The FOTA Technical Working Group met yesterday in London to discuss the new rules for 2013 and today Porsche chairman Mattias Muller has indicated that he is likely to bring his company into F1 using either the Porsche or Audi brand.
Manufacturers not currently in F1 have been invited all along to be party to the ongoing discussions with teams and the FIA on the 2013 rules and I understand that the Porsche/Audi group have been part of that. The direction of travel is 1.6 litre turbo engines which would work with either brand.
The likely timing of a Porsche or Audi entry would be with the new engine formula. It is thought that they will either come in as an engine supplier or possibly as a shareholder in a team, like Mercedes were with McLaren. They will no doubt also do a feasibility study into acquiring an existing team, looking at the likely revenues to teams under the new Concorde Agreement, which many of the F1 stakeholders are hoping could be negotiated over this winter’s off-season break.
“With LMP1, there are two classes and two brands – Audi and Porsche. We do not like to both go into LMP1 [against each other]; that is not so funny,” said Mueller in an interview with Autocar’s Matt Prior.
“So therefore we have to discuss whether it makes better sense for one of the [two] brands to go into LMP1, and the other brand into F1. So we will have a round-table to discuss the pros and cons.”
If FOTA gets its way and the teams increase their share of the revenues from 50% to more like 75%, while keeping costs under control, then owning and operating an F1 team could become cost neutral or even profitable, with the added benefit of the immense global marketing reach. That may work out as a more viable option than part ownership or simple engine supply.
Porsche/Audi will have plenty of suitors among existing teams. Red Bull has cultivated strong links with Audi over the past few years and there are a number of business to business initiatives between them. Hispania Racing’s Colin Kolles is also well connected with Audi in Germany. Meanwhile Williams has a deal to supply hybrid technology to Porsche and the timing is just about perfect for the team to do some kind of deal as Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head look to take a backward step from the business and release some of their equity.
Audi has never been in F1, although in the pre war days when it was called simply Grand Prix, Auto Union carried Audi’s famous four ring logo. It works very closely with Shell in sportscars, but Shell has a long standing relationship with Ferrari in F1.
The problem for Audi as a brand in F1 is that it’s motorsport programme is all about diesel technology, hence the endurance racing programme with Le Mans and ALMS. F1 isn’t likely to go diesel in the near future, so it would require a major strategic shift.
Porsche is synonymous with sportscar racing, but also has a history in F1, as a team in its own right in the 1960s – it won the 1962 French GP – and as an engine supplier to Footwork (Arrows) in 1991.
The TAG Turbo engines, made by Porsche, won 25 Grands Prix and three world championships with McLaren in the early 1980s.