Why we need Audi in Formula 1

Life runs in cycles. Eighty years ago, there was a great recession, a reset of the system, if you like. But, that didn’t stop Grand Prix racing, which had been growing for thirty years, from reaching its zenith. The heydays of the 1930s included Daimler-Benz, Auto Union, Ferrari. Could we see these 3 names battling it out once more, after the latest great recession?

Audi is basically the successor to Auto Union (one of the circles in the logo, now using it outright), and have been rumoured to return to the top level of Grand Prix racing, Formula 1, in 2017, with Ross Brawn at the helm. Although it’s likely that there is nothing of substance behind this latest rumour, it gives us a tantalising prospect to consider, nevertheless.

It’s felt that the VW group won’t enter F1 until it brushes up its image at least, and that means once Bernie Ecclestone is no longer CEO. Given that he is in his mid-80s, and CVC want to cash out, this could happen in the next few years, by which point they could be primed to take on Mercedes, just like in the 1930s. Nico Hulkenberg may be approaching his peak by then, and he has just announced he will drive for Audi’s sister marque Porsche, at Le Mans in 2015.

Audi also have a close association with Red Bull, their sponsor in DTM. What better way to join F1, than to take over the successful Red Bull team? They could then move upstairs and take over the running of the cash cow that is F1, becoming the jewel in its extreme sports brand marketing. Red Bull F1 – at the Red Bull Ring; Turnover should break $2bn in no time.

‘Red Bull Audi’ would be a formidable team to go up against, along with Mercedes-Benz. Ferrari is primed for an IPO; McLaren is partnering up with Honda to compete. These manufacturers also lack the junior teams that Toro Rosso and increasingly Williams are becoming, making it harder for their junior talents to break through. Toro Rosso could become the Audi junior team, named Bugatti, or even Lamborghini.

Helmut Marko meanwhile, head of the Red Bull junior team, hasn’t added anyone new to the program since Max Verstappen, to represent the future of the scheme. Perhaps there is no need to invest further, if an exit plan already exists? Could we see another German Grand Prix racing domination, even if now based in the UK, for some time to come?

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My ranking of 2014 F1 drivers

OK, I used F1 Metrics’ rankings, tweaked for what I thought was luck not attributable to each driver:

1. ALONSO – 9.00 (Best driver by far, ultra-adaptable, China, Austria, Hungary all stand out)
2. HAMILTON – 8.25 (Mistakes crept in mid-season, but still a top driver, e.g. long runs vs. Nico)
3. RICCIARDO – 7.75 (Emerged as ‘best of the rest’, surprising many)
4. BOTTAS – 7.50 (Followed by his old sparring partner, Bottas)
8. RAIKKONEN – 7.25 (This may seem odd, but I think both WC drivers really carried Ferrari in 2014)
7. ROSBERG – 7.00 (Had the pace, but was disappointing under pressure)
5. VERGNE – 7.00 (Lost some good results, but showed great wet/racing potential over the season)
6. BUTTON – 6.75 (Maximised his points scoring chances, but Japan in the wet stood out)
12. VETTEL – 6.50 (Unlucky, but the pace was still there on occasion)
10. HULKENBERG – 6.25 (Consistently shining, deserves a move up the grid; kudos for Le Mans)
9. GROSJEAN – 6.25 (Sparks of brilliance; less impressive than 2013, but needs a better car)
xxx BIANCHI – 6.25 (Toughest to rate, only vs. Chilton; matched Kobayashi in a slightly worse car)
11. KVYAT – 6.00 (Great debut year; we’ll see if it was due to a lower weight in 2015)
13. MASSA – 6.00 (Strong resurgence in the second half was a notable end to Massa’s season)
14. KOBAYASHI – 5.75 (Did what he could with a slow car; should move to Haas for 2016)
18. MAGNUSSEN – 5.50 (Many mistakes, potential is there, but went backwards throughout 2014)
17. PEREZ – 5.25 (Too inconsistent, but on his day still shows great tyre preservation)
16. MALDONADO – 5.25 (Same as above, mostly beaten by Grosjean, but occasionally has the pace)
xxx LOTTERER – 5.00 (Impressive in a one off appearance)
15. ERICSSON – 4.75 (Took a while to get up to F1 speed, but might be stronger in 2015)
19. SUTIL – 4.50 (Disappointing year, for Sauber should have scored a few points e.g. USA)
20. GUTIERREZ – 4.00 (Same as above, Monaco was a costly mistake, but has pace on occasion)
xxx CHILTON – 3.75 (Improved since last year, but was still way behind Bianchi)
xxx STEVENS – 3.50 (Gradually got up to F1 pace, should surpass Chilton in 2015)

The bottom five are definitely worth replacing with Vandoorne, Sainz, Merhi, Frijns, Nasr.