Why F1 with Red Bull could be feasible for Volkswagen

© F1 Pulse, 3 June 2014
© AP Photo/Christian Palma

After four years of success, Red Bull is now struggling to produce the goods to deliver the results that propelled Sebastian Vettel to his four titles.

Despite a disastrous pre-season test, the defending world champions have emerged as the best of the rest after six races but have been unable to challenge the dominance of Mercedes.

A major reason for its downfall has been Renault’s failure to produce a power unit that’s on par with Mercedes’, with some reports suggesting that the deficit is as much as 80bhp.

And with no engine development allowed through the course of the season, owing to homologation regulations, Red Bull is set to lose its crown.

It’s then no surprise that Red Bull has resorted to pressure tactics on the French manufacturer, even toying with the idea that it could dump Renault next season for an alternative engine supplier.

Recently, reports have emerged that Red Bull is considering switching to Volkswagen and a decision to continue with its existing supplier will be made after the Austrian Grand Prix.

But does Volkswagen consider Formula One as feasible option? Here are three reasons why it could be:

SPORTSCAR TECHNOLOGY SIMILAR TO F1

© AP Photo/Michel Spingler

Audi and Porsche, brands owned by the Volkswagen, are currently competing in the World Endurance Championship, which too lays the onus on hybrid technology. Audi’s hybrid car has even won the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans race, while Porsche has returned to the series this season. The similarities in technologies in WEC and the current engine regulations in F1 make it easier for a manufacturer to make the switch between the two championships. Of course, plenty of development work and fine tuning would still be required.

As Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko pointed out: "Volkswagen is already in other racing series, with engines that are similar to Formula One technology."

LITTLE RETURNS FROM WRC

The Red Bull-sponsored Volkswagen team is currently dominating the World Rally Championship, having won nine races in a row. But the lack of competition, limited coverage and engine technology that’s not quite relevant to its production cars hasn’t made it the choicest of investments.

"From what I hear, Volkswagen is not too happy with the return that comes from the World Rally Championship. I wonder how many years will it be staying?" wonders Peugeot Sport boss Bruno Famin, even questioning the sport’s visibility.

© AP Photo/Paulo Duarte

"The WRC is a European championship with two trips to South America, too little to define the world... You would want to include a few rounds in emerging markets. Above all you would need a real promoter who would put on TV the spectacle that’s there, but unfortunately nobody gets to see."

Furthermore, WRC is likely to change regulations from 2017 to attract new manufacturers like Toyota, which has indicated that its return to top level rallying could depend on a switch to hybrid technology.

F1 not only has hybrid technology but also leads coverage in motorsport by a significant margin.

FRAMING OF F1 REGULATIONS

Volkswagen has had a hand in the new engine regulations introduced in Formula One this season. Along with Audi, Volkswagen were closely involved in pushing for the introduction of turbos and energy recovery systems, indicating that it wanted to keep the doors to F1 open.

Over the past years, rumours of Volkswagen considering the F1 route has been reported several times but the German manufacturer seems to be biding its time. It needs the right environment to compete at the front and Red Bull could just provide VW the platform to succeed.

 

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Related: 2014, Red Bull

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