2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattroEnlarge Photo
Audi may be planning to ditch the world of endurance racing and seek a new challenge in motorsport’s top echelon, Formula One. The German automaker has been the dominant force in endurance racing for more than a decade, winning 13 of the past 16 24 Hours of Le Mans races, and with sister brand Porsche having recently made its return there may be pressure from senior Volkswagen Group officials to see Audi make the switch.
Audi has a history of grand prix racing, having dominated the sport together with Mercedes-Benz during the 1930s back when it was the Auto Union. The Auto Union was no longer competing in grand prix racing when Formula One was established in 1950 but now it may finally enter the sport under the guise of Audi.
Auto Express, citing insiders, reports that the Audi F1 effort could commence as early as the 2016 season. Audi was reportedly a proponent of the four-cylinder format for F1 and was close to entering the sport in the 2013 season but canceled its plans when organizers chose a V-6 format instead.
Funding for the effort could come from Audi’s existing WEC and DTM budgets, plus a link up with energy drinks company Red Bull. Red Bull, which fields both Infiniti Red Bull Racing as well as Toro Rosso, is a major sponsor of Audi’s leading DTM team, and its boss, Dietrich Mateschitz, is said to have close links with the automaker.
But the story doesn’t end there. It’s well known that Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso is likely to leave the Italian team at the end of this season and make a switch to McLaren next year. It is reported that the Spaniard is trying to negotiate a contract for just a single season with McLaren, leaving him free to join the Audi squad in 2016. His old boss, ex-Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has already been hired by Audi, possibly for the rumored F1 return.
A successful entry in F1 for Audi may end up leaving the Volkswagen Group as the dominant force in the three major motorsport world championships, F1 (Audi), WEC (Porsche) and WRC (Volkswagen). And if Mercedes also continues its current form, Audi’s F1 entry may see a repeat of the legendary era of the Silver Arrows, when the performance of the German automakers was unrivaled.