27 April 2015
VW boss exit opens door even as Ecclestone offers to go
Volkswagen-Audi has long been linked to a possible F1 entry, but the way may now be clear following the resignation of chairman Ferdinand Piech.
Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech has quit his post in a move which could eventually open the door for one of the German manufacturer's brands to enter the F1 arena.
Piech had been a notable obstruction to any ambition VW may have had of stepping into the top flight, despite the company's assorted success with its varied brands in other branches of motorsport. Ironically, the reason for his obstinate stance, Bernie Ecclestone's presence at the head of F1, may have been about to change, with the Briton apparently suggesting that he would step down if it paved the way for the Germans to come on board.
Piech resigned after a power struggle with chief executive Martin Winterkorn, having been at the head of the company since 1993. When Winterkorn received unanimous backing from the VW board in his bid to become the next chairman of the company, Piech quit with immediate effect.
"The members of the steering committee came to a consensus that, in the light of the past weeks, the mutual trust necessary for successful cooperation was no longer there," a company statement explained.
Winterkorn has held the role of chief executive for the past eight years, in which time VW's various brands have increased their presence – and success rate – in various areas of competition outside of F1.
Whilst the parent company currently rules the WRC, Audi has been a long-time force in sports prototypes, where it is now rejoined by Porsche, while both marques compete against Lamborghini and Bentley in GTs. F1, however, has so far remained off-limits, despite the company's previous single-seater success in F3, as Piech refused to allow VW or Audi – the most talked about brands – to be a part of a championship controlled by Ecclestone.
Ironically, Ecclestone only recently told a BBC interview that he would be more than willing to step away from F1 if it would facilitate the ingress of more manufacturers.
"Nobody's told me that [I was the reason they weren't entering],” he told team boss-turned-pundit Eddie Jordan, “If that is the case, I'll leave. I would be happy to step down if it brought those people in."
Despite the team being coy on the subject, rumours that the VW Group could enter into a partnership with Red Bull as an engine supplier continue to persist, though even an imminent commitment would likely defer any entry until 2017 at the earliest.
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