Long-time McLaren sponsor TAG Heuer has defected to Red Bull Racing, the team has confirmed.
The announcement was made today via Red Bull Racing’s social media platforms, with the Milton Keynes squad even giving a cheeky hint that the company could be taking over the branding of its engines next year.
A tweet posted on Red Bull Racing’s Twitter feed confirmed the news, posting an image featuring a Swiss watchmaker inspecting the spot where a power unit would be used in the team’s Formula 1 car. The image was captioned “Swiss engineering to close the gap next season”.
— Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) December 3, 2015
The news confirms the end of TAG Heuer’s association with McLaren, which dates back over 30 years when French Saudi Arabian entrepreneur Mansour Ojjeh, the founder of Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG), joined the team after previously sponsoring Williams.
His company was subsequently engaged to finance the development of Porsche-built, TAG-branded turbo engines which ultimately helped the team claim successive World Championship titles between 1984-6. Ojjeh later became a shareholder in McLaren and currently holds a 25% stake which he is expected to sell.
Today TAG-Heuer and TAG are now different companies. Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG) sold TAG-Heuer to Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) in 1999, while today TAG is principally involved in the aviation industry.
Red Bull Racing, meanwhile, is expected to announce that it will remain Renault-powered next year, although the units will not carry any of the engine-maker’s branding following a very public falling-out between the two parties.
Unhappy with the performance of its V6 turbo-hybrid power units since their inception in 2014, Red Bull Racing opted for an early termination of its Renault contract in the hope of sourcing an alternative supplier. It was subsequently rebuffed by Mercedes, blocked from a Honda deal by McLaren, and refused to accept Ferrari’s offer of a 2015-spec power unit (a deal which sister outfit Scuderia Toro Rosso will claim instead).
As a result, it had to come back to Renault, cap in hand, to ask to be let back into the fold. The continuation is all but confirmed, although the exact branding of the power units remains officially unconfirmed at the time of publishing this story.
Should Red Bull Racing indeed brand their Renault power units as TAG, not only will they have claimed a prized McLaren sponsor, but also the idea that funded one of the best turbo engines in Formula 1 history.
Images via TechnoBuffalo