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Formula One pays tribute to Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz

<i>Frank Hoermann/SVEN SIMON/picture-alliance/dpa/AP</i><br/>Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz died at the age of 79 after a serious illness.
Frank Hoermann/SVEN SIMON/picture-alliance/dpa/AP
Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz died at the age of 79 after a serious illness.

By Aimee Lewis, CNN

Tributes have been paid to Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner and co-founder of the sports drink company Red Bull, who has died aged 78.

As well as turning his energy drink into a market leader, the Austrian billionaire also founded one of the most successful Formula One teams in recent history.

His death was announced by the company on Saturday, ahead of qualifying for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, where the Red Bull team can win a fifth F1 constructors’ title.

“What he achieved and what he’s done for so many people around the world, across different sports, is second to none,” Christian Horner, Red Bull’s F1 team principal, told Sky Sports F1.

“So many of us have to be so grateful to him for the opportunities that he’s provided, the vision that he had, the strength of character and never being afraid to follow and chase your dreams.

“That’s what he did here in Formula One, proving that you can make a difference … so many drivers, so many team members, so many people in this pit lane owe him so much.”

In 2004, Mateschitz bought the Ford-owned Jaguar team and the following season renamed it Red Bull Racing.

By 2010 the team was dominating the sport, with Sebastian Vettel winning the first of four successive drivers’ championships. The team also won the constructors’ title in each of those years.

The Austrian also bought the Italy-based Minardi F1 team and renamed it Toro Rosso in 2006, the Italian for Red Bull. The team now competes as AlphaTauri, the company’s fashion brand, and is a launchpad into the sport for young drivers.

After years of Mercedes dominance in recent years, Red Bull is back at the front of the grid with Max Verstappen sealing his second title at the Japanese Grand Prix earlier this month.

“I find it really incredible what he has done,” Verstappen, who made his F1 debut with Toro Rosso, told Sky Sports.

“Luckily I got to spend a little bit of time with him a few weeks back, which is now of course is even more special.

“It’s a big loss for all of us. Without him I wouldn’t be here today. What he’s done for me, in Formula 1 but also my whole life and the future ahead is massive. I cannot thank him enough for that and that’s why it’s a very difficult day for us.”

“I knew that he was feeling bad the last few weeks but to get the news today was extremely sad,” former Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz told Sky Sports.

“I want to send all my condolences to the Red Bull family, but also especially to his family that I also know.

“He has been a super important guy for myself and without him I wouldn’t be in Formula 1.”

Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali said in a statement: “I am deeply saddened by the news that Dietrich Mateschitz, a hugely respected and much-loved member of the Formula One family has passed away.

“He was an incredible visionary entrepreneur and a man who helped to transform our sport and created the Red Bull brand that is known all around the world.”

Under Mateschitz, Red Bull became known for its intensive marketing of extreme sports and events, including a 2012 record-breaking sky dive from the edge of space, and also extended its sporting interest into football and ice hockey.

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