Boardroom power shift moves VW closer to F1

Internal boardroom power struggle deep within the VW Group appears to have positioned one of its brands closer to a Formula 1 entry in 2018.

Boardroom power shift moves VW closer to F1
VW detail
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, Volkswagen Polo WRC, Volkswagen Motorsport
Dr. Martin Winterkorn Head of Volkswagen AG
Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen AG and Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Audi's Head of Motorsport
Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Floene, Volkswagen Polo WRC, Volkswagen Motorsport
VW Boss Martin Winterkorn during the Volkswagen Press Conference
Volkswagen Motorsport VW Scirocco
Scott Piecha Journalist with Bernie Ecclestone CEO Formula One Group British Grand Prix, Sunday
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, Volkswagen Polo WRC, Volkswagen Motorsport
#8 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro: Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval, Oliver Jarvis

Ferdinand Piech – the 78-year-old chief of the Volkswagen Group – has been effectively shunned by the VW Executive Committee of the Supervisory Board, which has recommended that CEO Martin Winterkorn (pictured left) be offered a new extensive and long-term contract from 2016 onward.

This comes after Piech was believed to be orchestrating the removal of his former favourite from the company, and an emergency meeting was called last week to resolve the internal power struggle.

Piech will have to relinquish his role as chairman of the VW Executive Committee of the Supervisory Board in 2017. The boardroom shift could see plans set in motion for a new decision making processes that could see the VW Group restructure its motorsport programme in the coming 18 months.

Winterkorn took over as CEO of VW Group from Bernd Pischetsrieder in 2007. Prior to that, he had worked as Chairman of the Board at Audi AG, and was a big supporter of its racing projects in sportscars and the DTM. Winterkorn has overseen the expansion and growth of VW Group in recent years to further enhance its status as the leader of EU automakers.

Piech, a member of the Porsche family who strategically moved the ailing brand upmarket from its 1990s doldrums, recently criticized Winterkorn for VW's poor performance in the USA.

VW is made up of several shareholders, with Porsche Holdings SE owning the leading percentage. The rest of the board is made up of unknown and private shareholders: Qatar Holding LLC, led by Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, plus the State of Lower Saxony and other German industrial investors.

Why F1 move is on the radar

The VW Group has long been rumoured to be looking at a Formula 1 entry with one of its brands. Audi is widely understood to be the most likely to undertake an F1 programme, but Motorsport.com understands that Suzuki and Bugatti have also undertaken feasibility studies in recent years.

Audi last year employed three key ex-F1 staff members. They were ex-Ferrari F1 team team principal Stefano Domenicali, former BMW and Williams engineer Jorg Zander and Gabriele Delicolli, who is a former Ferrari simulator specialist.

In 2011 Wolfgang Durheimer, director Bentley and Bugatti, told German magazine Auto Motor Und Sport that “if [the VW group] is at the forefront of the auto industry, I can imagine us competing in Formula 1 in 2018. We have enough brands to pull it off.”

An end to VW's 'personality issue'

The main stumbling block to this previously has been the fact that Piech did not like F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, and despite the two having only met on fleeting formal occasions there appears to be a mutual dislike between the two on a personal basis.

However, Ecclestone said during the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend that he would step down if Audi demanded it as a condition to enter F1.

The VW Group currently structures its racing successfully around the thriving World Endurance Championship (Audi and Porsche), the World Rally Championship, Rallycross and F3 (VW) and GT racing (Bentley and Lamborghini). It produces road cars under the brands Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT, Skoda and VW.

VW also owns the Bundesliga team VF Wolfsburg, where the company is based and was a sponsor of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

 

shares
comments
Vettel focused on pressuring Mercedes, not fifth title

Previous article

Vettel focused on pressuring Mercedes, not fifth title

Next article

The iceman returns: Kimi Raikkonen back on podium but wants to take it higher

The iceman returns: Kimi Raikkonen back on podium but wants to take it higher
Load comments
Why the end is nigh for F1’s most dependable design tool Prime

Why the end is nigh for F1’s most dependable design tool

Wind tunnel work forms the bedrock of aerodynamic development in Formula 1. But as Pat Symonds explains, advances in virtual research are signalling the end of these expensive and complicated relics.

Formula 1
Jun 13, 2021
Why Mosley’s legacy amounts to far more than tabloid rumour Prime

Why Mosley’s legacy amounts to far more than tabloid rumour

The newspapers, naturally, lingered over Max Mosley’s tainted family history and niche sexual practices. But this is to trivialise the legacy of a big beast of motor racing politics. Stuart Codling weighs the life of a man whose work for safety on both road and track has saved hundreds of thousands of lives, but whose penchant for cruelty remains problematic and polarising.

Formula 1
Jun 12, 2021
Why pragmatic Perez isn't fazed by no-nonsense Red Bull F1 culture Prime

Why pragmatic Perez isn't fazed by no-nonsense Red Bull F1 culture

Sergio Perez has spent most of his career labouring in Formula 1’s midfield, wondering whether he’d ever get another shot at the big time. Red Bull has handed him that chance and, although life at the top is tough, the Baku winner is doing all the right things to get on terms with Max Verstappen, says BEN ANDERSON

Formula 1
Jun 11, 2021
What the data tells us about the F1 2021 title fight Prime

What the data tells us about the F1 2021 title fight

Formula 1 has been tracking car performance using timing loops mounted every 200m around each circuit – to the extent that it was able to anticipate Ferrari’s 'surprise’ pole in Monaco. PAT SYMONDS explains what this means for this season and beyond

Formula 1
Jun 10, 2021
The weighty issue F1 needs to find a balance with Prime

The weighty issue F1 needs to find a balance with

OPINION: After consecutive street races with contrasting highlights, one theme stood out which has become a prevalent issue with modern Formula 1 cars. But is there a way to solve it or, at least, reach a happy middle ground to help all parties?

Formula 1
Jun 10, 2021
The changes behind a 'feel-good' F1 result in Baku Prime

The changes behind a 'feel-good' F1 result in Baku

OPINION: The Azerbaijan Grand Prix had elements that make Formula 1 really exciting – unpredictability and shock results. This resulted in heartbreak for several of the championship’s regular contenders and joy for others who rarely reach the ultimate limelight. And one of those on the Baku podium is riding a wave of form he’s keen to continue

Formula 1
Jun 9, 2021
The human cost to replacing Formula 1's cancelled rounds Prime

The human cost to replacing Formula 1's cancelled rounds

OPINION: With the global pandemic still lingering, Singapore's grand prix has been cancelled for 2021, with more looking likely to follow. Although Formula 1 has TV deals and profits to chase, retaining a 23-race calendar could be most harmful to those who sacrifice the most for the championship.

Formula 1
Jun 8, 2021
Azerbaijan Grand Prix Driver Ratings Prime

Azerbaijan Grand Prix Driver Ratings

An eventful weekend in Baku full of incident and drama lent the race result an unusual feel, as three drivers scored their first podiums of the year. But it wasn't the eventual race winner who scored top marks in our driver ratings

Formula 1
Jun 7, 2021