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Resignation sparks VW F1 speculation

NEWS STORY
26/04/2015

The resignation of Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech has revived talk of the company entering F1

For as long as anyone can remember, the Volkswagen Group, whose brands include Porsche, Audi, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Bentley, has been linked with F1.

However, for much of this time, the man standing in the way of such a move was Piech, who, apart from not seeing what would ultimately be gained by entering the sport, made no secret of his intense dislike of Bernie Ecclestone.

On Saturday, Piech, grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, resigned as chairman of the Volkswagen Group after losing out in a bitter boardroom battle with Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn which even saw his cousin, Wolfgang Porsche, vote against him.

The meeting, the second in as many weeks, was the culmination of a long-running power struggle between Piech and Winterkorn, who had been offered a new long-term contract by Volkswagens's Supervisory Board.

Following Piech’s resignation, which is with immediate effect, Berthold Huber, a senior trade unionist will take over until a new chairman is elected, many believing that Winterkorn will now fill the role.

With Piech gone, there is already intense speculation that this might clear the way for Volkswagen to reappraise its stance on F1.

Already enjoying a strong sport presence with Audi and Porsche in WEC, Bentley and Lamborghini in GT Racing and VW itself in WRC, F3 and Rallycross, F1 would seem the obvious next move.

Indeed last year Audi further fuelled the speculation when it hired former Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali and Williams and BMW engineer Jorg Zander.

In 2012, Wolfgang Durheimer, head of Bentley, Bugatti and Motorsport within the VW Group, made it clear that he was keen to see the company in F1 saying involvement in the sport was vital for planned sales in the American, Asian and Middle Eastern markets.

Durheimer, who previously headed Porsche, which, following a brief flirtation with F1 in the early 60s which included a win for Dan Gurney in the 1962 French Grand Prix, and which subsequently enjoyed success in the 1980s with McLaren, securing three drivers and two constructors' titles with the Woking team, said that "F1 has the most relevance and dominates motor sport in Europe and Asia".

Previously, in 2011, the head of technical development at Volkswagen, Ulrich Hackenberg, when asked about talk of the German company expanding its motorsport activities to include F1 said: "There is certainly one or the other person out there in the world that would wish for that, but we don't have that on the programme.

"I should know what I am talking about," he added, "since it would come out of my budget."

He subsequently said he envisaged VW entering F1 by 2018. "I could imagine involvement in Formula One in 2018, when the company is at the forefront of the industry. We have enough brands that could do that."

The stumbling block was always Piech indeed, only last week, minded that the one thing preventing Audi from entering F1 was the German's loathing of him, Bernie Ecclestone told BBC Sport: "Nobody's told me that. If that is the case, I'll leave. I would be happy to step down if it brought those people in."

With Piech's resignation, that particular stumbling block appears to have gone.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Spindoctor, 09/05/2015 8:31

"Never say "never", but I really can't see what would be in it for VAG.
Yes, I know all about the "Brand Awareness" & other promotional argy-bargy but would cost hundreds of millions and is unlikely to produce positive results for at least 5 years, if ever.
In recent times, before the costs became ludicrously stratospheric, BMW tried it, Toyota tried it, Ford\Jaguar tried, they spent lots, they all failed.

You can point to Mercedes, but they got some good luck when the engine formula changed and they got a leg-up, otherwise they would probably still be sucking Red Bull's exhaust fumes.....

In summary F1 is strictly VERY rich boys' toys and you don't win anything without spending huge amounts, and having lots of luck, and even that's is no guarantee of success. No rational car manufacturer should even contemplate entering F1 with the slightest expectation of winning for a long time, if at all, though see Mercedes above.

VAG has plenty of cash, and is feeling very arrogant at present on the back of strong sales, so maybe the urge for "willy-waving" will overcome common-sense. I sincerely hope not.
Another player with (effectively) unlimited resources can only push costs up even more, and put the squeeze on everybody except Ferrari & Mercedes. This would only exacerbate all the well-known problems F1 is trying to contend with."

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2. Posted by 4-Wheel Drifter, 01/05/2015 0:40

"All I can say is that anyone who has an intense dislike for Mr. E. doesn't need to explain it to anyone. All one has to do is watch Mr. E. and read what he says to reporters. His interest in F1 is on a par with Hitler's interest in world peace. Of course it would be fun to see Porsche decide to compete with Mercedes, but given the deteriorating state of F1 at the moment it would certainly be a questionable move. Even if they were as successful as, say, Red Bull, it would be silly to think that result in anyway benefitted the company. And the likelihood is that they'd be lucky to match Mercedes' struggles. Does anyone in their right mind think people by Mercedes because they're dominating F1? I don't think so. "

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3. Posted by petes, 27/04/2015 5:43

"@Joop :-)"

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4. Posted by Joop deBruin, 26/04/2015 19:21

"Are they innie or Audi?"

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5. Posted by Yeyox02, 26/04/2015 18:34

"If Mr Piech had a bad relationship with Ecclestone, There must be good reasons for this and everybody knows why. "

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