Visa Cash App RB is the worst team name in Formula 1 history and is an embarrassment to Red Bull and Formula 1 as a whole.
Not only does it sound fatuous, but it also showcases an avaricious lack of imagination that can only be spirit-sapping for those working for the team and signal to the hundreds of millions watching that this is not a competitor to be taken seriously. The disconnected way the name, which the team has now confirmed, has gradually dribbled out also raises big questions about the strategy.
It’s hard to imagine Dietrich Mateschitz allowing this to happen were he still around, which is telling in itself given Red Bull was built on its astonishing capacity for imaginative marketing strategies.
Red Bull can call the team whatever it wants, that’s not in question, but it’s a surprise that Stefano Domenicali hasn’t put pressure on to create a more credible identity. That perhaps reflects one of the weaknesses of the Liberty Media era, which is determined to sell F1’s glitz and glamour yet is apparently happy to have 10% of its actual product sound like it’s a thrown-together operation that might briefly appear on the back of a British Touring Car Championship grid during a particularly moribund season.
Perhaps that’s not a surprise given F1 constantly showcases the real lack of confidence in its product given how much it tries to lean on big names from other endeavours to promote it.
It’s doubly bizarre given the increased criticism from rivals about the alliance between Red Bull Racing and its second team. The underlying Racing Bulls team name not only creates confusion, but also suggests it is seen as less of an independent operation than ever, existing mainly as some kind of on-track billboard extension.
With the team set to move much of its design operation to Red Bull’s Milton Keynes campus later this year, that is also a strategic blunder.
Having sponsors in ‘official’ team names isn’t new and is a necessary evil. The airbrushing of any independent identity and then reducing it simply to an ‘RB’, means that this isn’t an example of a team where you can ignore the name. It’s a commentator's nightmare, as even the most elegant solution of calling it ‘Racing Bulls’ will cause confusion for the new fans F1 is supposed to be courting.
This goes far beyond what we’ve seen before as, for example, the use of the Stake name by Sauber for the next two years is an interim measure before it becomes Audi in 2026.
AlphaTauri was hardly a successful name – and the fashion company didn’t take off – while Scuderia Toro Rosso was simply an Italian version of what the main team was called. But both gave it an identity that remained tied to Italy and its roots as the Minardi team. Calling it what is effectively ‘Red Bull 2’ and selling the naming rights to the highest bidder strips it of personality, identity and ambition.
That’s a great shame because it’s a team populated by very accomplished, motivated and devoted people who have often punched above their weight since Red Bull bought the ailing team ahead of the 2006 season. They deserve better than this, as do F1 as a whole and the fans.
At a time of great opportunity for F1, this unimaginative name just signals ‘don’t bother’ to the wider world.
This article was first published when rumours of the Visa Cash App RB name emerged and has now been updated to reflect the official announcement