Infiniti wishes its now-legendary F1 driver Sebastian Vettel weren’t so good

infiniti is unhappy with vettels f1 dominance red bull racing at 2013 abu dhabi grand prix

“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” is an old car industry adage.

It may not apply anymore.

Infiniti is the title sponsor of the Infiniti Red Bull Racing Formula One team, the team of four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel recently clinched his fourth championship in a row with four races left in the season, a dominating performance that seems like good news for the brand with its name on his car.

That’s not the case, Andy Palmer, executive vice president of Infiniti parent Nissan, told Autocar. Palmer said Infiniti is mainly in the F1 game to build brand awareness, and that means getting people to watch the races.

“From that point of view you could say Sebastian has been too successful,” Palmer told Autocar, “Wrapping up the championship with four races to run is maybe not good news for us from that perspective.”

In other words, Vettel’s dominance has taken the sport out of F1. It’s made the racing too boring.

Even though Infiniti makes car, and F1 is a form of motorsport, Infiniti’s concerns are like those of any other sponsor. It wants as many people as possible to see its name and logo.

Historically, carmakers and race teams have been more closely connected.

Racing used to be a way for car companies to show off the performance and durability of its products. There was a time when NASCAR actually had stock cars, and that’s where the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” mantra comes from.

F1 never featured cars that came from showrooms, but the technology and experience developed racing often trickled down to production cars. Ferrari, in particular, has aggressively leveraged F1 tech – like the hybrid system in the new LaFerrari – to make production cars better.

Sebastian Vettel driving 2014 Infiniti Q50

However, F1 cars have gotten so advanced that there is little that can be directly applied to any road-going vehicle short of a million-dollar supercar, although F1 hopes the new hybrid drivetrains in its cars in the 2014 season will help mass-market hybrid technology in the near future.

Infiniti’s contribution to Red Bull Racing is mostly measured by dollars. The cars are developed and built by the team, and they use engines built by Renault – Nissan’s sister company – that have nothing in common with production engines.

Unlike Ferrari and other teams that are organs of car companies, Infiniti and Red Bull Racing are separate organizations. Since Infiniti is just a sponsor, cross pollination between racing and road-going car development doesn’t happen very often.

Earlier this year, Infiniti named Vettel “Director of Performance,” saying that he helped tune the 2014 Q50. It also launched a Vettel Edition FX50 crossover, and plans to slap the champ’s name on additional models.

However if no one is watching F1, no one will care that Vettel’s name is on their special-edition car; hence Infiniti’s dilemma. It may be part of the winning team, but it could still be a loser.

Frankly, we think Infiniti has a simple solution glaring it in the face: make more interesting cars. How many sales are you really missing out on if some people don’t watch the last four races of the 2013 F1 season? We wager few. Make a car people might actually want to buy, though, and you could win those race fans over handily.

Giveaways

Surf’s up: Enter to win a free Body Glove Dynamo stand-up paddleboard

We're giving one lucky reader the opportunity to score a Body Glove Dynamo inflatable stand-up paddleboard (a $999 value) totally free. This contest starts on December 11 with the winner to be announced on Digital Trends Live next week, so…
Mobile

Put down the controller and pick up the best phones for gaming on the go

Which phones are the best if all you want to do is play some mobile games? We've done the hard work and put together a list of the best gaming phones on Android and iOS, so you can keep playing and winning.
Business

‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ wins one of the worst box-office weekends of 2018

Wreck-It Ralph sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet stayed on top of the weekend box office for the third week, winning what was one of the worst weekends for ticket sales in the US so far this year.
Photography

MIT science photographer isn’t an artist, but her work could fill galleries

Felice Frankel is an award-winning photographer, but she doesn't consider herself an artist. As a science photographer, she has been helping researchers better communicate their ideas for nearly three decades with eye-catching imagery.
Cars

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.
Cars

2020 Toyota Supra caught hiding in a trailer without a shred of camouflage

Toyota's plan to once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms involves bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic nameplates. Here's what we know so far about the upcoming coupe, which Toyota is developing jointly with BMW.
Cars

Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.
Cars

NYC mandates minimum wage for Uber, Lyft, other app-based rideshare drivers

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a rule that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft must be paid at least minimum wage, even though they are independent contractors. The new pay rate includes operating costs.
Cars

LM Industries’ autonomous shuttles head to Phoenix, Sacramento campuses

LM Industries will deploy Olli low-speed autonomous shuttles at school campuses in Arizona and California as part of its ongoing "fleet challenge," which asks local groups to propose uses for autonomous vehicles.
Cars

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.
Cars

Hertz speeds up car rentals with biometric scan technology

Biometric security technology that uses face, fingerprint, and voice recognition is gaining traction, with Hertz emerging as the latest company to incorporate it into its daily operations.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.