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F1 on "dangerous path" claims VW boss

NEWS STORY
22/08/2017

For as long as anyone can remember, Volkswagen, along with the various car brands that form the VW Group - brands which include Porsche, Audi, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Bentley - have been linked with F1.

In April 2015, the shock departure Ferdinand Piech, grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, following a boardroom battle with Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, kick-started the rumour mill yet again, Piech having been a long-term critic of Bernie Ecclestone.

Already enjoying a strong sporting presence with Audi and Porsche in WEC, Bentley and Lamborghini in GT Racing and VW itself in WRC, F3 and Rallycross, F1 seemed the obvious next move. Indeed, in 2012, Wolfgang Durheimer, head of Bentley, Bugatti and Motorsport within the VW Group, had said he was keen to see the company in F1 admitting involvement in the sport was vital for planned sales in the American, Asian and Middle Eastern markets.

At the time Red Bull was throwing all its toys out of the pram, threatening to leave the sport unless an alternative (competitive) engine supply could be found, the Austrian team held talks with VW, but then came the emissions scandal.

While Volkswagen has attended recent meetings of the Power Unit Working Group as the sport looks ahead to beyond 2020 when the current formula is due to end, the decision to take two of its brands - Audi and Porsche - into Formula E suggests the company does not envisage a future in F1.

Indeed, Group director Bernhard Gobmeier, believes the sport is on a dangerous path.

"Formula 1 is on a dangerous path. It is expensive," he said, according to Motorsport.com. "Most of the teams, apart from the big four, have financial problems. And tracks cannot pay what they are asking for. Due to its expensive nature, they are walking a very dangerous path in my personal opinion. We see it everywhere."

"Mercedes has over 1,500 people working on the F1 project," he continues. "That is not even considering the suppliers, though it is not so much. It is probably 2,000 people on two cars. You should consider how expensive wages are in England and how expensive material is.

"In America, they have cost control on their minds. They manage it well," he added. "In Europe, there are a lot of different categories. In some of them, cost control is really good. But, F1 is completely out of range and so is the WEC."

Other than costs, Gobmeier, who previously ran the Ducati MotoGP operation, believes the sport is not providing a good enough show, which further impacts teams in terms of sponsorship.

"The number of sponsors is going down," he says. "The big sponsors, like the cigarette companies, are not there anymore. The small sponsors are also reducing. The number of sponsors is going down and so are the spectator numbers. At the same time, the cost is increasing. Something is not fitting there. They have to make the races more spectacular.

"MotoGP is above F1 from the show point of view. It is one hundred times better. There is no comparison. MotoGP, its supporting races and World Superbikes are way better than F1.

"Theoretically, MotoGP has the potential to commercially capitalise on its popularity. And they do. We have Ducati in our group and we can see what difference in sponsorship can be achieved. Ducati is achieving the biggest sponsorship. Even Porsche, Bentley, Audi do not achieve such big sponsorship. Ducati is special and comparable to Ferrari and the sponsors get real value. They do good activation at the races, both in terms of media, hospitality, programmes and other things. The car companies are not so good in that."

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1. Posted by Darvic, 25/08/2017 0:29

"Obviously everyone has a position and it could be said that VW's is in defence of their not being involved in F1. As others have said costs have always been high and manufacturers will pay this price to compete against Ferrari. Like the music industry has found selling IP and media rights is getting more competitive will the same money spread over a bigger and more diverse audience so the only option is to do more events. The question is will this devalue the product and will the teams need more people as burn out will be more of an issue.

Fundamentally F1 has grown with the Asian audience recently but now the global young generation is not interested in cars beyond as a tool to get from a to b so the attendees at events tend to be older and corporate clients. The growth of autonomous vehicles over the next few years will make the F1 drivers as irrelevant as chess masters have become since they can be beaten by computers. Sport aas an entertainment will focus on events that show human emotion which is difficult in a car and under a driving suit.F1 will still deliver a large turnover but its costs to mainstay its position will rise significantly.

What can F1 do to improve itself is a difficult question, Americanization will not be the answer. The future maybe in Africa which is where the population growth is but in the initial stages this will need governments to fund events and facilities. "

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2. Posted by Spindoctor, 24/08/2017 8:30

"VAG's comments whilst pretty accurate, are hardly headline news. "F1 costs a lot!! Shock!! Horror!!!"
Well knock me down with a feather, Trevor....

Today's "Premium" Sports are very expensive. The English Premiership spends billions per year on players
Manchester United alone turned-over around 515 million last year for a profit of 68 million. The old adage about Rolls Royce cars: "If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it" appplies, and even more so to competing in F1.
Even such superficially "cheap" sports as Track Athletics have budgetrs running globally into hundreds of millions.

It's a bit rich for VAG to whinge about "cost control", when their cheating over emissions has cost billions to the extent of contemplating flogging Ducati to raise the cash.

The cost of F1 to manufacturers isn't a big impediment to participating, but the lack of audience, sponsorship and global "visibility" really is. Shaving a few quid (or tens of millions of quids) off the cost of entry won't change that.
"

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3. Posted by @R1Racing71, 23/08/2017 11:03

"Is the game finally up?
"

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4. Posted by Paul C, 23/08/2017 4:42

"F1 needs stable reliable suppliers possibly more than manufacturers. Dallara, Cosworth and Ferrari are a triumverate that can be F1's backbone. Let Porsche and others race in Formula Scaletrix."

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5. Posted by TokyoAussie, 23/08/2017 4:33

"<pisstake>Shock, horror, surprise. Nobody on these pages has been saying anything like this </pisstake>
VW is only stating the obvious. Unfortunately, the "bleedin' obvious" is not a strong point with the FIA and FOM.

I do think the continuous comparison with MotoGP and other bike races is distracting. Bikes are much narrower, shorter, and nimble. They can accelerate quicker, brake quicker, and travel 6 abreast. It goes without saying that they can put on a better "show"."

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6. Posted by F One, 22/08/2017 22:15

"And frankly who gives a damn about any of the manufacturers. They all come and go. Who cares if they all go? Good riddance to them."

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7. Posted by F One, 22/08/2017 22:14

"LOL Graham no one watches Formula E. It's a joke."

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8. Posted by GrahamG, 22/08/2017 21:26

"Impossible to argue with this. Will F1 listen, of course not, until every sponsor and most spectators have decamped to MotoGP or Formula E and they have a worthless mess on their hands"

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