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Formula 1

What's this F1 team actually called - and what should it be?

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
9 min read

Given the proliferation of corporate driven-identities in mainstream international sport, the bosses of Red Bull's second Formula 1 team may have been forgiven - or at least understood - if they went on the attack after the team's new Visa Cash App RB F1 Team identity was roundly mocked by both fans and the usually more-reserved media.

Instead, that mockery and the overall questioning of 'VCARB' as a valid team identity seems to have been taken on the chin if new CEO Peter Bayer's talk with the media during Bahrain F1 testing is anything to go by.

Bayer, the respected ex-FIA figure brought on to steer the commercial side of Red Bull's second F1 operation, is part of that overhaul that does add validity to the idea of the team entering a new phase of its F1 existence - along with the arrival of Laurent Mekies as the team boss from Ferrari, the exit of long-serving 'face of the team' Franz Tost, the closer cooperation with the senior Red Bull team and an expansion of its UK presence.

But that was never the issue. Instead, the question was always about the merits and legitimacy of whatever new identity was adopted - and eyebrows were being raised last year once rumours and reports picked up that Red Bull wasn't convinced having the team represent its clothing brand AlphaTauri was getting the right returns.

If the initially speculated Hugo Boss Bulls rebrand ever got to any serious stage, the wide derision once it leaked out probably helped pump the brakes on that. Then again, maybe not - because it's not meaningfully different to the reaction to Visa Cash App RB.

Mea culpa

Considering that it's not like the AlphaTauri F1 cars were being drawn up by the fashion designers, and that Sauber had just ended a five-year stint as the Alfa Romeo team during which it still very much remained Sauber for all intents and purposes, you'd perhaps expect a bit of defiance here.

But while Bayer stresses he's happy with the eventual team identity - and also with the colourful livery that did seem to get a strong reception, especially compared to the bare carbon-dominated rival colour schemes - he has also fronted up to the fact the 'VCARB' rollout wasn't perfect.

"I guess we take some responsibility because we've been late with a lot of stuff," he said.

"It was a massive effort in getting everything signed and ready. I'm talking about team kit, sponsorship agreements and all the bits and pieces that come with it.

"We've learned some lessons definitely on the communication aspect of the launch for example, we could have done better.

"We'll happily take that up.

"In terms of the team rebranding, I think that was a complex exercise that involved many stakeholders. We are actually very happy because we had the amazing problem of having Visa and Cash App and Red Bull supporting us and saying 'we want to take this team to the next level'.

"The car launch itself I have to say was an amazing experience. It was also a big success because the livery made up for a lot of what I said initially.

"People were like 'wow, finally a good looking car'."

What's the idea?

"A few years ago we would have been dreaming about having Visa or Cash App in the sport, just in the sport, in Formula 1," claimed Mekies, striking a somewhat more defiant tone than Bayer.

"We were dying to find this sort of global company to see our sport as the right platform to invest in."

Certainly, there's a healthy argument that Visa in particular is a title sponsor of a stature befitting of Formula 1 - nobody would've blinked an eye at Scuderia Visa AlphaTauri.

Having a second title sponsor, though, probably meant that there was never going to be a particularly tidy solution here once the deals were agreed.

"It is a bit of a mouthful but at the same time, it's the reality - it's Visa, it's Cash App, it's Red Bull that's supporting us as Racing Bulls, a company [that operates the team] in Italy," said Bayer.

"What we've seen with fans is that yes, there was confusion, but they've quickly picked it up, really, we see a lot of people on the younger side calling us Visa Cash App RB and it comes out easily."

That's a claim that certainly invites a healthy bit of scepticism - and a few questions later Bayer acknowledged the four-word identity doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

"It's something we are trying to embrace as a challenge. We're realistic enough that we cannot expect the media to continuously say 'Visa Cash App RB is racing against' but at the end, it's one way of opening ourselves as a team to try and get these partners onboard.

"We need sponsors to make this work.

"We get support from the shareholders, we get money from Formula 1. But it's not enough to hit the cap and ultimately the cap is defining competition - so how to close that gap? We have to sell our inventory and we don't think it's a bad thing."

What we'd call it

To offer up a bit of a 'how the sausage is made' background from our side, the editorial guidelines on what exactly we call this post-Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri team have been a subject of repeated, extensive discussion ever since the new team identity broke cover.

There's nothing unusual about that in itself - and there's certainly nothing unusual to team names in motorsport undergoing wild metamorphoses that pose an editorial challenge - but this has been a particular head-scratcher.

Would it be VCARB? It's very much on the clunky side - a five-letter acronym is not great and a five-letter acronym that's this dependent on a specific sponsorship arrangement is doubly so.

Would it be Racing Bulls? It's a bit generic, isn't it? It's kind of like what the Red Bull-owned football team in Leipzig does - it calls itself RasenBallsport Leipzig (directly translated to 'lawn ball sport') but ask most people familiar with the team and they'll probably tell you the RB stands for Red Bull.

So, in that same vein, RB - the actual shorthand for Visa Cash App RB that seems to have been accepted in F1 and by the team itself for now - brings the exact same confusion. We already have an RB - OK, it's an RBR, Red Bull Racing, but it's hard for the brain to make a distinction. I've been tripped up more than a couple of times, even if for just a second or two - and I've already had more time and reason to process this new identity than the casual audience ever will.

For just a bit of fun, I canvassed editorial opinions on what we'd use as this team's shorthand, its identity, if it was just up to us (and assuming the full name stayed as it is):

Matt Beer: VCARB - It's genuinely catchy as a name, just not much use to RB's actual sponsors as it sounds like a new super-food (velocity carbohydrates, maybe?)

Scott Mitchell-Malm: Racing Bulls - It's not a good company name given the political connotations for Red Bull owning two teams at the moment, but it is the chosen name and it's an identity that works, so just embrace it rather than pussyfoot around it.

Val: RB2 - I mean, that is what it is. Bit of a 'football club's reserve squad' vibe to it, and the team itself rightly wouldn't particularly love it, but it's the best way to accentuate that it is a Red Bull team but not the Red Bull team.

Jack Benyon: Toro Rosso - RB doesn't mean anything, isn't beneficial to anyone and is confusing. Toro Rosso meant something, will make fans of the era Toro Rosso was used in nostalgic, and differentiates the team from Red Bull. The Italian links back to its factory and heritage. Perfect.

Josh Suttill: RB - All my colleagues are wrong. RB isn't synonymous with this team yet but give it half a year and we'll all be wondering why we were ever worried. Roll on the actual racing.

Glenn Freeman: Racing Bulls - Assuming 'RB-Minardi' is off the table, of the various identities flying around this team, Racing Bulls makes the most sense.

Firstly, it actually sounds like a name of something. RB is just weird, and feels incomplete. And that's before you get onto the fact RB actually stands for Red Bull. It would be like Ferrari buying a second team and calling it F.

Racing Bulls creates links with Dietrich Mateschitz's 'Flying Bulls' that has history going back decades. So at least it means something, and is a nice nod to the parent company's late founder.

I'm also curious to know what F1's new and growing US fanbase thinks of all this. Motorsport fans there are used to sponsor names being front and centre: you're just as likely to hear that someone drives a 'NAPA Tools Chevy' in NASCAR as you are to hear that they drive for 'Hendrick Motorsports'.

So does Red Bull's somewhat cynical attempt to strip its second team of any identity, to force people to use the sponsor name, only feel cynical to a more established, European fanbase? Those who know Mercedes is officially called Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team (even if Lewis Hamilton struggles with it!), but they're happy as long as the sponsor names are kept slightly in the background? 

Why not Racing Bulls?

Ultimately, it's not just about the aesthetics or how well it rolls off the tongue - it's just plainly existential. What is the team that is this team, and no other team?

Bayer's rhetoric suggests the long-term answer to this question is probably Racing Bulls - the name of the company, and a name that accentuates its connection to Red Bull while being other words.

"Maybe to go back in history, the Racing Bulls name is actually part of the Red Bull philosophy, they have the Flying Bulls where Mr. Mateschitz had his planes," said Bayer, referencing the aforementioned private fleet of historic aircraft.

"So that seemed to be a logical consequence. Racing Bulls is our company name in Italy, we've been discussing different options and we just felt that already - and I said it myself before, it's a bit of a mouthful - if you imagine the 'Visa Cash App Racing Bulls Formula 1 team', you'll be tired at the end of writing the article.

"So that was really where the idea came from to abbreviate Racing Bulls into RB.

"And to put that as a chassis name, simply remains as a historic element that we want to carry forward if partners were to change."

The 2024 car is officially the VCARB 01, but the chassis name on the entry list is just RB.

"We're focusing on the car at the moment and we'll see where we end up with on the name," said Bayer somewhat cryptically.

He later added: "We know it might be controversial because it's obviously easier to be Ferrari than RB. Mid-term we believe RB Racing Bulls element is strong enough to cope with strong commercial partnership integration."

So, there's your answer, it would seem - RB if Racing Bulls is too long, Racing Bulls if RB is too nondistinctive.

But the existential problem remains.

Bayer is right - it is easier to be Ferrari than RB. And if the Ferrari name vanished from F1 tomorrow, you better believe that would be a shock.

But the same would be true for, say, Red Bull or Mercedes. Even Aston Martin or Haas going away would make a splash (and it's not like either of those teams is obviously rooted in the manufacturing companies they represent).

It kind of was true for Toro Rosso. As simple as it was, it was different enough and stuck around for long enough.

But now, if Red Bull's second team wants the kind of identity that hardcore fans will favour over just saying 'Team Faenza' or 'Minardi' and casual fans will favour over saying 'honestly, I already forgot', it will have to stick with it for a bit. And it has to be sure, very sure, already that RB Racing Bulls can actually get there with time.

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