Why AlphaTauri’s Visa Cash App RB rebrand is more than just a new name

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A bizarre winter break brought many changes to AlphaTauri: rebranding as Visa Cash App RB — or just RB as we’ve come to call them — as well employing a new CEO and a new team principal.

But, the commercially-driven name represents far more than a disparaged rebrand, with far more significant changes being made behind the scenes. The ultimate result: a positive pre-season test, followed by a spot at the very top of the time sheets — courtesy of Daniel Ricciardo — during the first free practice session of the season.

The new performance has come mostly due to a closer bond to its sister brand, Red Bull. That has already involved design staff moving to Milton Keynes from its Italian base in Faenza. Where last year’s car was developed independently of Red Bull, the new 2024 machine will make the most of rules that allow teams to buy certain parts off-the-shelf from others. This has caused a stir with other constructors such as McLaren and Mercedes who understandably don’t want another two Red Bull-powered cars to contend with at the front of the grid.

Further changes to team infrastructure as well as a streamlined development process are all being made in an attempt to forge a new identity for the team and to lift it to the level of Red Bull. “Faenza is entering a new era of racing,” said new CEO Peter Bayer. “Now with a greater focus on competing for the biggest prizes in F1.”


Why has AlphaTauri changed its name?

AlphaTauri could become Racing Bulls in 2023

Red Bull

After four years, the strategy of running the team as a mobile advertising hoarding for Red Bull’s fashion brand AlphaTauri has been abandoned, with suggestions that it has proved ineffective at driving sales of clothing, while requiring hefty investment.

At the same time, there have been changes at the top of Red Bull, following the death in 2022 of co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz, spurring a rethink of its F1 commitment. So the AlphaTauri name has been sacrificed in favour of a sponsorship deal worth many millions with both Visa and Cash App — cutting the cost to Red Bull at the price of a loathed rebrand.

Although most teams incorporate high-paying sponsors in their official names (such as Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 or Aston Martin Aramco F1 team), these are almost never referred to. In recent years, Sauber has been doing a roaring trade in selling the full team name, firstly to Alfa Romeo and then to gambling firm Stake, but these have tripped off the tongue.

That can’t be said for Visa Cash App RB, which lacks an obvious shorter form, save for the acronym VCARB.


Closer collaboration with sister team Red Bull

Red Bull AlphaTauri 2023

The two Red Bull constructors may be a little more closely related in 2024

Red Bull

Red Bull is unique in fielding two Formula 1 teams with four separate cars and drivers, but hasn’t been taking full advantage of the potential efficiencies.

Regulations allow teams to use several off-the-shelf parts from other constructors. These include elements such as the gearbox, suspension, and exhaust system. Exclusions include the chassis. Haas has based its entry on this concept, by buying in Ferrari parts but AlphaTauri has been more fiercely independent, pursuing its own concepts and designs rather than buying all of the permitted parts it could from its sister team, particularly since the introduction of new regulations in 2022.

That changes with the arrival of the Visa Cash App RB name. Red Bull’s new management structure has dictated closer collaboration, involving RB’s aerodynamic unit moving from Bicester to the Red Bull campus in Milton Keynes, along with all designers.

The team is under instructions to share the maximum number of parts possible with the world championship-winning team, which inevitably means that the car concepts will be similar. As well as saving costs, performance improvements are expected, even though the parts won’t all be to the latest design.

The approach was summarised by red Bull advisor Helmut Marko, who said that the new direction was to “follow Red Bull Racing as closely as the regulations allow”.

Last year, the team’s technical director Jody Egginton said that the team had been using Red Bull parts since 2019, some of which were two years old, but that it had reduced the number of shared parts on its most recent car. “Since we started this synergy in 2019, the parts we’ve selected off the menu have been different and for next year it’ll be slightly different again, more or less,” he said. “Relative to this year, a bit more. Relative to a couple of the previous years, probably about the same.”


New team boss

Lurent Mekeis Ferrari 2023

Lurent Mekeis — formerly of Ferrari — will make the switch to AlphaTauri in 2024

Getty Images

As part of a new management structure, Laurent Mekeis joined the team on January 1 2024, replacing Franz Tost.

The former sporting director for Ferrari was placed on gardening leave after the news of his exit was announced midway through the 2023 season but it won’t be the first time the Frenchman has lived and worked in Faenza. He achieved many of his first F1 successes with Toro Rosso, first as a race engineer and ultimately as its head of vehicle performance.

According to the press release, Mekies will be “responsible for the day-to-day operation of the team, including technical, manufacturing, support function and race team operations” while also supporting new CEO Peter Bayer to create a “dynamic leadership team with equal responsibility”.


Suspicions of collaborating with Red Bull on car design

Combine F1’s incessant paranoia with Red Bull’s success, plus its ownership of RB, and it’s no wonder that you have a recipe for controversy. The situation wasn’t made any less suspicious when Ricciardo set the fastest time in the very first free practice session of the year in Bahrain — ahead of both McLaren’s.

McLaren chief executive Zak Brown has been one of the loudest voices on the issue, raising “concerns” over the relationship between the two teams, talking of a conflict of interest that comes with sharing an owner.

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