If you throw enough brands at a Formula One car, some of them may stick. That’s clearly Renault’s strategy as their pals at Infiniti are sponsoring the Red Bull Renault team for the next two years.
It was widely predicted that Infiniti would be on the grid in 2011, but most assumed the Renault powerplant that sits behind the bum of the youngest ever world champ would simply be rebadged. However the Renault badges aren’t going to be prised away, instead Infiniti will appear as a separate sponsor on what will now probably be known as a Red Bull Racing Renault Infiniti by the PR folk of the paddock.
It’s an interesting strategy, although ultimately rebadging or sponsorship makes no difference to the engine itself. Instead it allows Red Bull to spend more on their car with their extra funds, something they could grow accustomed to over the next couple of years. So if Red Bull ever consider switching to another engine supplier, as they were reported to have done during 2009, the team will also be forfeiting cash from a Renault-affliated company. Infiniti are part of the Renault-Nissan alliance and would surely leave if their French friends did likewise. This deal may be about more than just a mobile billboard, the arrival of the Japanese premium brand could also be a nice little bargaining chip for the future, part of a larger package of benefits that Renault can offer their champion chums.
Perhaps it’s the seemingly political use of sponsors on the Proton-Lotus-Lada-Renault team that makes me think in such a sceptical sense, but I guess we should still welcome a new Japanese presence in F1, even if its only in the form of stickers and stitching rather than bonafide engineering input. Red Bull and Infiniti are meant to also be striking up a technical partnership, but what this means to either party we don’t yet know. They could currently be developing carbon-fibre cup holders perfectly shaped to hold a can of Red Bull or maybe Adrian Newey could pen a luxury SUV?