A lot of Audi staff are being restructured at Audi Sport, leading to further rumours about a Formula 1 entry separate from fellow VAG entity, Porsche.
Audi Sport gets a new Chief Operating Officer in Rolf Michl. Current rumours from Ingolstadt about Formula 1 and alleged LMDh exit. Rolf Michl is to take up his new job as Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Audi Sport at the beginning of April 2022. There appears to be information coming in from various sources that this move has been confirmed by an Audi spokesman yesterday.
In his role, Michl will take care of the day-to-day business and report directly to Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH and responsible for motorsport at Audi. The position of COO had not been filled in the past at Audi Sport in Neuburg. It was not initially clear what specific tasks Michl would be taking on.
What is clear, however, is that Michl can look back on experience in motorsport. From 2014 onwards, he was responsible as project manager for the Audi Sport TT Cup, which was part of the DTM supporting programme from 2015 to 2017 and produced today’s professional racing drivers such as Philip Ellis, Dennis Marschall and Nicklas Nielsen, and in which Fabian Vettel, younger brother of four-time Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel, also learned the ropes.
“I’m very emotionally attached to racing, but I’ve never driven a car myself,” said Michl in 2018, when he spent two years at Abt Sportsline as head of vehicle refinement, responsible for all areas from procurement to production and marketing.
In 2019, the man from Allgäu returned to Audi and has since worked as Head of Sales and Marketing at Audi Sport GmbH. Michl began his career at the brand with the four rings in 2005 in various positions.
Audi’s motorsport department has been in a state of upheaval for a while. Shortly before the Dakar Rally debut, Andreas Roos had left the company as the then project manager for all factory motorsport activities. On 01 February 2022, he succeeded Mike Krack (to Aston Martin in Formula 1) as the new Head of Motorsport at BMW M Motorsport. Stefan Dreyer took over as Head of Development at Audi Motorsport.
While the Dakar Rally spearheads factory racing after this year’s debut with four one-day wins and is also considered a success from a PR perspective, there are many question marks over the return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans announced at the end of 2019. As has been reported elsewhere, the LMDh project has been paused for several months. Reports are mounting that the programme, planned in cooperation with Porsche, could be discontinued completely.
Internally, Audi’s LMDh exit is said to not yet be sealed, while the further development of the Dakar prototype is being pushed ahead at full speed for various reasons. A ‘nail in the coffin’ for the half-finished LMDh car could be a possible entry into Formula 1 from 2026, to which pretty much everything would then probably be subordinated.
According to information given to this website, the Audi board around chairman Markus Duesmann has already given the green light for the F1 project. However, the prestigious and costly commitment still has to be approved by the powerful supervisory board at VW in Wolfsburg. “It’s still a long way off,” insiders tell us, also against the backdrop of the ongoing Ukraine war.
Exactly what a possible Formula 1 entry by Audi might look like is not yet clear. For a while, a collaboration with the historic racing team Williams was considered the favourite. In the meantime, a purchase from McLaren, which has a road car division as well as a motorsport division, is also said to be a possibility again.
VW Group sister Porsche is said to be much further ahead than Audi in its efforts to enter Formula 1 from 2026 in a cooperation with Red Bull. According to our information, a possible Audi entry is not necessarily to be linked to a Porsche entry. Audi could even develop and build its own engine in Germany, while Porsche relies on Red Bull Powertrains.