Audi, VW and F1. The never-ending story.

The Sport Space’s F1 writer Kyle Archer looks at the never-ending story between Audi, VW and Formula One and what could happen in the future.

Audi and the Volkswagen group has been linked with Formula One for years but has always resisted entering the sport. But with Red Bull splitting from Renault at the end of this year’s championship, reports are back underway of a Red Bull-Audi tie up in F1. But how likely is it that Red Bull can persuade the VW group to enter the sport it refuses to enter with one of its brands.

In terms of brands, the VW group has a wide range of entities that would be suitable for Formula One with Volkswagen owning Audi, Bentley, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bugatti. All of which would suit Formula One as a brand and VW have shown in other sports it is not afraid of pitting one against the other with Porsche now taking the challenge to Audi in their dominant home ground of the World Endurance Championship.

So for the brand that would get the attention from a Formula One entry it would seem to be a great opportunity to go toe-to-toe with German rival Mercedes or have Lamborghini pit itself against the Italian giants of Ferrari. There’s even the story for the romantics with Bugatti, a team that was very successful in racing during the pre-war years with the Bugatti Type 10.

VW Red Bull WRC car - copyright-Volkswagen Motorsport

For Audi, it always seems to be them who would get the limelight should the VW group finally join the Formula One paddock. A quick jump down memory lane will also show the Red Bull Audi connection with the team using Audi’s as their main transport at races before Infiniti joined Red Bull as a title sponsor. Not to mention, Red Bull has a long running partnership with Volkswagen in other forms of motor racing, such as the WRC (World Rally Championship).

In terms of coming on board as a title sponsor, or even as an out-and-out constructor, the VW group has always held back. Predominantly due to the boss of VW not wishing to.

But after Ferdinand Piëch, the 78-year-old Grandson of the inventor behind the VW Beetle, resigned following a power struggle with key directors it appeared a F1 entrance was more likely with Audi’s board chairman Rupert Stadler keen to have the brand enter Formula One.

However, like it has been for the past two decades, all the reports on Audi and F1 finally sealing the deal came to nothing. Until now with Red Bull finalising it’s divorce with Renault, the engine manufacturer who powered them to four back-to-back drivers and constructors titles.

Red Bull Renault divorce - copyright: birlikte

Now the reports are suggesting that Red Bull will settle for Ferrari engines for the next few seasons, as they have no other choice with Mercedes refusing to power them. But in the long-term future of the team, Red Bull are bidding their hopes on Audi joining the team as their engine supplier for 2018 onwards. This would give them time to study the engines and begin development on a power unit ahead of getting it on track in the years to come.

Other than the issues with getting to grips with the hybrid V6 power units, VW and Audi face other challenges. On a side note, getting to grips with the engines has been the key part to Renault and Red Bull’s divorce, despite the French manufacturer begging for them to be introduced or they would have pulled out of F1.

For Audi though, their engine facility for their World Endurance Championship team is not suitable for Formula One so they would need to branch out and venture elsewhere. One possible option is Cosworth in Northampton, UK, just down the road from Mercedes. Cosworth has powered Formula One teams over the years with a variety of teams but pulled back out when the hybrid power units came in for 2014. Cosworth has also employed many of the key people behind Mercedes’ power unit over the years, including Mercedes High Performance Powertrains’ boss Andy Cowell.

 VW Board members Winterkron and Piech - copyright www.focus.de

But once again, the decision to join F1 or not may be a no after the man behind Audi and VW’s involvement in motorsport has resigned following the diesel-gate emission crisis the company finds themselves in.

When Winterkorn became the new VW boss, reports suggested he was more open to an F1 entry than his predecessor and a worthwhile proposition by Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz could sway the German. Despite Winterkorn not being keen on F1 and much preferring Bundesliga football.

With an open-mind on an entry to Formula One, it looked as if the biggest challenge facing Audi, the VW group and a Formula One entry as a constructor or power unit provider is the ongoing diesel-car crisis they find themselves in, in the USA regarding emission irregularities. And this was always rumoured to have serious consequences for Martin Winterkorn’s future at the firm.

As things stand, the VW group could face fines of $18 billion after the company admitted cheating diesel vehicle emissions test in the United States by using software to trick the tests into believing the cars emissions were 10 to 40 times lower and over 450,000 cars have had to be recalled.

The news of this admission and the rumoured figure for the incoming fines saw VW shares plummet in the recent stock market by 19 percent. Now South Korea are also conducting its own investigation into Volkswagen and a French Minister calling for a European-wide probe.

And as mentioned, Winterkorn has resigned from his position at the VW group despite his recent appointment and talks of his contract being extended beyond 2018, the year Red Bull want Audi to come into the sport.

In a statement by Winterkorn addressing his resignation, he stated that he was unaware of any misconduct but as CEO, he has accepted responsibility for the irregularities.

“I am shocked by the events of the past few days. Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group,” he said.

“As CEO I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines and have therefore requested the Supervisory Board to agree on terminating my function as CEO of the Volkswagen Group. I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part.

“Volkswagen needs a fresh start – also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation.

“I have always been driven by my desire to serve this company, especially our customers and employees. Volkswagen has been, is and will always be my life.

“The process of clarification and transparency must continue. This is the only way to win back trust. I am convinced that the Volkswagen Group and its team will overcome this grave crisis.”

Kyle Archer

The Sport Space

The Sport Space’s F1 writer Kyle Archer looks at the never-ending story between Audi, VW and Formula One and what could happen in the future.

Audi and the Volkswagen group has been linked with Formula One for years but has always resisted entering the sport. But with Red Bull splitting from Renault at the end of this year’s championship, reports are back underway of a Red Bull-Audi tie up in F1. But how likely is it that Red Bull can persuade the VW group to enter the sport it refuses to enter with one of its brands

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