Volkswagen entering Formula 1 with Audi and Porsche has been big news of late, but with the German automotive giant not disclosing much about its plans, the question is: what route to their endgame?
Of course, Volkswagen’s endgame is to enter F1 and win, but how are they planning to do it with both Audi and Porsche thrown into the mix is what makes one wonder.
All the speculation surrounding Audi and Porsche has been accompanied by rumours that Audi might be taking over McLaren, something Zak Brown recently staunchly denied, while now it seems that Williams are gearing up for talks with Audi as well as Sauber, aka Alfa-Romeo branding exercise.
Keep in mind that Williams currently owned by Dorilton Capital has Jost Capito, the former VW motorsport boss, at the helm.
When asked about the Audi/McLaren news and the news that the Volkswagen board approved two F1 projects for Audi and Porsche, Capito told Auto Bild: “It is interesting for every team to have a cooperation with a car manufacturer.
“If that really is decided, then we will also hold talks,” added the German motorsport veteran. “But there is still no definitive go and the engine regulations have not yet been definitively decided. As far as I know, the decision of the VW Group also depends on the engine regulations.
“I think that will be passed in the next few weeks and then we’ll see,” Capito concluded.
Porsche, on the other hand, are said to be in talks with Red Bull for a future cooperation on the power unit front, as the energy drinks outfit have bid farewell to Honda and started their own Red Bull Powertrains venture.
So does Volkswagen want to be a power unit supplier, or a works team? And why try to takeover an existing team and deal with its existing culture and infrastructure when they have the capability to start from scratch, especially if they stick to either Audi or Porsche.
This brings me to my next question.
Why is VW pushing both Audi and Porsche into F1?
We can also ask, what is the added value for having two Volkswagen brands competing in F1. And here I do question Audi’s involvement.
For Porsche, it makes sense to be in F1, as they have been there before when they supplied TAG branded engines to McLaren back in the 1980’s, and being a premium sports car manufacturer, it makes sense for them to align themselves with the pinnacle of motorsport, and showcase their drive towards electrification.
That would definitely help them sell more 911’s as well, not that they need help there.
As for Audi, I really do not understand their rationale for entering F1. Their image as a car manufacturer over the years does not align with F1.
Mercedes have always had their hooligan AMG’s, and BMW have their nimble M’s, but Audi was always the sensible one. Even Audi’s sporty, yet under-steery, RS line is honestly quite boring compared to the high-performance offerings from Munich and Stuttgart.
Nothing can be taken away from Audi’s forays in rallying, endurance and DTM, but showing up to an F1 race in an Audi is like showing up to basketball game wearing a pair of loafers.
And in the same context, one can consider the example of Ferrari being in F1 along with Alfa Romeo.
What’s Alfa Romeo’s added value to F1?
Alfa Romeo came back to F1 under the watch of CEO of FIAT Chrysler Automotive, the late Sergio Marchionne, who was hell-bent on having the Quadrifoglio badge back in F1.
Now Alfa’s history in F1 goes way back to the start of the Championship in the 1950s, but back then, it was a proper constructor, and in their run between 1979 and 1985, they were an engine supplier.
But since their latest return in 2019, Alfa Romeo has acted as a re-branding project for the Sauber team, Ferrari paying money to the Swiss outfit that became a training ground for their FDA juniors such as Antonio Giovinazzi, and a testbed for Ferrari’s power units.
Let’s link things back to Audi. Had they taken over McLaren, or if they take over Williams, how much Audi’ness will they bring into F1? How much recognition will they get for badging the power unit?
And that PU? That would most probably be co-developed with Porsche with dual branding being applied. Other than that it would be just another re-branding project for a car brand whose DNA does not fit F1’s, what will Audi bring?
We all agree that it is healthy for F1 to attract more manufacturers, but with Audi and Porsche, the sport won’t be gaining two, but only one with two different names.
As for VW, it would seem more sensible to focus their efforts and resources on one serious and proper F1 project – I would choose Porsche for the moniker – and make sure it succeeds, and does not turn into an embarrassment for the organization.
With Mercedes’ mega success in F1, Volkswagen cannot fail, or can they?