Arguably more than any other automaker, Volkswagen has been the subject of much debate regarding a potential F1 program over the past year or two. The German industrial giant is one of the largest never to have competed in the pinnacle motorsport series. But while previous reports suggested that VW could partner with a specific team, the company's interests now seem to extend far beyond the classical engine-supplier – or even team owner – arrangement that has typified F1 over the course of its history.
According to reports circulating the internet and quoting Hans-Joachim Stuck – a former F1 driver who heads up Volkswagen's racing program – the company is interested in supplying the series with a new "world engine". But just what is a "world engine"?
In parallel to its drive to switch to a small-displacement, four-cylinder turbocharged engine formula for F1, the FIA has been toying with the idea of introducing a single engine that could be used across various motorsport disciplines. The "world engine", as it's been dubbed, could then be used in F1 as well as touring cars, rallying and other disciplines.
What remains to be seen is whether the "world engine" that Volkswagen – a veritable powerhouse when it comes to turbo fours – is interested in supplying would be used exclusively by all the teams or whether each manufacturer (currently including Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Cosworth) would each be free to produce its own according to the formula. One way or another, reports indicate that the existing engine manufacturers are decidedly cold on the idea.