Red Bull boss Christian Horner has confirmed that VW/Audi has expressed some interest in entering Formula 1 in the future, but says it is too early to know if it will definitely make the jump.
The possibility of a tie-up between Red Bull and the German car manufacturer has been talked about since the start of the campaign.
However, on the back of confirmation that Red Bull and Renault are to part company at the end of this season, the speculation has intensified that a VW alliance could be on the cards from 2018.
BBC pundit Eddie Jordan even claimed over the Singapore Grand Prix that a deal for VW/Audi to buy Red Bull was close – although this has been played down by the team.
Sources have indicated, however, that there is serious dialogue about a programme that would begin no sooner than 2018 – if Audi's bosses can end what has been a long-standing resistance to entering F1.
Speaking about the VW situation, Horner said: “I think it is great that VW have been showing interest in F1. But it is all pure speculation at the moment.
“Even if they were to decide to commit to F1, you are looking at a minimum of two to three years before being able to produce a competitive engine.”
While VW's current boardroom focus may be diverted by an emissions controversy in the United States, the company certainly has the budget necessary to bankroll an F1 project.
And Horner is adamant that F1 is actually in need of attracting a manufacturer like VW because, with only Ferrari and Mercedes producing competitive engines right now, the sport would be damaged if dominated by just two manufacturers.
“I think it is important for F1 to have competitive engine manufacturers,” explained Horner. “What we are rapidly descending upon is two dominant engine suppliers, and that ultimately isn't healthy for F1.
“With the V8 era you had three or four competitive engines that were capable of winning, but now you only have two engines that are capable of winning races on merit. That is not particularly healthy.”
Ferrari talk encouraging
Horner said that he was hopeful things were moving in the right direction, both in terms of ending its Renault alliance and switching over to a Maranello supply deal.
“Our situation is becoming more clear,” he said. “We have had some good discussion with Renault the past week and obviously I think the conclusion of those conversations will be fairly imminent. The implications that has for the future are far from clear.”