Suggestions that the Volkwagen group will enter the F1 arena have been rife for more than a decade, but the credibility and frequency of these reports has been kicked into overdrive over the past few months.
Audi had been tipped to take over the McLaren F1 team, with one publication going so far as to say it was a done deal. At the time, McLaren denied there had been any change to their ownership structure, but, perhaps tellingly, added that the company has always been involved in discussions with “relevant partners and suppliers, including other carmakers.”
A report from Car Magazine now claims that the deal is as good as done. In addition to Audi entering F1 through a McLaren buyout, Porsche is allegedly readying an agreement to partner with Red Bull’s F1 team once Honda’s consultancy ends. The article suggests that one scenario is that the two teams, Audi/McLaren and Porsche/Red Bull, would then team up to fight Ferrari and Mercedes. Other teams in the running as “fallback” options are an Audi and Williams and a Porsche and Alpha Tauri or Haas team-up.
Both Audi and Porsche have previously gone on record to express interest in Formula 1. The appeal for the German brands is spurred on by F1’s move towards sustainable fuels, while simplification of the power units will be another important aspect.
Earlier reports had suggested that the road car division would be going the way of Bavaria, effectively splitting the British company between VW and BMW, in a similar fashion to Bentley and Rolls Royce. However, Car Magazine’s latest report suggests that, despite a meeting with McLaren primary shareholders, Bahrain’s Mumtalakat Holding Company, talks went cold. BMW had also denied a report that it could buy the British sportscar maker.
Mumtalakat, meanwhile, is said to be keen to get rid of the loss-making carmaker. Despite a positive start to 2021, which saw the company double its revenue in the first half of the year, McLaren is in dire straights financially. Sales have fallen by 64 percent, and measures to keep the company afloat included 830 redundancies, selling and leasing back its headquarters, and issuing £550 million ($747 million) worth of new shares.
If Audi were to take the entire group, which includes both the roadcar and Formula 1 divisions valued at £1 bn ($1.36 bn), it would potentially create a rather large sportscar alliance, with Lamborghini, McLaren, Porsche, Rimac, and Buggati all with the potential for synergies.