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

As well as making his energy drink a market leader, the Austrian billionaire also founded one of the most successful Formula 1 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 claim a fifth F1 constructors’ title.

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

“Many of us have to be very grateful to him for the opportunities he gave us, the vision he had, the strength of character and never being afraid to follow and pursue his dreams.

“That’s what he’s done here in Formula 1, proving 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 renamed it Red Bull Racing the following season.

In 2010, the team dominated the sport, with Sebastian Vettel winning the first of four successive Drivers’ Championships. The team also won the constructors’ title in each of these years.

The Austrian also bought Italian team Minardi F1 and renamed it Toro Rosso in 2006, the Italian for Red Bull. The team now competes under the name AlphaTauri, the company’s fashion label, and is a launch pad into the sport for young drivers.

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

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

“Luckily I was able to spend some time with him a few weeks ago, which now of course is even more special.

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

“I knew he had been feeling bad for the past few weeks but to hear 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 and above all to his family, whom I also know.

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

Formula 1 Chief Executive Stefano Domenicali said in a statement: “I am deeply saddened by the news of the death of Dietrich Mateschitz, a hugely respected and much loved member of the Formula 1 family.

“He was an incredible visionary entrepreneur and a man who helped transform our sport and create the world-famous Red Bull brand.”

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

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