“Don’t call it a comeback, they’ve been here for years, irritating their peers, fillin’ Steiner with fear”. We’re currently in the middle of car reveal season for F1’s 2022 campaign with Haas, Red Bull, and Aston Martin all announcing theirs and the rest of the teams have pencilled in dates for their own announcements. While we all get excited to see what each team’s car looks like I cast my mind back to the 2019 reveals and one of the most bonkers events in recent F1 history. Yes I’m talking about America’s Team Haas’s VF-19 with a title sponsor of a certain energy drink company. The livery was pretty nice looking to give them credit but it was plastered with the sponsor of Rich Energy. If you’re reading that and thinking “who on earth are Rich Energy?” then you’d be forgiven. Unless you’re an F1 fan, Haas Racing board member, or a die-hard Uralkali enthusiast then you probably wouldn’t know who Rich Energy are if you had a can of it lobbed at your head. Rich Energy are a UK based energy drink company founded in 2015 by English businessman William Storey and an unknown mad scientist (Storey’s words, look it up). How Storey made his money is a bit of a mixed tale with many different stories out on the internet (and I can’t afford to be sued by this guy by saying something that isn’t true) but the definite truths are he was a professional gambler, the founder of a sports management company which sponsored former British boxer Frank Buglioni, and owned a tobacco farm in Zimbabwe. He also claims that he was part of a consortium that tried to buy Sunderland football club in July 2020 and just today Rich Energy were announced as the title sponsor for Jamaica’s bobsled team for the Beijing Winter Olympics (this is beyond parody). With all that in mind you’d be forgiven for thinking that this seemed like a fairly okay deal with Storey having an obvious business background, but oh god how wrong you are.
The Haas title sponsorship wasn’t the first time Rich Energy tried to dip their toes into Formula 1. They launched a bid to take over the Force India F1 team back in 2018 after they went into administration. Had the deal gone through the team would be rebranded as Rich Energy F1 team. That of course didn’t happen with a Lawrence Stroll led consortium taking over the team changing the name at first to Racing Point and now Aston Martin. After the setback, Storey set his eyes on a title sponsorship turning his attention to Williams who were in dire need of funds. Storey and Rich Energy were apparently set to meet with senior members of the team including Claire Williams at a restaurant in Austin during the 2018 American Grand Prix weekend but unfortunately for Williams in a situation that hits a tad too close to home, they got completely ghosted. Instead out of nowhere, Haas announced that they’d be going with Rich Energy as their title sponsor for the 2019 campaign. After the dust settled, people decided to look into these dudes to see what they were actually all about and it didn’t look too pretty. It was found that the company only had $771 in their bank account at the end of the 2017 financial cycle, could you imagine how poorly things would’ve gone if they took over Force India? Thank you Sergio Perez for stopping that.
After questions about the company’s legitimacy were answered(ish), all eyes turned to the 2019 season and surprise surprise, it was terrible. For whatever reason Rich Energy were trying to make out that they were better than Red Bull on and off the track after they were faster than them after day 1 of pre-season testing in Barcelona. The Rich Energy twitter account was basically ran like Storey’s own with them taking digs at Red Bull and towards the latter end of the sponsorship, themselves. The only real difference between the main account and Storey’s is that there weren’t any tweets from the Rich Energy account claiming that covid-19 doesn’t exist. Things started off okay on the track with Kevin Magnussen managing to get a 6th place finish in the first race of the season but after that there wasn’t much to shout home about, and things were going even worse off it. Rich Energy were taken to court over copyright infringement by British cycling manufacturer Whyte Bikes. Whyte Bikes claimed that Rich Energy copied their logo which was a golden stag head. The two logos were different in the ways that I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston and I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton are different, i.e. not very. In the end, Whyte Bikes won and Rich Energy were forced to change their logo. After this came the build up to Silverstone and hohoooo doctor, strap yourselves in.
On the 10th of July 2019 a tweet was posted from the Rich Energy account stating that the sponsorship deal with Haas was over after a poor race at the Austrian Grand Prix which saw Kevin Magnussen finish 19th, one place behind the Williams of George Russell, and Romain Grosjean finish 16th. Both cars were nowhere near finishing in the points. The tweet said that the team were supposed to be competing with Red Bull and finishing behind a Williams car was unacceptable (if you want to know how Red Bull did that weekend, Pierre Gasly finished 7th and Max Verstappen won the grand prix, some competing that lads). The tweet also said that the supposed politics and “PC nature” of Formula 1 were inhibiting the business. This is the same supposed “PC nature” that banned Lewis Hamilton from wearing a t-shirt in support of Breonna Taylor, the African American police officer who was shot and killed by white officers as she was sleeping in her home, and reprimanded Sebastian Vettel for wearing a rainbow LGBTQIA+ Pride shirt before the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix. After the tweet went out the statement was retracted with shareholders saying the tweet was sent by a rogue individual whilst they were in the process of trying to remove an executive from the company. William Storey has since said that he was subject to the board “mounting a coup” to remove him at this time, so you can put two and two together here. The twitter madness wouldn’t stop there though as after the opening practicing rounds of the Silverstone Grand Prix the menace tweeter would be back posting a photoshopped picture of Storey driving a milk car with the Haas Rich Energy livery with the caption “great start boys @haasf1team”. The whole thing was bizarre and left team principal Guenther Steiner equally confused as he was furious, with the team announcing on the 9th of September 2019 that they would be cutting ties with Rich Energy full stop.
So after all of that, why do I think they’re coming back? If you look at their social media they’ve been teasing announcements for months and reckon that they’ll end up being title sponsorship again. You’d think that this wouldn’t be on the company’s mind after last time, but Storey’s back in charge. After he quit the company following the whole Haas mess in July 2019, he later bought back his shares and was back as an executive director the following month. Ever since then he’s said how much he wants to be back in F1 and keeps banging on about how they’re making a comeback to the sport in 2022 and yadda yadda yadda. There have been many rumours about a title sponsorship with McLaren and as a McLaren fanboy that scares the living daylights out of me, but I think they could end up back at Haas. Hear me out now. I think this will be Haas’s last season in F1, I can’t see things improving that much this season and Gene Haas is getting increasingly angry week after week with the team’s shocking performances. The current title sponsor is Uralkali, a Russian based chemicals company who’s majority shareholder is a man called Dmitry Mazepin, the father of Nikita Mazepin who races for the team. I’ve noticed that the Uralkali sponsor is getting bigger and bigger on that Haas logo and Mazepin Sr has noted his interest in the past of owning an F1 team. Should Gene sell up then I think Dmitry would buy, thus opening the door for Uralkali-Rich Energy F1 Racing Team. Storey has said on multiple occasions that he thinks Nikita is a future world champion (I can assure you he isn’t) and I think he’d definitely try and sell himself to the Mazepins. There’s always whispers as well that Storey and Mazepin would be open to going into business with each other, so there’s that bundle of joy too.
Most predictions I make end up aging like a fine warm glass of cravendale and I hope this is another instance of that. But with Formula 1 being as money driven as it is, Rich Energy’s reappearance is something I can seriously see happening sooner rather than later.