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America's Cup: Brits expect F1 grudges to spill over onto AC37

by Tom Cary, Daily Telegraph UK 14 Dec 2021 14:37 PST 15 December 2021
Red Bull Racing's rivalry with Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team is expected to move from the track to the water - no both are in the America's Cup © Clive Rose / Getty Images

Sir Ben Ainslie has welcomed the arrival of Red Bull in the America’s Cup, saying it will be “amazing” to see them slug it out with INOS Britannia’s partners Mercedes on the water as well as the track, especially given the “grudge” that has developed between Formula One’s two heavyweight teams this season.

After much speculation, Alinghi Red Bull Racing was finally confirmed on Tuesday as an official entry for the 2024 America’s Cup, marking not only a return to the Cup for Swiss pharmaceuticals billionaire and Alinghi founder Ernesto Bertarelli but also an expansion of F1’s most recent mouth-watering rivalry.

And that may not be the end of the F1 team additions either with Luna Rossa, challenger of record to Team New Zealand back in March, heavily linked with Ferrari.

Ainslie said he was thrilled to see Red Bull - with whom he worked in the build-up to the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2015 - make a return to his sport.

“We had a relationship with them at the 35th Cup in particular, which was good,” Ainslie told Telegraph Sport. “Adrian [Newey, Red Bull’s chief technical officer] is clearly passionate about the Cup and it’s great to see them involved.

“Not only Red Bull, but also having Alinghi back in the game. They’re one of the big, big teams of the modern era of the Cup. Ernesto Bertarelli is someone I’ve got to know well over the years. He’s a very passionate sailor and supporter of the sport, so having them back in that world is huge.

“And then to see Mercedes F1 and Red Bull battle it out in two different sports will just add another dimension, especially given what happened on Sunday and the sort of grudge now developed between them.”

Ainslie, who was speaking from Sydney where he is preparing for Round 7 of the SailGP global sailing series, said he stayed up into the small hours to watch the F1 championship denouement in Abu Dhabi, where Red Bull’s Max Verstappen claimed a hugely controversial last-lap victory to deny Lewis Hamilton a record eighth title.

The 44-year-old four-time Olympic champion said he was “gutted” for Hamilton and for Ineos Britannia’s partners Mercedes. “As an outside observer, I can't really comment too much on the decisions that were made [at the end of the grand prix, under the safety car],” Ainslie said. “I don't know enough about it to say whether it was fair or not. But I felt hugely for Lewis and the Mercedes team.

“My respect for Lewis went up immeasurably actually, and it was already very high. The way he managed to handle himself after that disappointment was just incredible.”

Ainslie said the other big thing that came out of the weekend for him was how much sailing could learn from Formula One.

Ainslie said he was a big fan of Netflix’s Drive to Survive series, and would like to see a similar fly-on-the-wall documentary in SailGP, the global series which takes place in one-design foiling catamarans.

“We already have a show called Racing On The Edge, which goes out [on YouTube] pretty much monthly, between the events,” Ainslie said. “It focuses on the different individuals.

“This month’s went out yesterday, and is on [Australian helm] Tom Slingsby. So it's trying to capture those personalities. It's probably not fly-on-the-wall enough, in my opinion. But it's trying to capture that and it's a work in progress.”

Ainslie also believed that rivalry that erupted between the two team principals this season, Mercedes’ Toto Wolff and Red Bull‘s Christian Horner, helps to promote the sport.

He added: “The Netflix stuff is so good because it really shows the intensity of Formula One and you can’t fake that.

“People accuse F1 of being manipulated - I don’t know about that - but the intensity is absolutely not faked. Watching two big personalities like Toto and Christian really take each other on. It's quite rare in sport that you get that sort of unvarnished access and emotion, there on camera for everyone to see. It’s great.”

To really capture that audience, Ainslie said, you need continuity. Formula One has over 20 races per season, meaning the narrative builds consistently through the year. SailGP currently has eight events running from April to April.

Ainslie said that was not enough, but it was growing.

“Next year there will be 11 events, so almost one a month,” he said. “And I know the goal of the league is to build it out to right up there in terms of Formula One levels of competition and continuity. So 20+ events per season.

For the full story click here

For The Times (UK) F1 and America's Cup correspondent Ed Gorman's take on the Alinghi Red Bull Racing entry in the 2024 America's Cup click here

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