But now Wolfsburg officials are looking again at Formula 1’s involvement – and the chances that it might work on the third attempt are better than ever.
Nevertheless, the company is still far from a binding decision. A BBC Sport story is currently making a lot of noise after Porsche Motorsport Vice President Fritz Enzinger said a Formula 1 entry for Volkswagen could be “of great interest” under certain conditions. Porsche Motorsport did not comment on Autosport’s question on the history of the BBC.
But Enzinger is not just anyone. The Austrian took over from Wolfgang Dürheimer as head of Volkswagen’s motorsport group in early 2018. Previously, the 64-year-old was at BMW until the end of 2011, as logistics manager for his Formula project. 1 among other roles. He went on to play a key role in building the successful organization of Porsche which achieved three overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and eight world endurance championship titles through its programs.
Since January 2019, Enzinger has been wearing two hats, both as Porsche Motorsport boss with around 500 employees and as Motorsport Strategy Manager for the entire Volkswagen Group. Rumor has it that he is an avowed supporter of a Formula 1 project within Volkswagen Group management.
“Basically all developments in motorsport and racing series are continuously observed and evaluated,” Enzinger told the BBC. He said this was especially true “with regard to the new engine and powertrain rules in Formula 1 from 2025”, when a new generation of powertrain is to be introduced.
“If aspects of sustainability play a role in this, for example the introduction of e-fuels, then that would be of great interest,” added Enzinger.
Photo by: Motorsport Images
There have been whispers in industry circles for some time that the idea of entering F1 has not been put aside by the Volkswagen Group. The general conditions are good. The Dieselgate scandal may not have been settled, but at least the worst waves have been broken.
Above all, the new manager of Formula 1 is Stefano Domenicali. He’s a former VW man, and not just any former VW man: Domenicali oversaw and developed a study in 2015 to see if it made sense for Audi to enter Formula 1. Enzinger revealed in a report. interview with Autosport in 2019 which he built on this study even when the group was about to send Porsche to Formula 1.
New impetus was added to the rumors when VW Group CEO Herbert Diess posted on LinkedIn last August that a Formula 1 with synthetic fuels is more exciting, more fun, a better motorsport experience and brings more competition than a Formula E which does a few laps in city centers in game mode. “Since then, the VW Audi brand has announced that it will quit Formula E at the end of Season 7, reducing thus its involvement, although a presence of the group is maintained via the Porsche team.
Autosport understands that there is currently a review mandate on the subject of Formula 1 within the VW Group, which is supported at the highest level. However, it’s also clear that Volkswagen will only enter the series if the conditions are such that a commitment to a reasonable financial outlay has both a realistic chance of success and is environmentally sustainable.
When an entry for Porsche was considered from 2017 and 40 employees were developing a six-cylinder engine suitable for Formula 1 – initially in strict secrecy – Volkswagen even sat at the table during negotiations over the new format. of motor to be used in the series.
In February 2019, the “high output engine” – as it was called internally – ran on the test bench for the first time, and all signs seemed to point to an entrance. At the time there was Andreas Seidl, now McLaren’s F1 team manager, but also the man who had previously worked with Enzinger on the successful Porsche LMP1 program.
There are still different explanations as to why Porsche ultimately did not give the green light to enter F1. On the VW side, it is said that the existing manufacturers were not ready to change the engine format to such an extent that a newcomer would have had a realistic chance of succeeding. On the Formula 1 side, it has been hinted that Volkswagen wants to push for completely new engine regulations, but is not ready to commit to a new entry, weakening the argument for a costly change. the engine format from the 2021 season.
But now Volkswagen and Formula 1 have another chance, as behind the scenes the course is set for the new engine from 2025. At Graz-based company AVL, research is being carried out at full speed into the field of e-fuels. – a subject that could play a major role in Volkswagen’s corporate strategy in the years to come. The FIA and F1 have presented plans to use fully sustainable fuels in the near future, with a step forward in this direction in 2022 when ‘E10’ fuel is introduced.
If Formula 1 takes the right direction under Domenicali, Volkswagen’s chances of participating are better than ever. However, it is not known which mark could be entered in such a case. After all, the group includes eight car brands that could theoretically be considered: Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT, Skoda and Volkswagen.
Guests and dignitaries on the grid with Stefano Domenicali, Managing Director FOM
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
In practice, three of them are preselected. Audi would make sense as a mass car maker and could relaunch the legendary ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ slogan into a more sustainable Formula 1. Porsche, on the other hand, has the emotional component with its resonant name and the influence of the Porsche family within the group.
Theoretically, sports car maker Lamborghini could be considered. Lamborghini is a wholly owned subsidiary of Audi and was led by Domenicali as CEO from 2016 until his exit to take on the F1 role. And the chairman of the board of directors of Audi, Markus Duesmann, is also an avowed fan of Formula 1.
Duesmann started his career in the Daimler Group and was responsible for the development of the Formula 1 engine department at Brixworth (incidentally as a predecessor of the current CEO of the Daimler Group, Ola Källenius). In 2006 he moved to BMW and was responsible for the powertrain for Team BMW Sauber, which was then considered the most powerful engine in Formula 1.
At that point, Duesmann (head of the engine department), Enzinger (head of logistics) and Seidl (head of operations for the race and test team) crossed paths at BMW. Today, Duesmann is seen – and this also plays a part in this story – as a hot candidate to succeed Diess, the boss of the Volkswagen Group.
Politically, this is an important number of preconditions for a possible entry into Formula 1 of the Volkswagen group. However, a number of basic fundamental conditions must be met before those responsible for Wolfsburg can make a clear commitment. The ball is now in the court of F1’s decision-makers.
Liberty Media certainly has a great interest in bringing back a fourth major manufacturer to F1 after Honda’s decision to leave at the end of this year. Not only would this minimize the risk of facing increasing pressure and uncertainty if another manufacturer were to leave, it would also help from a business perspective, as each manufacturer brings a whole range of partners to the series and of sponsors.
No stumbling block is to be expected from the FIA either. For Volkswagen, topics such as sustainability (downsizing to a four-cylinder; hybrid; electronic fuels) are of basic importance, as is a budget cap for powertrain development. These are goals that match those of FIA President Jean Todt – and one that could spark interest not only from Volkswagen, but from other manufacturers as well.
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The manufacturers currently involved in F1 – Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault – could therefore become the sticking point. If they are ready to tackle a major reform of the new engine from 2025, as originally planned for 2021, then it is understood that many options are open for Volkswagen.
In 2016, the diesel scandal stopped a Volkswagen entry. Three years later, the reluctance of current Formula 1 players to reform again put an end to the plans. 2025 marks the third realistic chance in 10 years – but there are still many steps to be taken.
The first would be for Volkswagen to sit down at the table in discussions about the new engine formula. Whether this happens could become clear in the coming weeks.