Formula One is entering one of those eras where seismic occurrences are in the offing.
The last of these epochs was when the sport saw the departure of a number of auto manufacturers in just one year. They were replaced with the 3 new teams, Virgin/Marusia/Manor, Lotus/Caterham and HRT.
Just one of these new entrants has survived.
Honda has rejoined the sport, though their CEO who was appointed after the decision was made to re-enter F1 is not a fan. Given the competitive state of their power unit, it wouldn’t take much for the Japanese firm to decide to reverse the decision made by a previous boss.
Renault who have been in F1 for around 37 years – with 4 years absence – are either about to quit or run only a single works team.
This potentially leaves Mercedes and Ferrari as long-term F1 power unit providers. It also means Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso are now without a power unit for 2016.
Eddie Jordan who has proven over the years to reveal the occasional scoop, is claiming, “German car giant Volkswagen is close to agreeing a deal to take over the Red Bull Formula 1 team.” according to the BBC
The deal apparently will see VW acquire the Milton Keynes based team, but only supply a VW branded power unit in 2018.
Jordan claims,“Red Bull and VW have been in on-and-off talks for more than a year and I understand that the fundamentals of a deal for the sale of the team have been agreed.”
However, Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko stated in June this year, “There has been no dialogue with VW or Audi.”
So, if the acquisition was imminent, the next round of stories must suggest the new VW F1 team will re-brand a Ferrari engine whilst it gets its own power unit good to go for 2018.
Yet surely any ‘rebranding’ would be a nonsense. Everyone will know that an Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley etc is in reality running a Ferrari F1 power unit.
Maybe Ferrari could be persuaded that a Skoda-Red Bull-Ferrari branding would have the similar impact as did the Lotus-Cortina association of yesteryear.
Then in 2018 when VW finally build an F1 power unit – it can be registered with the FIA as F1 entrant, ‘Lamborghini-Red Bull’.
This weekend the WEC has a 6 hour race in COTA, and Audi’s motorsport boss Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich was questioned about the rumours linking the German manufacturer with Red Bull Racing.
He appeared to poor a modicum of cold water on the idea, stating this speculation was “nothing new, “ adding, “This story has been discussed for 20 years”.
Whilst all this is plausible, and Skoda may be about to debut in Formula One – there are no details as to when this transaction will take place.
So do we really believe that a VW will acquire Red Bull racing tout suite and one of their brands will run an F1 team in 2016/17 with a Ferrari engine?
And if the reality is that VW are considering acquiring Red Bull for the 2018 season, the 2017/18 regulations are yet to be agreed and in two years much water will pass under the bridge.
Interestingly, Reuters have just revealed that the USA Environmental Protection Agency says nearly 500,000 Volkswagen cars violate clean air standards after the carmaker used “illegal” software to bypass emissions tests.
“VW could be subject to a maximum civil penalty of $37,500 for each of 482,000 cars that are affected”, an EPA official told Business Insider.
If you do the math, that adds up to $18 billion.
And these fines must be paid as BP found out when they agreed to pay $5.5 billion for violations of the Clean Water Act, as part of a much larger federal and state settlement.
There are two ways of looking at this news.
The first – is that in terms of deviousness – VW and Red Bull are a perfect partnership fit.
The second perspective, is that VW may be rather skint for a year or two.
Red Bull are clearly ahead of the F1 field in producing chassis, and their performance with an underpowered Renault power unit looks to be impressive in Singapore.
Maybe all this is just a tall tale to entice Renault to perform a reverse takeover, and buy the Milton Keynes based team with its $80 million a year championship performance payments – instead of Lotus?