VW says Audi/Porsche F1 entry in 2026 was ‘last chance’ for a decade

Volkswagen says a planned entry for its Porsche and Audi brands in Formula 1 in 2026 was its last chance for a decade to join the grand prix grid.

Porsche F1 fantasy concept

The German automotive giant has been pushing on with its F1 plans, and said recently in an official statement that a final green light to make the move would come after F1’s new engine regulations for 2026 were finalised.

But in a YouTube video on Monday addressing questions from residents of the Wolfsburg city where the company is based, VW CEO Herbert Diess revealed just how advanced the company is with its preparations.

Diess said that the boom F1 is enjoying in key markets like the USA, plus the opportunities an all-new rules set offered in 2026, means an opportunity has arisen to make the move that will not be repeated for a while.

“Formula 1 is developing extremely positively worldwide,” he said.

“The marketing that is happening there, plus Netflix, has led to Formula 1's following growing significantly in the U.S. as well. Asia is growing significantly, including among young customer groups.

"If you look at the major sporting events or events in the world, it's the case that in motorsport, it's really only Formula 1 that counts and is becoming increasingly differentiated.

“If you do motorsport, you should do Formula 1 as that's where the impact is greatest.

“What's more, you can't enter Formula 1 unless a technology window opens up which means, in order to get in there, a rule change: so that everyone starts again from the same place.

Porsche is currently preparing a LMDh assault at Le Mans with Penske, while Audi has focused its recent factory efforts on the Dakar Rally

Porsche is currently preparing a LMDh assault at Le Mans with Penske, while Audi has focused its recent factory efforts on the Dakar Rally

Photo by: Porsche Motorsport

“As Markus Duesman [chairman of Audi and former BMW F1 head of powertrains] always tells me, you usually make up one second per season on a medium-sized race track simply by optimising details.

“But you can't catch up on that when you join a new team: you need five or ten years to be among the front runners. In other words, you can only get onboard if you have a major rule change.

“That's coming now, and it will also come in the direction of 2026, when the engines will be electrified to a much greater extent, including with synthetic fuels. That means you need a 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 again for ten years. And our two premium brands think that's the right thing to do, and are prioritising it.”

Diess confirmed that the VW name would not be a part of the company’s F1 plans, with both Porsche and Audi committed to enter F1 separately.

Porsche has been most strongly linked to a tie-up with Red Bull, as Diess confirmed the company’s plans were more ‘concrete’ than Audi, which has not yet settled on a partner.

“VW will not be involved,” he said. “It doesn't fit and the brand will not participate.” 

Diess said that with Porsche and Audi having big ambitions for increased sales in the long term, a move to F1 was a no-brainer – especially with analysis showing that F1 programmes could help deliver a profit for the two car companies.

Red Bull has been mooted as a viable partner

Red Bull has been mooted as a viable partner

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“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 does motorsport, the most efficient thing is to do Formula 1. You almost have to put a check mark on that.”

He added: “Audi is a much weaker brand than Porsche. It can't demand such a high price premium. Audi actually has the better case for Formula 1 because it has much greater potential for the brand.

“They are moving into the higher segments, into competition with Daimler, and then Audi will also have a case where they say that 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 simply 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 that an F1 entry for Porsche and Audi makes complete sense, he has revealed that not everyone on the VW Board is supportive at a time when the car industry is going through a transformation amid the shift to electric vehicles.

“The discussion on the Board was not unanimous,” he said. “We certainly have other priorities strategically.

Audi's racing programmes primarily revolve around GT and touring car competition

Audi's racing programmes primarily revolve around GT and touring car competition

Photo by: Daniel James Smith

“It's not necessarily motorsport, but our cars have to be technically up to date, we have 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 that's the most important lever to increase the brand value and to be able to take a little bit more for the cars in terms of pricing. And also to demonstrate to the competition that you have superior technology, in the case of Audi.

“That's why the Board of Management and the Supervisory Board have all voted in favour of this. Audi still has to decide in which constellation and with which team, but both have started to develop engines.”

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