Now if you're thinking that VW doesn't compete in F1, you're right. Even between all of its various brands, the group has little history in post-war grand prix racing. But if was getting close.
As we reported last week, the German auto giant and the Red Bull Racing team were nearing an agreement that would (or would have) seen the former take over the latter. The deal was said to include VW developing a new power unit (as the combined turbo engine and electric motor are referred to in the sport) and acquiring the multiple championship-winning team, with the energy drink company that now owns it transitioning back to a more traditional sponsorship role. It remained to be seen, though, just which of its many brands VW would choose to promote through the new program.
Team principal Christian Horner, however, now says that the deal has "seemed to go up in smoke." That doesn't mean that it's off the table entirely and indefinitely, but it would follow logically that between the scandal it's currently facing, the ensuing change in leadership, and drop in stock value, the board in Wolfsburg has other problems to focus on and devote its resources.
While ostensibly a logical move for Volkswagen, that would leave Red Bull in a difficult position. The Renault partnership that once led to utter domination with four back-to-back world championships has since fallen dramatically off pace. Although it impressively held on last season to come second in the championship with three race wins, it hasn't won a race yet this season – and heading into this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, stood fourth in the standings... its worst position since 2008.
"With the way the regulations are, unless you have a Mercedes or Ferrari power unit it is quite simply impossible to compete," said Horner. "And if we are not able to compete, then you have to question what is the validity of remaining in F1." If the Volkswagen deal does indeed fall through, the team will likely need to buy its power units from another supplier – with its chief rivals as the only likely candidates.