The loss of the Austrian entrepreneur will be keenly felt but he leaves an immense legacy
When Dietrich Mateschitz arrived in Milton Keynes to address the beleaguered staff of Ford’s unloved Jaguar Racing team in November 2004, he wrote the opening chapter of a remarkable story. One in which the group of people who stood in front of him that morning would be transformed into world beaters.
Christian Horner was two months away from being made Team Principal, Adrian Newey would not be lured to the fold for another year, but Mateschitz knew precisely what he wanted.
I’ve often regretted not recording his speech. He gave the staff a vision of what they would become as Red Bull Racing, the values for which Red Bull stood, his passion for F1 dating back to the time when, in his twenties, he followed the exploits of hero Jochen Rindt, and his personal ambition for the team.
The goal he said, was to becoming a winner in F1 within five years, to one day win the World Championship.
Just a few weeks later I climbed on board his private jet for a trip to Madrid, the two of us off to visit Repsol in the hope of securing their support. A third person joined us, Austrian journalist Gerhard Kuntschik undertaking a rare interview with the man who first created the global energy drinks industry, then dominated it.
Not for ‘Didi’ Mateschitz the crass egotism of Elon Musk or publicity obsessed antics of Richard Branson. Here was an intensely private individual who stood firmly behind his brand, not in front of it. When asked for high profile interviews he simply declined.
In that Repsol meeting I gained an early insight into his modus operandi. If the Spanish oil giant could support RBR, Red Bull would reciprocate. In rallying, touring cars or motorcycle racing. In short Red Bull - or rather Mateschitz - did not need their money, but he did value partnerships.
On a subsequent visit to meet him at Hangar 7, where the jet taxied straight from Salzburg airport’s runway to our meeting room in his Bond-like lair, he shared his backstory. We then went to meet Jurgen Rauch whose family business was given the task of producing the first Red Bull in Europe, way back in 1987.
Then to see 90,000 cans of Red Bull machine-gunning off the end of each of four production lines every hour of every day for 50 weeks of the year, with a fortnight for maintenance. Back then sales were 2.4 billion cans per year and rising, by 2021 that figure had quadrupled.
In Formula 1 Red Bull’s arrival as a team owner changed everything. Previously a sponsor, first associated with Gerhard Berger, their acquisition of Jaguar Racing and then Minardi gave Mateschitz ownership of 20% of the grid and a degree of power few could rival.
His support for talented people and teams across the worlds of motorsport, aviation and extreme sports was no act of charity, though he deeply enjoyed those activities. He turned his passions into the marketing platform upon which his brand was built, wooing young consumers the world over into sampling the product.
Who doesn’t want to be cool, slim and filled with energy, just like a Red Bull can? His explanation to me of Red Bull’s product design and marketing was simple, then simply brilliant in its execution.
Mateschitz was a change-agent in business and in life, making it possible for many now-familiar names in F1 to achieve their dreams. His legacy is truly immense.
This article by Mark Gallagher was first published in GP Racing Magazine