Why Stefano Domenicali staged a curious no-show at Red Bull launch

Ford CEO Jim Farley (left) alongside F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali following Ford's announcement of their F1 return in partnership with Red Bull Racing. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

F1 boss Stefano Domenicali's bizarre no-show on stage at Red Bull's season launch was due to a last minute decision not to steal the limelight from the confirmation of the Ford partnership.

Domenicali created the viral moment of Red Bull's car launch at Manhattan's Classic Car Club on Friday, as he failed to show when given his cue by event hosts Marty Smith and Giselle Zarur, who were alongside Red Bull boss Christian Horner, Ford CEO Jim Farley and drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo.

Domenicali, who had traveled to New York with Horner the day before in order to be at the event, was clearly in the building as the awkward moment played out.

As Smith and Zarur stalled for time, reigning world champion Verstappen laughed and pointed up to the window of the room overlooking the event hall and stage, saying "He's there".

A source told ESPN Domenicali made a late decision that it was inappropriate to hog the stage during Red Bull and Ford's moment.

It is also understood he felt it may have given off the wrong message to rival competitors if he had appeared on stage at a heavily Red Bull-branded event when other teams will be launching their 2023 cars without him present over the next two weeks -- even if it would have made sense in the context of welcoming Ford back to the sport.

The moment was amplified by the late communication from the F1 side and the Red Bull event organisers, leaving the event hosts having to admit the F1 boss would not in fact be joining as they had said.

Domenicali remained in the U.S. over the weekend to continue discussions with interested parties around potential entry bids for 2026.

Last week the FIA officially opened the process of looking for an 11th team to join the grid, as early as 2026.