As an armchair motorsport enthusiast, I find it difficult to see Red Bull Racing’s explicit threat to quit Formula 1, made this week by the company’s motorsport advisor, Helmut Marko, as anything other than sour grapes.
Since the story broke, Marko has distanced himself from the comments - which were carried by many respectable F1 news outlets - but it isn't the first time Red Bull's future in the sport has been the subject of speculation. For years, the team endured a crushing run of success and now it is having a difficult period, stymied by an uncompetitive engine from Renault.
I know Red Bull is still a relative newcomer to Formula 1 compared with Ferrari, Williams and McLaren, but are its chiefs really so naïve as to not appreciate the cyclical nature of the sport? No run of success can be sustained indefinitely; all three of the teams mentioned above can attest to that.
Don’t get me wrong: I strongly believe the sport would be better for Red Bull Racing’s presence at the sharp end, taking the fight to Mercedes and Ferrari, but no team has a divine right to be there.
Enzo Ferrari used to be the master of the quit threat in Formula 1. In the 1980s he went as far as to build an Indycar as a way to convince F1 rule makers that they might want to let him run a V12 engine, lest he decide to take his toys and play with them on the other side of the Atlantic.
In those days, Ferrari never did follow through on the threat (it never needed to), and I wonder if there is an element of brinkmanship in Marko’s words. Trouble is, Red Bull has yet to attain the same level of cachet as Ferrari, despite its impressive trophy haul in recent years.
Tied up with the quit threat, Marko seemed to deliver an ultimatum to the Volkswagen Group to end its dithering about whether to enter F1 and supply Audi-badged engines to Red Bull Racing.
Quite what message he thinks he’s sending out to the VW Group is anyone’s guess. Why would the automotive giant be keen to plough its hard-earned billions into a project where one of the parties might run scared at the first sign of hard times?
After all, Honda’s struggles show that it isn’t easy to enter F1 and be immediately on the pace. But the McLaren Honda partnership isn’t resorting to public mud-slinging. Instead, they're getting their heads down and trying to work their way to competitiveness.
So enough already, Red Bull. If you want to quit F1, the exit is clearly marked. Running away from a challenge does seem to run contrary to the risk-taking values that underpin your brand, though…