It’s time for Audi to take the F1 bait

Audi R10, Le Mans 24 Hours, 2007 | AudiAudi fielded the winning team in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours and the German Touring Car Championship (DTM).

But why aren’t they racing their two major German luxury car manufacturing rivals – BMW and Mercedes – in Formula 1?

On the face of it Audi’s motor racing record in recent years is exemplary. Since 2000 the company has won every Le Mans 24 Hours except the 2003 race, won by fellow Volkswagen Group company Bentley. This year Mattias Ekstrom reclaimed the DTM crown he also won for the team in 2004.

So why aren’t this crack racing squad doing battle with their premium car building rivals in Formula 1?

Part of the explanation seems to be that they just don’t like competition very much. They are the only manufacturer in the DTM apart from Mercedes, and the only manufacturer in Le Mans this year apart from Peugeot.

If there were a prize for unsportsmanlike conduct and prodigious whining in motor sport in 2007 it would surely go not to Fernando Alonso but to Audi’s DTM team. During a particularly bruising but not unduly controversial race at Barcelona this year the team withdrew its drivers from the race, like a child taking his football away because his team are losing.

While they were the only manufacturer entrant in Le Mans (before Peugeot returned this year) Audi pushed the race organisers into offering favourable regulations for diesel powered cars so it could enter the oil-burning R10 as a PR exercise.

If this is all sounding a little bitter let me say right now that Audi’s engineering deserves respect. The R8 race car that dominated Le Mans until the R10 came along was a phenomenal machine – fast, reliable and serviceable.

It would be marvellous to see their competitive race team where it really belongs – in F1, up against the likes of BMW, McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari.

Perhaps this will change. At present Audi is part of the Volkswagen Group but Porsche is widely expected to take over the company in the near future. Porsche already runs sports cars in the American Le Mans Series against the Audi R10s, which would be pointless if the two companies were united.

In that case the best solution would be for them to axe the Audi sports car team, re-brand the all-conquering R10 as a Porsche, and move the Audi personnel to F1.

Until that happens Audi are just big fish in a small ponds.

Photo: Audi

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13 comments on It’s time for Audi to take the F1 bait

  1. Eric M. said on 19th December 2007, 8:19

    Maybe they just don’t feel that the commercial benefits of F1 are big enough compared to the costs of racing competitively? And it would be a pretty tough go to keeo up with their rivals BMW and Mercedes, considering how well they’re doing these days.

    I think for the moment Audi is finding its dominant niche in sports cars to be quite comfortable. Entering F1 would require a lot of resources to be diverted from their Le Mans and DTM efforts, which would then be compromised. Assuming they stay in sports cars if they enter F1, that is.

    But who knows. Maybe in a few years we will see them on the grid. It’s no secret that Bernie wants them there. I would certainly like to see them there.

  2. Eric M. said on 19th December 2007, 8:35

    In theory, though, Audi could have a BIG advantage if they start developing their F1 engine now, and enter, say five years from now, when the other teams are well into the ten year freeze. Five years of development work and analysis of their rivals engines would be huge. I wonder how Max would react if Audi had the dominant engine right from the get-go.

  3. Chris Jansson said on 19th December 2007, 8:47

    I somehow doubt Max would let that happen to be honest.

    Don’t blame the Barcelona incident on Audi though, they weren’t the ones wrecking the opponents cars that was the Mercedes drivers because somehow they though it would be good to drive some Audis of the track.

  4. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th December 2007, 9:12

    Chris, I’m assuming you watched the race, but I don’t agree with that point of view at all. Ekstrom and Tomcyk were involved in incidents which they could have avoided just as easily as their opponents (Hakkinen and la Rosa respectively). Audi pulled the rest of their drivers out because their championship contenders were out anyway and they had nothing to lose, they just wanted to have a sulk.

    It was disgraceful and if the DTM weren’t dependent on Audi to provide opposition to Mercedes, Audi would have got the penalty they deserved.

  5. Keith I agree with your opinion that it was a sulk by audi – I would also say they wont enter F1 as they are quite happy with the audi mercedes racing in dtm – as for the deisel in the le mans – what everybody forgot is that the engine creates so much torque and is more frugal than the normal engines – less pit stops equal more laps – not rocket science is it

  6. There has been so much talk about VW and F1… I remember the rumours 5 years back, when VW was “about to take over” Arrows and race under Skoda brand :-)

    If Porsche succeeds in taking over VW they may change their mind. But if VW or whatever the group will be called enters F1 would they use Audi brand or one of their sporty ones like Porsche or Bugatti ?

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th December 2007, 12:10

    Well Porsche have always said they’re not interested in F1 because they want the race cars to look like their road cars – hence the (monumentally tedious) Porsche Supercup, which has been supporting F1 races for many years.

    Bugatti would be a brilliant fit, but I think Audi would make better commercial sense.

  8. You got it right when you say boring porsche – boring design – available in 3 types only – open top or with large wheel arches/spoiler finally without large wheel arches/spoiler – they are just glorified vw beetles – the old type – at that !!!

  9. Chris Jansson said on 19th December 2007, 14:56

    Keith: Yes i watched the race, and i partially agree that Audi did cockup by withdrawing, but I still see Mercedes as partially guilty aswell. Mainly because my fellow swede Mattias was runoff.

  10. Steven Roy said on 19th December 2007, 20:50

    There was a lot of speculation in the specialist press a month ago that VW/Audi would enter F1 when Hans-Joachim Stuck moved from BMW to VW-Audi. Why else would he switch?

  11. AmericanTifosi said on 21st December 2007, 4:03

    I would love to see Audi in F1, they are my favorite car brand. It would be great if they could somehow use technology from the R10 and translate it to an F1 car. If thier Formula 1 car would act anything like the R10 we would be in for another domination. The R10 has only lost one race, and that was a standing mile against a Harrier jet! The whole DTM scandel was immature but F1 still has a blacker mark on it’s record. (US GP 2005)

  12. Audi have stated in the past that they will only enter a racing formula if they can have complete control over the team, ie they could not badge an engine or join a McLaren or a Sauber as the engine supplier. It would have to be Audi in its entirety. Therefore they would have to start a team; the entry system into F1 being as it is, the only way they could really do that is to buy an existing team, as Honda did buying out BAR. The only teams that would be available would be small, less successful ones which would require a massive amount of investment to bring up to speed. As Toyota has proved, the amount of money spent does not guarantee success – or even competitiveness.

    Whilst I too would love to see Audi race in F1, I do not feel it is anyone else’s place to insist that they do so!

  13. Hi, I really like the layout of your site. What theme are you using?

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