Now if you're thinking that TAG Heuer was in the McLaren camp, you were right up until today's announcement. One of McLaren's oldest partners, the watchmaker jumped ship to join up with Red Bull instead, ostensibly replacing Casio as the team's official timekeeper.
Now here's where it gets a little tricky: Mansour Ojjeh and his Techniques d'Avant Garde holding company remain a major stakeholder in McLaren. The firm owned Tag Heuer from 1985 to 1999; now its former watch brand is leaving for Red Bull.
This isn't the first time that the TAG name has transferred from one F1 team to another, nor is it the first time we'll see its name replace that of a major automaker on an F1 engine. Techniques d'Avant Garde previously partnered with Williams before Ron Dennis took over in Woking and convinced Ojjeh to come on board. That partnership saw TAG work with Porsche on a successful F1 engine program that won three drivers' championships (with Niki Lauda and Alain Prost), two constructors' titles, and 25 grands prix.
While unusual, the deal is hardly unprecedented. Aside from the McLaren-TAG-Porsche arrangement, Sauber once ran Ferrari engines under the brand of its sponsor Petronas (which has long since switched to Mercedes). For another example, the 1998 world championship saw Benetton running Renault engines under the Playlife name, while Williams rebranded its version as Mecachrome, as the French automaker shifted its priorities in F1 much as it is right now.
The announcement still leaves a few questions unanswered, however. For one, will Red Bull continue running TAG Heuer-branded engines made by Renault (or another supplier) after 2016? And what does this spell for Infiniti, Renault's sister-brand that has sponsored the team for the past several years? Infiniti declined to comment, but we're told there'll be some sort of announcement early next week.
From the milliseconds that separate victory from defeat to the finely balanced and perfectly measured rhythm of a racing engine, in motorsport timing is everything.
As the curtain falls on the 2015 Formula One season and the sport gears up for next year's challenge, the timing is right for Red Bull Racing to reveal that the team's 2016 F1 car will race with a power unit carrying the name of motorsport's most iconic timing brand – TAG Heuer.
The new partnership, which represents a shift away from F1's conventional supply systems, will see TAG Heuer take up naming rights of the team's power unit, which will be supplied by Renault. The new car will be christened the Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer RB12.
Deepening the relationship between the team and the legendary timing house, which can call on more than half a century of heritage at the cutting edge of motorsport, TAG Heuer will become the Official Timekeeper, Official Watch Partner and Team Performance Partner of the Red Bull Racing team from 2016 in a multi-year partnership.
Welcoming the new partnership, Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, said: "TAG Heuer and Red Bull are two transcendent brands which have both a passion for racing and a drive to do things differently, and this unique collaboration is further evidence of that. TAG Heuer has been an icon in the world of Formula One for many years and we're delighted that they've chosen to continue their association with the sport by teaming up with us. Our shared values of innovation and a desire to stand out from the crowd make this one of the most exciting partnerships in F1. We are also pleased to see Renault confirm its long-term commitment to F1 and would like to thank them for their contribution to the team since 2007. Their technical partnership with Ilmor gives us confidence, and we look forward to the 2016 season."
Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of TAG Heuer and President of the LVMH Watch Division, added: "Formula One is deeply-rooted in TAG Heuer's DNA, and Red Bull Racing is a young, dynamic and driven team, which perfectly fits with our marketing strategy. It will give TAG Heuer great visibility and allow us to make our partnership exciting, different and innovative. Our motto #DontCrackUnderPressure will be the guiding principle behind all our actions with the support of the Red Bull Racing team and its highly contagious enthusiasm."