Volkswagen says the planned entry of its Porsche and Audi brands into Formula 1 in 2026 was its last chance in a decade to join the Grand Prix grid.
The German automaker has pushed ahead with its F1 plans and recently said in an official statement that a final green light for action will come after new F1 engine regulations for 2026 are finalized.
But VW CEO Herbert Diess revealed in a YouTube video on Monday, answering questions from residents of the town of Wolfsburg where the company is based, how far along the company is with its preparations.
Speaking openly about F1, Diess said the boom enjoyed by Grand Prix racing in key markets like the United States, as well as the opportunities presented by a brand new set of rules in 2026, meant that an opportunity was there to take the step that would not be repeated. himself for a while.
“Formula 1 is developing extremely positively around the world,” he said. “The marketing there, as well as Netflix, has led to significant growth in Formula 1 in the US as well. Asia is seeing significant growth, including among younger customer groups. If you look at the major sporting events or events in the world, it’s true that in motorsport, it’s really only Formula 1 that counts and which is increasingly different.
“If you’re in motorsport you should be in Formula 1 because that’s where the impact is the biggest. Also, you can’t get into Formula 1 unless there’s a technology window. opens, which means, to enter, a change of rule: so that everyone starts again from the same place.
“As Markus Duesman [chairman of Audi and former BMW F1 head of powertrains] always tell me, you usually save a second per season on a medium-sized circuit just by optimizing the details.
“But you can’t make up for that when you join a new team: you need five or 10 years to be among the first. In other words, you can only get on board if you have a major rule change.
“It’s happening now, and it’s also coming around 2026, when engines will be electrified to a much greater extent, including with synthetic fuels. That means you need new engine development and you need three or four years to develop a new engine.
“That means you can decide now to do Formula 1 – or then probably not for another 10 years. And our two premium brands think it’s the right thing to do and prioritize it.”
Porsche is currently preparing an LMDh assault at Le Mans alongside Penske, while Audi has focused its recent factory efforts on the Dakar Rally
Photo by: Porsche Motorsport
Diess confirmed that the VW name would not be part of the company’s F1 plans, but Porsche and Audi had committed to entering F1 separately.
Porsche has been most strongly linked to a tie-up with Red Bull, as Diess confirmed the company’s plans are more “concrete” than Audi, which has yet to find a partner.
“VW will not be involved,” he said. “It doesn’t fit and the brand won’t participate.”
Diess said that with the Porsche and Audi brands having big ambitions for long-term sales growth, a move to F1 was a no-brainer – especially with analysis showing F1 programs could help generate a profit for both cars. businesses.
“Porsche has to be the sportiest car brand in the world, so Porsche has to do motorsport,” he said. “And you come to the conclusion: if Porsche is doing motorsport, the most efficient thing is to do Formula 1. You almost have to put a tick on that.”
He added: “Audi is a much weaker brand than Porsche. It cannot demand such a high price premium. Audi actually has the best case for Formula 1 because it has much greater potential for the brand. “
“They are moving to the upper segments, competing with Daimler, and then Audi will also have a case where they say it makes sense. Audi also transfers four or five billion a year to Wolfsburg, and it will also transfer more with Formula 1 than without.
“Then you just run out of arguments. You can say, ‘But I don’t believe in Formula 1’, but there are good arguments that say Formula 1 will grow, even in the future. Why should you restrict them, if they then deliver more money?”
While Diess says an F1 entry for Porsche and Audi makes perfect sense, he revealed not everyone on VW’s board is in favor at a time when the car industry is going through a transformation. in the midst of the shift to electric vehicles.
“The discussion in the Council has not been unanimous,” he said. “We certainly have other strategic priorities. It’s not necessarily motorsport, but our cars need to be technically up to date, we need to be able to drive autonomously, we need the software capabilities, we need batteries for our cars, we have enough to do and we don’t really need to do Formula 1.
“But our premium brands say it’s the most important lever to increase brand value and be able to take a little more for the cars in terms of price. And also to demonstrate to the competition that you have superior technology, in the case of Audi.
“That’s why the Management Board and the Supervisory Board all voted in favor of it. Audi still has to decide in which constellation and with which team. But both have started developing engines.”