Re: Red Bull guves Purnell/Pitchforth wings
MATESCHITZ EXPLAINS SACKINGS
Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz revealed to more than one Austrian journalist last weekend that a heated argument over driver selection was the main reason he let Tony Purnell and David Pitchforth go.
By early December 2004, all parties within Red Bull Racing were happy to sign the ultra-experienced David Coulthard – though, as late as November 24, Mateschitz told journalists, “We are absolutely not interested in Coulthard” – but the disagreement centred on the identity of the team’s other driver.
Mateschitz and his assistant Helmut Marko wanted to hire a Red Bull-backed driver – either Christian Klien or Vitantonio Liuzzi – while Purnell and Pitchforth preferred B.A.R test driver Anthony Davidson or McLaren test driver Alex Wurz.
Pitchforth and Purnell had tried to hire Wurz to Jaguar Racing on two previous occasions – once, in April 2003, to replace Antonio Pizzonia mid-season (but that deal was scuppered by McLaren boss Ron Dennis demanding a severance fee for Wurz of £1.2 million) and again in early 2004.
On this second occasion, the deal was scuppered by Red Bull, who insisted that their £6 million sponsorship of Jaguar Racing was dependent on Klien getting the drive instead of Wurz.
Neither Purnell nor Pitchforth will comment on their shock dismissals, but, in an interview in F1 Racing which took place during the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix weekend, Purnell said: “I like Alex. He’s a good bloke. He’d fit the bill.”
He reportedly remained of that opinion in the ensuing months, and only abandoned the idea at the furious insistence of Mateschitz and Marko (with whom Wurz had an acrimonious contractual dispute in German Formula 3 in the early 1990s).
As for Davidson, he has long been a Purnell favourite. In a previous life, Purnell ran a cadet kart team, and employed the 18-year-old Davidson as a sort of ‘guru’ to his most promising 13-year-olds.
“Anthony is extremely good,” Purnell said as recently as November 2004, “and he’s certainly high on our list.”
Now, in 2005, both Davidson and Wurz will be testing yet again – and Purnell and Pitchforth are out of work. But highly placed sources tell us that Coulthard was very surprised to hear that Pitchforth, particularly, had been fired.
And, having driven for McLaren for the past nine years, DC knows better than most how vital a consistent management structure, with solid continuity, is to a team’s ongoing success…