By on November 26, 2012

Nissan’s Infiniti is joining high-powered nameplates such as Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes and becomes title sponsor of a Formula One racing team. Under a four year contract, the highly successful Red Bull Racing team will change its name to Infiniti Red Bull Racing starting with the 2013 season.

Infiniti has been a co-sponsor of Red Bull Racing’s car RB8 since 2011, and Sebastian Vettel was a brand ambassador. However, Infiniti’s name was relegated to infinitesimally small stickers on the car. Now, Infiniti becomes one of the big names of Formula One, and it breathes the rarefied atmosphere vacated by global brands such as BMW, Toyota and Honda. The companies all bailed during carmageddon when splurging for sports was the wrong thing to do. Or, as The Paddock Magazine put it back then: “The last thing that most companies wanted to be seen doing last year was guzzling champagne at the expense of their shareholders.” Now, it slowly becomes socially acceptable again.

The champagne does not come cheap: Before Toyota left the sport, its Formula One budget stood at $445.6 million, Honda and BMW spent similar amounts before they pulled out. We don’t dare to ask the cost of becoming the title sponsor of a three times champion.

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31 Comments on “Infiniti To Become One Of The Big Names Of Formula One...”


  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    At least they will have one more year of engine stability before things go nuts in 2014 with turbos and thermal energy recovery. In any case, since they are the leading Renault team, they’ve been spending that amount of money already.

    (BTW, the race in Brazil this year was insanely good. Totally glued to the TV the whole time.)

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Are they getting engine naming rights? Since Infiniti and Renault are already the same company, I suppose they could if Renault wanted. Are Infiniti sales significant enough for Renault to stop advertising that their mass market European cars are built by championship engine suppliers? I wouldn’t think so, which is why it has never made much sense to me to put Infiniti’s name on a car that’s called a RedBull-Renault by commentators.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      No engine naming rights. It’ll be an Infiniti Red Bull-Renault.

      Ferrari and Mercedes actually own and run their own teams.

      • 0 avatar
        L'avventura

        Is Renault still having their engine supplied by Mecachrome for 2013 like they are now? As engine regulations have changed, and I haven’t heard anything new, I was assuming that Mecachrome would continue to build engines for Renault.

        Either way, its odd marketing. It would help Infiniti if they just dropped the “Renault” name all together from at least the Red Bull team. While I’m still sceptical of the marketing strength of F1 in general, Infiniti certainly could use the name recognition in Europe, as F1 really hasn’t helped Infiniti much up till now.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        Yes, Mecachrome builds the engines, Renault does design (and funding!) only.

        Don’t know what will happen in 2014 with the switch to the 1.6T engines, but the Mecachrome arrangement seems to make sense for Renault now, so it may well continue then, too.

  • avatar
    lowsodium

    I might be wrong, but I dont think Infiniti has brought anything to Redbull other than money and stickers to put on their cars. Redbull was already doing well before Infiniti showed up.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      Here’s a good interview:

      http://www.autoweek.com/article/20121123/F1/121129947

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        that is an interesting interview. I will be interested to see what sort of engineering cross pollination happens. I had always assumed it was just stickers on the car and uniform, so I’ll be impressed if it turns into more than that. I will be curious to see how much mention Infiniti gets. I’d say their logos are as prominently displayed, if not more so then Ferrari’s (if you exclude the color of the car), Mercedes, Lotus’s, Caterham’s, and Mclaren’s, with most of my pictures of the Red Bulls in Austin having Infiniti visible in the shot somewhere. The question will be how it gets named by announcers. I definitely think changing the names of the engines would have been best, because I’m not sure how many will use the full team name “Infiniti Red Bull-Renault”. How often do you hear Mclaren called “Vodafone Mclaren-Mercedes” or was Ferrari called “Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro” by commentators back in the day?

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        >I will be interested to see what sort of engineering cross pollination happens

        KERS is going to be a thing with road cars. The systems on the F-1 cars are so much smaller and more efficient than when the systems first got introduced. Thermal energy recovery kicks in starting 2014. Unlike a lot of F-1 tech, both have at least some sort of conceivable applications in road cars.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    I used to really like Infiniti, but I don’t get the point of the brand anymore. Infiniti came into its own with the first generation M45 and G35, as a RWD performance brand with better built, more reliable, less expensive cars than BMW. But Infiniti is walking away from that, and Ford, Chevy, Chrysler and Dodge are offering even better priced RWD performance cars now anyway. So what is the point? A Nissan with all the options ticked? Nissan will sell you that.

    For the markets where F1 is most popular Renault-Nissan’s best branding strategy would probably be a Datsun sponsored car powered by Dacia.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “So what is the point? A Nissan with all the options ticked? Nissan will sell you that.”

      I agree, and by that logic Acura need not exist either. Mr Worf, make it so!

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Acura served its purpose for my family. After a couple decades of Audis, BMWs(and a Mini Cooper for a girlfriend), a Mercedes, and a Porsche, buying an Acura was a way of leaving ridiculously declined German quality and design while holding onto some sense of prestige. Of course once we learned just how good Hondas really are, we didn’t have any problem buying a couple that have Hs on the hood instead of calipers. Acuras seem like great value after you’ve optioned up a few German cars. Maybe they seem like over priced Hondas to Chevy owners, but they’re bargains when you need to spend ten grand on options to bring a 3-series up to the same equipment level. On the other hand, maybe Honda would offer loaded sedans with powerful engines and manual transmissions if they weren’t protecting Acura’s niche.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Around here, the G35 is the only real competition for the BMW 3 series. There’s also a few QXs filling garages in the suburbs. These seem to be decent indications of there being “a point” to having Infiniti.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Mercedes C class isn’t a 3 series competitor?

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        In my parking garage I am seeing a lot of Mustangs and Camaros being purchased by the young professionals that in the past would have purchased an entry level 3-series. The Genesis Coupe and FR-S also compete with the 3-series for people that care about RWD performance. For people that care about image right now the hot thing is an Audi A5. I would love for Infiniti’s focus to remain RWD performance cars, but I’m not sure Infiniti is committed to that.

        I am definitely not sure what logic justifies Acura.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’d love an A5, I just can’t justify the price tag, and later the maintenance issues.

        Just checked lease trader, all A5s are 2.0 litre turbos and start at $425/month and go up to $803 (you’d think for that kinda cash it would be V6 standard but I digress). Maybe if I stop all of that pesky eating or tell the landlord to shove it for the rent?

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        I think Infiniti definitely has a reason for existing. They’re arguably either one of only 2, if not the only luxury brand (if you want to exclude BMW, which you could at this point make a case for) with a lineup of RWD cars targeted at enthusiast buyers. I haven’t driven an F10 3 series so I can’t say whether I’d get that or a G37 (based on the reviews of the F10 and having driven a G37, I’d say I’d be likely to take the G), but I’d definitely say the M class is my pick over the E class, 5 series, A6, and GS.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        @racer-esq, Where do you live? Where I live, I see some new Mustangs and Camaros. The ones that aren’t obviously rental cars must have an average ownership age well over 60, and I mean WELL over 60. Yuppies still drive BMWs and Audis, they’re just far more likely to be tattooed and listening to loud, embarrassing music.

  • avatar
    Pagani Baguette

    What a smart move by Infinity! You get onto a winning team, you put a small sticker and then stay and watch. The team wins again, then you put a bigger sticker and keep watching. Then the team wins for a third time in a row (!) and you go in and decide to only NOW change the name and put the big sticker! Next year (and the years after) sentences like “Infinity won 3 times in a row” will start appearing, in all sorts of context and while it will not be completely true, it will be somehow true and no one is going to correct the sentence each time by saying “well, technically they did not win as infinity the first three times”….

    Yes, BMW, Toyota and Honda failed (so is Mercedes so far!) because they did it exactly the other way around – they first bought a team, then transformed it into “their team” with their engines, management, influence, etc. Infinity is doing exactly the other way around – piggy-back a winning team and the more the team is winning, the more “Infinity” is becoming. In case RBR did not win the last two times, the sticker could have stayed smaller or disappear at all and no harm done as the masses always perceived the team as RBR and not Infinity.

    So brilliant!

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      There is a cost to jumping on a bandwagon after three consecutive championships. And it’s not small.

      RBR gets free engines from Renault, now they’ll also get a nice big cheque from Carlos Ghosn’s other pocket.

      • 0 avatar
        Pagani Baguette

        You are absolutely right, there is a cost and it is not low! But in this case you are buying a “sure thing”. The cost was/is also very high for BMW, Toyota, Mercedes, but they only bought the potential possibility of winning. And even if the cost for Infinity is higher (let’s assume worse case scenario) than what the others spent in their trials – Infinity purchased a done deal success, with immediate return (they are, in all effects, the current F1 champion!) So, even if they spent more, they got something for it. The rest (let’s assume) spent less but got nothing.

    • 0 avatar

      As long as Infiniti doesn’t start putting “World Champion Car Constructors 2010, 2011, 2012″ badges on their cars, like Lotus used to, I don’t mind.

      media.photobucket.com/image/recent/GavinT_photos/SJ050U0001.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        Pagani Baguette

        I have the feeling they will do exactly that! :) They can, technically, go even further – their Infinity F1 car will carry #1 in 2013, so there will be pictures of a car with Infinity logo, name and #1 on top of it on posters and the text underneath will go “We got #1 the first time we tried” or something along those lines. Technically if their name has been on a car even as a small sticker in 2010 and 2011, they can use the sentence “Infinity winning in F1″. Every sponsor uses a sentence like that, whether it sells diapers, radiators or cars. It of course requires an asterisk that later in the small text explains exactly the details, but who reads the small text…. Infinity is in fierce competition with BMW, so I will not be surprised if they even pulled the “It took them years and they never won – we have nailed it 3 times in a row and still going” or something along those lines…. but I am almost confident to bet they will do exactly what you are describing.

    • 0 avatar
      panzerfaust

      Toyota did not buy a team. On the contrary it attempted to become a works team in their own right, and build their team from scratch. Because of their desire to be a Japanese Ferrari they did some things that didn’t make much sense at first glance and in the long run proved to be their undoing (not the least of which was stealing intellectual property from Ferrari). They based their team in Cologne where their other motorsports programs were instead of Motorsports Valley, and so they had a hard time recruiting talent, who had to relocate to Germany in order to work for Toyota. They were isolated from the migration of engineers and technicians from team to team that happens in Britian. Instead of the team following the structure that all Formula One teams used (and for good reason) they used their own structure which was heavily freighted towards the suits in Aichi. Toyota’s effort in Formula one proved that money is important but it can’t buy you a championship. On the face of it everything was right, there were some very good aspects to their team, especially the engine program. But they didn’t have what other teams had, which was a Todt, a Dennis, a Briatore, a Brawn, and even if they had they wouldn’t have given him the freedom to manage and lead the team. When Mike Gascoyne delivered their best result; a 4th place in the constructors points he was fired. They didn’t have a Newey, and they didn’t have a Vettel, they had layers upon layers of very smart people hamstrung by their management, and they had highly paid average drivers who could not deliver what they were being overpaid for. Infiniti on the other hand is putting good money down on a winner. Certainly far less than Toyota ever spent on their failed F-1 venture. And with no where near the less risk.

      • 0 avatar
        Pagani Baguette

        Great post, Panzer!

        And I particularly like your:

        “But they didn’t have what other teams had, which was a Todt, a Dennis, a Briatore, a Brawn, and even if they had they wouldn’t have given him the freedom to manage and lead the team”…

        I personally think that is partially why they did not have the Todts or Brawns – because Todt, Brawn, etc. would have not agreed to get in there to begin with, knowing where this is going to go.

        But in a nutshell, if one ever has to explain Toyota’s F1 experience in few lines (even if we all know things are always a lot more complex than what is possible to write in a post), your little writeup is spot on!

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      To be fair, Mercedes also started at the top when they bought Brawn’s team. They just couldn’t keep it going.

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        Actually, I would call it more a case of poor scouting. Brawn won the championship because they inherited a car from Honda that had been in development for an unusually long period of time. In Honda’s (eventual last year), they ditched development very early to work on next year’s car when it was obvious that they were off the pace, and it worked off brilliantly. Too bad carmageddon happened soon after. When Mercedes bought in, they looked like they were buying a winner, but but that was more of a statistical blip in hindsight. Ross Brawn is a brilliant organizational man, but you still need a guy look Rory Bryne or John Barnard behind him as technical director… hence why Red Bull is a good buy-in for Infiniti. Good funding, two great drivers, and Adrian Newey cars that finally hold up over the course of a race. It’s a good time to buy, even if an investment in F-1 is usually very dubious.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        To be fair, stars aligned for Brawn GP, and Ross Brawn took full advantage of it with the rear diffuser design, giving Button a massive lead by the time the season was one-third over.

        The team went backwards under Mercedes, but 2009-style dominance was never in the cards for 2010.

  • avatar

    Nice try. Infinity will soon be closely related to car-racing like Martini.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    I want Monster to buy a team and put a shitty motocross rider behind the wheel and throw tons of money at em.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I’m glad I’m old. I’ve overseen several expensive ad campaigns that I was proud to put my name on, yet I’m baffled by the target of most modern advertising. An Infinti label on a Renault-engined car does nothing to advance the brand. It reminds me of the Henry Rollins webcast where he asked a woman wearing a Black Flag t-shirt who was “Black Flag”? She had no clue. Who would want some dilettante as a long-term customer who purchased an Infiniti because of some sticker on a race car? Hardly inspirational. I’m glad my living doesn’t depend on me understanding, because I don’t. But that’s what that $200 charge is on every invoice – advertising. After this contract, it’ll be $250. Carlos has lost his mojo.


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