While news that Red Bull Racing would retain its association with Renault for the 2016 Formula 1 season, the bigger headline was that its motors will henceforth be known as ‘TAG Heuer’ in deference to its new major sponsorship deal with the Swiss watchmaker.
By no means is this the first time that an F1 engine has been rebadged for a sponsor (or even a sadly deceased racing driver). Here are ten such instances in Formula 1 history, with some enjoying considerably more success than others…
Fondmetal is perhaps better known as a manufacturer of alloy wheels, founded in 1972 by Italian motor racing enthusiast Gabriele Rumi after he took over his grandfather’s iron foundry business in Brescia.
Having occasionally dabbled in hill climbs and the odd Formula Monza race in the 1960s, Rumi turned his attention to manufacturing lightweight alloy wheels and made the jump to Formula 1 in 1983 as a sponsor for Italian racing driver Piercarlo Ghinzani.
Fondmetal would serve as a wheel supplier for the likes of Williams, Ligier, Tyrrell and Osella through the 1980s, and became Osella’s major sponsor in 1989. That was the launchpad for Rumi to acquire a majority shareholding in the team, and it was subsequently renamed ‘Fondmetal’ in 1991.
The team competed for one-and-a-half seasons before being forced to close its doors, and Rumi stepped back to being a sponsor and wheel supplier with Tyrrell (1994-1995) before moving on to Minardi in 1996. Rumi would gradually increase his interest in the little Italian team, becoming co-owner and then chairman.
In 2000, the team rebadged its engines in deference to Fondmetal; these were actually Ford Zetec-R V10 units debuted by the Stewart team in 1998. While extremely reliable, the 770bhp engines were significantly down on power and – at 124kg – very heavy compared with the rest of the field.
Despite a neat Gustav Brunner-designed chassis and a striking paint job, neither Marc Gené nor Gastón Mazzacane was able to lift the team off the back row of the grid.
The same engines would be in use in 2001…
|MINARDI – FONDMETAL V10|
Minardi’s continued struggle reach its lowest point at the end of the 2000 season when Rumi was forced to sell his shareholding after being diagnosed with cancer (he would succumb to the illness in May 2001).
The team was set for closure until an eleventh-hour rescue from Australian entrepreneur Paul Stoddart, who rescued the outfit and managed to pull everything together in a matter of weeks to get the team back on the grid.
The new chassis, the PS01, was raced by Grand Prix debutante Fernando Alonso and perennial backmarker Tarso Marques (who was later replaced by Alex Yoong).
The tidy car was mated to the same ex-Stewart 1998-spec Ford Zetec-R V10 ‘Fondmetal’ run by the team in 2000, but this time the motor was rebadged a ‘European’ in deference to Stoddart’s European Aviation charter airline. Thanks to its ancient engines, the car was even less competitive than its predecessor, although Alonso was occasionally able to mix in the lower midfield in a highly impressive maiden season.
It would not be the last time that the team would run a rebadged engine…
|MINARDI – EUROPEAN V10|
Asiatech – or Asia Motor Technologies France – was founded under the leadership of Dr John Gano and F1 designer Enrique Scalabroni, purchasing the assets of Peugeot’s F1 engine programme after it exited the series at the end of 2000.
Its long-term aim was to develop an Asian-inspired F1 team with an in-house engine programme, and set about this path by supplying its engines – essentially the 2000-spec Peugeot engines run by the Prost team – for use at no cost to minor teams in 2001 and 2002.
The first year saw it supply the Arrows team for the 2001 season. The partnership was not a success and the team scored a solitary championship point all season. The engine suffered from repeated cracking problems in its cylinder head and blocks.
Frustrated with the lack of performance and reliability, Arrows moved on to a customer engine deal with Cosworth and ran out of funding midway through the 2002 season.
That left Minardi – itself needing to ditch its ancient Ford Zetec-R engines (see above) – to swoop up a free engine deal. The engines were still well down in the horsepower stakes, but reliability had improved significantly. Despite Mark Webber and Minardi claiming a famous fifth-placed finish at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, no further points’ finishes would follow.
Asiatech had looked into creating its own Formula 1 team, but its Japanese funding sources were cut off and it was forced to wind down shortly after the end of the season.
|ARROWS / MINARDI – ASIATECH V10|
The only engine in this countdown to be named after a driver, the Castellotti was named after former Ferrari driver Eugenio Castellotti, who had been killed at the age of 26 in a testing accident at Modena in 1957.
A privateer team was formed after his death, contesting a handful of Grands Prix in 1960 using a Cooper T51 chassis fitted with modified Ferrari Tipo 553 2.0-litre engines bored out to 2.5 litres and rebranded as “Castellotti”, with “Eugenio” on the cam covers.
The cars could be easily distinguished from other Cooper T51s in that the Castellotti engine’s design meant its exhausts exited on the left of the chassis – all other T51s not running these engines had their exhausts mounted to the right.
The team ran in four Grands Prix, fielding the likes of Gino Munaron, Giorgio Scarlatti and Giulio Cabianca. Cabianca achieved the team – and the engine’s – only points’ finish by finishing fourth on home soil at Monza.
In a tragic twist of fate, Cabianca – a close friend of the late Castellotti – was also killed at Modena Autodrome in 1961 when the T51-Castellotti he was testing suffered a stuck throttle. Unable to slow down, he went off track and hit a spectator (breaking his leg) before continuing through the circuit gates and into the town of Modena, crossing the busy Via Emilia. The car crashed against the wall of a workshop, but not before it hit a a bicycle, a motorcycle, and a small mini-van (not a taxi as often reported) and three parked cars.
The motorcyclist and mini-van driver were killed at the scene, while the cyclist was crushed and killed instantly by an iron block being carried by the mini-van. Cabianca suffered a fractured skull and was conscious at the scene of the accident, but passed away a few hours later.
|SCUDERIA EUGENIO CASTELLOTTI – CASTELLOTTI S4|
Four-time World Champion Alain Prost’s glittering racing career will be remembered alongside his disastrous foray as a team owner. Having purchased the Ligier team prior to the 1997 season in the hopes of re-establishing the team’s ambitions of becoming a French super-team, it was anything but.
Despite an abundance of sponsorship from the likes of Gauloises and Total alongside a works Peugeot engine deal, the team’s fortunes progressively declined and culminated in a point-less 2000 season where the team finished last in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
Peugeot and virtually all of the major sponsors pulled the pin, and Prost was left to seek new sponsors and an engine partner ahead of 2001. His saviour came in the form of customer Ferrari engines, which were rebadged ‘Acer’ in deference to the team’s title sponsor, the Taiwanese computer company.
The AP04 chassis looked quick in pre-season testing, but it was little more than a desperate ploy to grab more last-minute sponsorship. Once the season began, the car was mired in the lower midfield and scored just four points all year before the team collapsed in a mountain of debts at the end of the year.
|PROST – ACER V10|
BMW’s Formula 1 foray with its high-powered turbo engines came to an end after 1986, but its customer teams, Arrows (and later Ligier), needed a solution for 1987.
The team’s boss Jackie Oliver brokered a deal with support from the team’s primary sponsor USF&G to continue the use of the BMW engines, rebadged with the name of its subsidiary, Megatron, Inc.
Megatron was founded by long-time F1 aficionado John J. Schmidt, who coined the phrase: “Horse racing may have been the sport of kings, but auto racing is the sport of corporations”.
The rebadged engines – the designs of which dated back to 1982 – would be used for the next two seasons by Arrows before turbo engines were banned at the end of 1988. The engine achieved its last podium finish at the 1988 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, where Eddie Cheever finished in third place.
|ARROWS/LIGIER – MEGATRON 4-CYLINDER TURBO|
4 & 3. Mecachrome and PlayLife
Renault’s dominance of 1990s Formula 1 came to an end after 1997 when it ended its works’ involvement in the sport, although it still maintained a customer operation for former Renault factory teams, Williams and Benetton, for the 1998 season.
For 1998, Williams’ engines would be known as ‘Mecachrome’, while Benetton would run ‘PlayLife’ engines in deference to the fashion house’s subsidiary brand.
The year-old engines had next to no development and were found sorely lacking against rival power units produced by Mercedes and Ferrari. Reigning champions Williams finished a distant third in the Constructors’ Championship standings with just three podium finishes, while Benetton finished lower in the standings.
Flavio Briatore’s Supertec company took over the Renault customer programme in 1999, with Williams and BAR being clients in 1999 and Arrows coming on board for 2000.
Benetton kept its ‘PlayLife’ labelling until it was reunited with Renault as a works’ partner in 2001, later going on to win two further World Championship crowns in 2005 and 2006 with Fernando Alonso.
|WILLIAMS – MECACHROME V10|
|BENETTON – PLAYLIFE V10|
The Sauber team ran Mercedes/Ilmor and Ford engines over its first four seasons of Grand Prix racing before it secured customer Ferrari engines for 1997. Often year-old in their specification, the units would be branded ‘Petronas’ thanks to sponsorship from the Malaysian oil giant.
Ferrari and Sauber had a – sometimes suspiciously and dubiously – close relationship, which peaked with the Swiss team claiming an outstanding fourth overall in the 2001 Constructors’ Championship.
The arrival of BMW as a works’ partner in 2006 brought down the curtain on the longest and most recent examples of engine rebadging in the sport, which netted six podium finishes in a period dominated by the likes of Williams, McLaren, Ferrari and Renault.
Sauber would later return to Ferrari power in 2010 when BMW suddenly exited Formula 1 altogether – the ‘BMW Sauber Ferrari’ of 2010 remains one of the strangest entry list names in history – and the partnership has remained in place to this day, although this time with Ferrari-badged engines.
Having failed win a World Championship title since James Hunt’s triumph in 1976, McLaren needed to dispense with its Ford Cosworth engines if it wanted to return to the top of the pile.
Team boss Ron Dennis approached Porsche for the supply and development of a turbo engine, but Porsche was initially reluctant to lend its name to the project.
Mansour Ojjeh, a sponsor of McLaren and founder of Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG), agreed to lend his company’s support to the project. It accrued naming rights and worked in conjunction with Porsche to develop the new V6 TAG-branded turbo engines, which made their debut in late 1983.
Success was rapid and in 1984 Niki Lauda beat teammate Alain Prost to the World Championship by just half a point, with Prost continuing the rout with titles of his own in 1985 and 1986. McLaren claimed Constructors’ Championship crowns in 1984 and 1985.
While Porsche’s branding prominence increased along with the partnership’s success, by 1987 the engines were getting long in the tooth and struggling to compete against the ever-improving Honda turbo engines being run by Williams.
McLaren would subsequently acquire the Japanese carmaker’s almighty units for 1988 and would dominate F1 for the next five years, bringing down the curtain on the most successful engine rebadging chapter in the sport’s history.
|McLAREN – TAG PORSCHE V6 TURBO|
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