The VW Group's entry into Formula 1 has cleared the last major hurdle. The company's board of directors gave the go-ahead. But there is only a final yes word when the engine regulations are in place. As a partner for Audi, Sauber is in pole position. Porsche is aiming for a marriage with Red Bull. In the meantime, VW CEO Herbert Diess has also commented on the forthcoming entry of the premium brands.
The entry into Formula 1 of the VW subsidiaries Audi and Porsche had already cleared three hurdles. At both companies, the board of directors and the supervisory board agreed. The board of directors in the VW Group also basically nodded off a Formula 1 entry. The only thing missing was the group's supervisory board in Wolfsburg. And it met on Thursday (April 7). According to information from auto motor und sport, there was a positive result.
When asked, the group explained: "The board of directors and supervisory board of Volkswagen AG, Porsche AG and Audi AG have confirmed the plans of the two group brands for a possible entry into Formula 1. The Audi and Porsche brands will provide details at a later date inform." The note: "A decision on entry has not yet been made, we are in the final phase of the evaluation. The new regulations for 2026 and subsequent years are not yet available. They provide for far-reaching changes for more sustainable sport, which is a prerequisite for a possible entry by Audi."
Diess praises Formula 1
That was the situation at the beginning of April. At the beginning of May, the VW CEO commented on the wide-ranging plans. In a dialogue with the citizens of Wolfsburg as part of an event organized by the "Wolfsburger Nachrichten" and the "Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung", Herbert Diess specified this. "Formula 1 is growing worldwide. Only Formula 1 counts in motorsport. There is an opportunity to get started through technical rule changes. Formula 1 is becoming more environmentally friendly with electrification and synthetic fuels."
Not everyone in the group is in favor of entering Formula 1, but the majority is. "However, the Board of Management did not quite agree - we actually have enough to do. But the premium brands see Formula 1 as an important lever to increase brand value. Engine development has begun," says Diess. An important building block: Both Audi and Porsche have presented positive business cases. With Formula 1, not only can a high advertising value be achieved and the brand image improved. You could also make money with it in the future. "With Formula 1 we get more money from Stuttgart and Ingolstadt than without. We got the promise that we'll get more money to Wolfsburg with Formula 1 than without."
Both Audi and Porsche are allowed to actively plan their entry into the premier class of motorsport. A final decision and official announcement will only be made once all contracts have been signed and sealed.The two subsidiaries can still withdraw from their projects.
Everything stands and falls with the regulations for the drive from 2026, which are to be approved by the FIA in June. Experts say it could take until October because of many unresolved issues. As long as this is not laid down in black and white, the two luxury brands of the group will not start the engine.
Technical challenge attracts manufacturers
The technology of the future Formula 1 drive is actually fixed. A V6 turbo with a displacement of 1.6 liters remains, but with only one electric motor. The MGU-H disappears. In return, the MGU-K should deliver significantly more electrical power. Planned are 350 kilowatts (476 hp) each from the combustion engine and the electric motor.
In addition, there is 100 percent CO2-neutral fuel. A budget cap is intended to keep costs under control. At the moment there is talk of 140 million dollars. From the point of view of an automotive group, this is a technically attractive and sustainable constellation. Also from a financial point of view. The cost cap has already proven itself in the teams. Top teams with good sponsorship contracts such as Mercedes or Ferrari are already working profitably. At Alpine, it should be 2023. In connection with the advertising value of Formula 1, this also arouses the desires of other manufacturers. There are now increasing rumors that Honda will return in 2026.
The status of the engine manufacturers, the control of the budget cap for engine manufacturers and whether it would not make more sense to limit the costs solely through the test bench hours are still being argued. The FIA wants to give newcomers a helping hand at the beginning. They should spend more money for a certain period of time and get more test bench time than the established manufacturers Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault. They're watching with eagle eyes to ensure that Red Bull Powertrains doesn't swindle itself into newcomer status and then have a double advantage in an alliance with Porsche.
No promise without regulations
While people in Ingolstadt and Zuffenhausen are still waiting for the final framework conditions from the Formula 1 headquarters, preparations are already in full swing in both motorsport departments. First, a landing pad has to be found for both subsidiaries. Audi would like to be the driving force behind a Formula 1 commitment.
The Ingolstadt-based company negotiated for a long time with McLaren to take over the automotive division and parts of the Formula 1 team in a double pack. The car business is controlled by the McLaren Group, which in turn owns 67 percent of the racing team. Anyone who buys McLaren Automotive or parts of it automatically also holds shares in the racing activities of the British company.
McLaren showed little interest in selling his racing team. With the boom in the premier class, shares in Formula 1 teams are worth more every day.Even an improved offer did not bring the two companies together, although McLaren Automotive urgently needs a strong partner to meet the challenges of the hybrid age. As can be heard, talks are now being held with BMW at this level.
The topic of McLaren is practically off the table for Audi. An industry insider warns: "Maybe Audi wants McLaren to believe so that they finally agree to a deal before a competitor makes the race." The chance that the two companies will still find each other after the cancellation from Ingolstadt is classified as rather low.
Audi is already looking at alternatives. Williams obviously has a bad hand, because Grove insists on too much independence. The marriage between Williams and BMW failed in 2005 due to this desire for freedom of the traditional British team.
Aston Martin asks Audi
This means that Sauber is now in pole position among the takeover candidates. The Swiss racing team makes the most sense for a variety of reasons. Audi knows Sauber because the Le Mans car was developed in the Hinwil wind tunnel. The then Head of Technology at Audi, Jan Monchaux, now works at Sauber on the same mission.
Team owner Finn Rausing is not one who wants to get rich by selling the team. The Swede is in Formula 1 more for personal and ideological reasons. Compared to McLaren, a takeover of Sauber would be a bargain. Sauber wouldn't have a problem with a name change either. The Confederates sailed under the BMW flag between 2006 and 2009 and now call themselves Alfa Romeo, although not a single screw on the car is made in Milan. So the car could compete as an Audi. In a pact with the British teams, it would have been a McLaren-Audi or Williams-Audi.
The paddock radio reported during the Australian GP that another applicant had appeared on the floor. Aston Martin is said to have asked Audi about a collaboration. Owner Lawrence Stroll is determined to launch his own engine.
The first thought of building the drive unit yourself like Red Bull was dropped. With Red Bull Powertrains as a new player on the market, good engineers are becoming scarce. Red Bull's engine division has already poached around 50 employees from Mercedes.
Stroll's plan two couldn't be realized either. The Canadian billionaire allegedly wanted to buy the Mercedes engine manufacturer HPP in Brixworth or at least acquire parts of it, and according to rumors he also found an open ear with CEO Ola Källenius, but ultimately didn't get the chance. Formula 1 circles then leaked out that Stroll was trying to make a joint venture palatable to Audi.
And what does Porsche do?
Porsche cooks its own soup. The Swabians are not concerned with taking over a team.They seek a partnership with a say and the purchase of team shares. The partner is obvious. Contacts with Red Bull have long been established. In 2018, you were close to working together. Red Bull Powertrains would build the combustion engine, and Porsche would support the electric part with its know-how.
Audi, on the other hand, would launch a completely proprietary drive unit, which is essentially based on the engine that Porsche had already run on the test bench in 2018 before the Formula 1 project ended last year due to Porsche's involvement in the diesel scandal was put on hold for a minute.
Once the regulations are in place, Audi and Porsche will communicate their plans in detail in a timely manner. At Red Bull Porsche there is a wish scenario. The perfect time to announce a partnership would be the home game at the Austrian GP.