s four consecutive World Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships.
The discontent was only heightened last year when after four years of total domination, Red Bull willfully threw their engine partner under the bus once its hybrid power unit was seen not to be as reliable or competitive as had been expected or promised.
Had those at Red Bull held memories that went back further than their years of domination, they might well have remembered that the penultimate engine regulation change had left Renault floundering. And the one before that. If we recall, when the V8 engines were frozen back in 2007, it was Mercedes which proved to have the best unit while the other suppliers pleaded and were finally permitted to catch up. While Renault had been all conquering on the change from V10 to V8 for 2005 and 2006, it was under an engine freeze that the company struggled. As it does today.
Comments made by Cyril Abiteboul to the French press after Australia should leave Red Bull feeling chastened, as the Managing Director of Renault Sport F1 admitted that the power units used by Red Bull in Melbourne included components which had been rushed through against the advice and regular testing processes employed at Viry Chatillon. Abiteboul, far from admitting Mea Cupla, stood firmly in his employer’s corner and came out swinging. It was Red Bull which had ordered the rush. It was Red Bull which had insisted on running brand new parts. It was Red Bull which was the architect of its own downfall.
But the headlines remain, and the negativity sticks. Despite Christian Horner’s own pleas that the sport cease from airing its dirty laundry in public, it was he and Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko who made the loudest noises in the aftermath of the race that the formula was broken and that, if things didn’t change, Red Bull would consider quitting.
It’s a stunt Luca di Montezemolo used to employ at Ferrari. When things aren’t going your way, threaten to pull the most storied brand in the sport out of competition, and you’ll get your way. Only di Montezemolo stopped getting his way. And then he stopped getting the support of his bosses. And then he got replaced.
How different, how refreshing, to have Ferrari’s new guard come out after Melbourne and state categorically that Mercedes should not be pegged back. It is a challenge for Ferrari to rise up and face head on, they said. The bosses at Maranello finally understand that only by acting in such a virtuous fashion will they add value to their brand.
When have you heard McLaren threaten to quit? Even in Melbourne, running five seconds a lap off the pace, Ron Dennis was nothing but effervescent about the future possibilities of his team’s partnership with Honda. When have you heard Williams threaten to walk away? These two great, once dominant, multiple world championship winning teams are the epitome of racing resilience. Neither has taken a constructors’ crown in over a decade and a half. Yet where is the quit threat?
Red Bull might do well to remember the words of Ron Dennis: “Neither success nor failure is ever final.”
The garagistes of old are the grandees of today, now facing a new challenge fronted by marketeers determined to bend the sport around their every commercial whim. Like a plague… swarming, devouring all before it until there is nothing left upon which to feast and moving on. The life blood of a drinks company is not racing. Why then, should their every demand be met with deference and subservience by a governing body and commercial arm terrified of losing a brand which, in the grander scheme of things, is a Johnny Come Lately?
Red Bull is not Ferrari. Its threats to quit the sport should hold not nearly the same resonance or fear.
The last time Red Bull got their sums wrong, really wrong, was Barcelona 2013. I remember the race so clearly. By the fifth lap, my producer Jason Swales and I had given each other a knowing smile and phoned through what we saw as their strategy to the NBC commentary team. In an era of Pirelli tyres which the world thought one had to preserve, Fernando Alonso was banging in quali laps on full fuel. He and Ferrari were flipping the script and would run the tyres off their rims. They were going to four stop.
By the time Red Bull, and most of the world, had figured out their ploy it was too late. Embarrassed by their own failings, Red Bull made the same grand statements they have been forced into making post Melbourne. That this isn’t racing. That this isn’t Formula 1. It’s too confusing. Too complicated. The variables are too diverse. And we are questioning whether we want to be a part of it.
Only Ferrari, Lotus and Force India had properly designed their cars around the tyres in 2013. The likes of Red Bull and Mercedes were chewing through them. For Mercedes, overworking the rears was a perennial issue. For Red Bull, Ferrari’s masterstroke in Barcelona had left them flat footed. Calls were made for changes to the tyres. They were calls which went, initially, unheeded.
And so extreme measures were employed: adverse and extreme camber, under inflation, and the switching of tyres to opposite sides of the car. Every team reacted, even Ferrari. It all combined to create the blowouts of the British Grand Prix. The teams could now claim Pirelli’s tyres were dangerous and needed redesigning. Pirelli came out strongly in its own defense, arguing that the tyres were being used by the teams against Pirelli’s own recommendations and in a manner which could, under certain circumstances, become dangerous.
But the teams, headed by Red Bull, got their way. More durable tyres were constructed. Ferrari, Lotus and Force India lost their advantage.
It now must seem bitterly ironic that in that one move, Red Bull had led a charge which removed the one variable which Mercedes had been unable to resolve themselves, setting the foundations upon which, aligned to a magnificent power unit and beautifully designed car, the team would launch its dominant 2014 campaign.
A case of being careful for what one wishes for, perhaps.
Pirelli has been cast as the villain ever since for then becoming too conservative in its tyre allocations. With more durable rubber produced for 2015, already those same proclamations are being made for the current season. But we would do well to remember that all of this has its roots in 2013 and the very public, very damaging negative comments about the state of the sport and the publicly raised questions over the continued involvement of Red Bull.
How then, does Formula 1 react to its latest quit threat? Does it panic and set itself on a course towards further ruin? Or does it call Red Bull’s bluff? For never have the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few… or the one… more than they do in F1 today. No one team is bigger than the sport, and pandering to the whim of a single outfit has never resulted in a positive outcome for the furtherance of competition.
So Red Bull wants to quit. Let it. It is locked into the sport until 2020. The only way it is getting out is by selling up.
Renault is in talks to buy Toro Rosso. Strengthening paddock talk links Audi with an all-out take-over at Milton Keynes.
Perhaps it is time to leave racing to racers. And the bile for the fizzy drinks.