The Volkswagen Group has played down suggestions that it may be interested in bidding for the one or more F1 vacancies hinted at by last week's call to arms by the FIA.
The governing body surprised the motorsport world by opening up an opportunity for prospective F1 entrants to submit proposals [ see separate story
], which automatically led to a retread of suggestions that VW – or one of its group brands – would be interested in expanding its motorsport programme into the top flight. However, the German giant has since told ESPN
that it will not be bidding for a place
"Currently, there are no plans or intentions for the Volkswagen brand or any other brand of the Volkswagen Group to join F1," a spokesman said, echoing innumerable similar quotes issued over the years.
VW, which has motorsport brands such as Porsche, Audi, Bugatti, SEAT, Skoda and Lamborghini under its umbrella, has repeatedly stated that it is not interested in starting an F1 programme, a claim echoed by its subsidiaries, most of which have competition arms active in other series. VW, of course, is the new WRC champion, while new WEC sportscar champion Audi is about to be joined in LMP1 competition by Porsche.
The multiple World Sportscar Championship winner admitted earlier this year that it had decided to pursue a return to the prototype ranks – where it will be joined by former F1 ace Mark Webber
– rather than go down the single-seater route because it felt the technology, notably hybrid power systems, was more relevant to its road car business.
“We are a sports car company,” head of R&D Wolfgang Hatz told Autocar
back in April, “Porsche has always lived for the transfer of racing to production cars. For that reason, it was clear two or three years ago that we had to be back in high-level motorsport, and it was a choice between top-flight sports cars or F1.
“But the final decision was the only logical one. F1 was an alternative, but the road relevance is not there. Also, there is a lot of publicity around politics and tyres, but not so much about the engines and chassis. The aero, too, is incredible, but so extreme that it cannot result in any development in our road car understanding.”
Audi has also been connected to various openings in the F1 field, and as a potential engine partner to existing teams, but has regularly denied interest, and VW's latest dismissal completes the set. The latter's Wolfgang Duerheimer said back in the summer, however, that F1 could be an option in the longer term.
"I could imagine involvement in F1 in 2018, when the company is at the forefront of the industry," he told Auto Motor und Sport
, "We have enough brands that could do that."
Initial interest in the spaces on the F1 grid has to be registered by 3 January 2014 and, with the FIA looking to make a final decision on 28 February, the short time-frame has naturally created speculation that the governing body could already have someone in mind.
Alternatively, however, it could be covering its bases amid rumours that two or more existing teams could yet be holding merger talks, which would reduce the current field from eleven to ten teams, and possibly fewer.