Porsche and Audi are going to join Formula 1, Volkswagen’s CEO said on Monday.
Though there was discussion in the Volkswagen Group over how much it would cost for its two premium brands to join the World Championship, Porsche and Audi successfully made the case that becoming part of the highest class of international racing would bring in more money for Wolfsburg than it would cost.
Advertising was also a big factor that was considered.
Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess said on Monday, “You just run out of arguments.”
There have been rumours for a while now that Porsche and Audi have been negotiating partnerships to move into Formula 1.
Reuters reported in March that a source told them Audi is prepared to offer around €500 million (AU $741 million) for McLaren as a means to enter Formula 1. Both brands have denied these rumours though and some motoring sports outlets have speculated that Sauber, Williams and Aston Martin are now more likely options.
Porsche, meanwhile, appears to have a more long term plan, and is planning on “establishing a long-term partnership with racing team Red Bull starting in several years’ time,” ESPN reports.
The move into Formula 1 appears set to occur from 2026. Diess said there was a rare opportunity to make the move that doesn’t come around all too often, as it takes a few years to get prepared, and because there would be new rules in 2026.
He also said there had been a boom in Formula 1 interest in key markets.
“Formula 1 is developing extremely positively worldwide,” he said. “The marketing that is happening there, plus Netflix, has led to Formula 1’s following growing significantly in the U.S. as well. Asia is growing significantly, including among young customer groups. If you look at the major sporting events or events in the world, it’s the case that in motorsport, it’s really only Formula 1 that counts and is becoming increasingly differentiated.”
“If you do motorsport, you should do Formula 1 as that’s where the impact is greatest. What’s more, you can’t enter Formula 1 unless a technology window opens up which means, in order to get in there, a rule change: so that everyone starts again from the same place.”
“As Markus Duesman [chairman of Audi and former BMW F1 head of powertrains] always tells me, you usually make up one second per season on a medium-sized race track simply by optimising details.”
“But you can’t catch up on that when you join a new team: you need five or 10 years to be among the front runners. In other words, you can only get onboard if you have a major rule change.”Herbert Diess
“That’s coming now, and it will also come in the direction of 2026, when the engines will be electrified to a much greater extent, including with synthetic fuels. That means you need a new engine development and you need three or four years to develop a new engine.”
“That means you can decide now to do Formula 1 – or then probably not again for 10 years. And our two premium brands think that’s the right thing to do, and are prioritising it.”
Some sceptical souls on online commentary boards say there is still enough time between now and 2026 for Volkswagen to back out, but by the way Diess is speaking, it really doesn’t sound like they plan on reversing this Formula 1 decision.
As for us? Now all we can do, really, is wait in anticipation to see if and when the rumoured deals between Porsche and Redbull (and Audi and McLaren) become official.