Verstappen leads tributes to Red Bull founder Mateschitz

Verstappen leads tributes to Red Bull founder Mateschitz


Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen led Sunday’s tributes to Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz, who made the energy drink a global success and pumped money into a title-winning F1 team and several football clubs.

Mateschitz died Saturday at the age of 78 after a long illness, and is worth $27.4 billion, according to Forbes. This makes him the richest person in Austria.

He took a sweet drink already popular in Asia for its apparent energizing properties and adapted it to suit Western tastes.

Mateschitz was an accomplished marketer who popularized the Red Bull brand by associating it with sports and investing heavily in Formula 1, soccer and extreme activities.

Red Bull now employs 13,000 people in 172 countries with annual sales of around eight billion euros. It sells nearly 10 billion cans of the drink a year.

Verstappen, who won his second consecutive world title behind the wheel of a Red Bull car two weeks ago, said he was determined to put on a strong performance at Sunday’s United States Grand Prix to honor Mateschitz.

“It was tough news for everyone, for Red Bull and for the sport and for me in general, in my career and in my life,” said the Dutchman.

“It’s a very tough day. We missed qualifying a bit but tomorrow there’s a race and we’ll try to do it for him… we’ll make him proud.”

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said Mateschitz had lived a “simply stunning life”.

“Dietrich Mateschitz has built a world-famous and successful company, we are losing a great sponsor of top-class and extreme sports,” tweeted the President.

– Success in football and F1 –

Aside from its sizeable investment in the F1 team, Red Bull bought the Austrian city of Salzburg football club in 2005 and acquired Leipzig in 2009 as the German side languished in the fifth division.

German law prohibits the use of a company title in a club’s name, so the Leipzig board named their club RasenBallsport Leipzig – literally “Rasenballsport” Leipzig – whose initials ‘RB’ reflect those of Red Bull.

From 2016, the club was promoted to the Bundesliga and a season later qualified for the Champions League as second in the table.

The Austrian company also conquered the New York MetroStars franchise in the United States in 2006, making them the New York Red Bulls.

Red Bull has also branched out into extreme sports, sponsoring events such as aerial acrobatics and cliff jumping.

When Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner jumped to earth from a helium balloon in 2012, his suit had the Red Bull logo stuck to it.

But it’s in Formula 1 that the company has really made a name for itself in the world of sport.

Red Bull F1 Team leader Christian Horner said Mateschitz was “lucky” to see Verstappen claim his second title earlier this month by winning the Japanese Grand Prix.

Horner said Mateschitz was “a great man, one of a few of his kind” who “has proven that you can make a difference. He’s been a passionate supporter and the backbone of everything we do.”

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz secured pole position for the Austin, Texas Grand Prix, but his thoughts were with his former team.

“I can’t be too happy after losing Dietrich Mateschitz. My condolences go out to his family, friends and the entire Red Bull family,” Sainz said on Twitter.

Red Bull are currently accused by rival teams of cheating by violating Formula 1’s cost caps.

The Red Bull drink was born during one of Mateschitz’s many business trips as marketing manager for a German cosmetics company, when he was served a sweet drink that is common in Asia in a luxury bar in Hong Kong.

He liked it immediately and was struck by the drink’s apparent ability to help him overcome his jet lag.

He decided to work with Thai businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya, the drink’s developer, and the two men founded Red Bull in 1984.

More to explorer