Some interesting new hirings

There have been lots of rumours about Audi and Formula 1 in recent times, despite the fact that the stories are always denied and that the whisper is that the company will not enter F1 as long as Bernie Ecclestone is involved in the sport. No-one seems to know why there is an antipathy between Ecclestone and Volkswagen boss Ferdinand Piech, but it does seem that something is stopping the company entering F1, as many of the executives think it is a great idea and much better value for money than the current activities. Ecclestone is 84 and Piech 77 so perhaps at some point things will change. In the interim Audi Sport continues to quietly collect Formula 1 people to work on its programmes. About a year ago the company hired Gabriele Delicolli to lead its driver simulator programme. He had previously been in charge of Ferrari’s simulator development from 2007 onwards. Prior to that he was a race engineer at Maranello from 2001 to 2006, working with Rubens Barrichello from 2002 to 2005 and with Felipe Massa in 2006. He had joined Ferrari from Jordan where he spent a year engineering Jarno Trulli and before that three years with Sauber where he worked with Jean Alesi and Pedro Diniz. He began his F1 career in 1997 with Minardi, engineering a young Trulli, joining the team from the Alfa Corse touring car team where he started racing in 1994.
The latest Audi hiring is also interesting as the team’s new Technical Director from January 1 will be Jorg Zander, who has spent the last five years running his own engineering business (called JZ-Engineering) in Switzerland. Prior to that he was the Deputy Technical Director of Honda F1 Racing and was involved in the design work of the Brawn 2009 car. Prior to that he spent two years as chief designer of BMW Sauber from 2006 to the end of 2007 and before that spent a year as chief designer at Williams. His F1 career had begun with Honda from 2002 to 2005 but prior to that he spent 11 years as a designer at Toyota Motorsport GmbH in Cologne. None of this means anything, except perhaps to show that Audi and indeed Porsche have sports car teams rich with former F1 talent.

64 thoughts on “Some interesting new hirings

  1. Does Audi’s recent dominance of endurance racing not give them a decent marketing return? Do they really need the aggravation of F1 and all that that brings?

      1. But would F1 be worth the investment considering the current and foreseeable problems and operating from outside the top paying teams? If it took 5 years for Merc to win (and presumably turn a buck), how long would it take for Audi/VW? Could it be that Audi/VW is thinking of becoming a PU supplier? US$10M per customer is a nice chunk of money.

      2. I think I saw somewhere that Audi got the equivalent of €430million worth of advertising out of their investment in the LMP1 teams (porsche & Audi combined) as opposed to something around €1.2Billion for Mercedes in F1 for around the same level of investment as VW group put into WEC. It would make financial sense,
        BUT,
        with the way the rules are being pulled left right and center for individual self-interest currently, not to mention the possibility of the EU commission having a poker around. Combine that with the general all round dodgyness of Bernie and you can sort of understand why they are hesitant to jump in. I really think that F1 needs to stop looking for problems that don’t exist and concentrate on getting what they have running smoothly with stable regulations that allow for good close competition between the big hitters and the rest.
        I for 1 would love to see Audi in F1, would be great to see the likes of Honda, Audi, Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault really slugging it out in the pinnacle of cutting-edge motorsport. I’d also like to see Toyota, BMW and Ford (Cosworth) back, but a man can dream and hope, can’t he?

      3. The reason VAG hasn’t fielded on F1 team is it’s not worth the return on investment. Declining ratings, escalating costs, inequitable distribution of revenue. There are better ways to promote the brands.

      4. Radio Le Mans nailed it, you’ve been in the F1 bubble for far too long. You’ve lost all sense of perspective and just can’t evaluate non-F1 motorsport.

          1. Ha-ha Joe! Tosh! covers a large area, easy to dismiss what Cistulli has said. But you know better than anyone else, the F1 Circus is made up of many bubbles.
            All big business no matter how successful they are create friction eventually it will burst the bubbles no matter if your Bernie, F.I.A, GPW. RAC, Max Mosley, king or queen, no matter what title you call yourself. The bigger the bubble the louder the bang.
            You only need to read the various autobiography’s such as Bernie E, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis even Eddie Jordan you will see a pattern running through all of them; the greed for power and money. When they achieve that they shared the same quango’s to safe guard themselves and there new found status and happiness reigned.
            That was until the original members of the Concord agreement started to fall out (which to this day leaves a bitter taste in Bernie’s mouth). More master planes put in place to create more camouflage i.e. more deals done more bubbles created more smoke and mirrors.
            Now you have all those bubbles coming home to roost and slowly “POP” each one will reveal another Amazing F1 scandal. Which you might say Tosh to. How long do you give it? 1/2/3 years before huge changes. Bernie 84 no real wheeler dealer out there to fill his boots.
            I dealt in this sport for many years, I retired because of sheer frustration of how little many of the names we associate with this high excellence of motor sport really knew anything about it, they had all become businessmen looking more like bankers than racers. They lived in there own big F1 bubble.
            Come back to me and say I am wrong, the investment is to high, it employs too many people, its a life style for many people, you would be wrong to think that. Look back in recent history much bigger names than Grand Prix have failed. 1/2/3 years maybe!

            1. If that Cistulli person bothered to discover what is in my Business of Motorsport newsletter he might have a little more respect. He does not subscribe so “tosh” is a perfectly reasonable reaction to ill-informed… tosh.

    1. You have to wonder how comfortable Audi are with AMG Mercedes now (due to dominance) having F1 as a global platform to promote themselves, proven hi profile racing pedigree with slick marketing is going help move units.

      1. There’s a reason they ADDED an AMG to the Mercedes F1 car and team. VW/Audi are probably starting to keep their eye on the ball to see what is worthwhile.

    2. Look at the most prominently visible sponsor on the AUDI LMP cars.

      It’s great advertising, if you are fascinated by amazing machine tools.

      But that niche interest, is a kind of yard stick by which to guess the relative level of sponsorship and promotional value.

      LMP still does not get on the news. Lewis gets on the news. That’s what VW want, the more so now they’re sick of the Munich mob grabbing all that,

    3. The return in F1 would be greater. F1 is more popular than the WEC. This is about as simple an explanation as you need.

  2. Audi is falling behind with their motorsport programmes so is no surprise they’re hiring. The LMP1 car is not as good as before and Toyota is coming strong. It’s possible they need to develop a petrol engine and F1 would be good for that leaving Porsche to conquer Le Mans.

    Interesting times for Audi within VAG. Mercedes and BMW appear more compact in terms of management.

    1. Some things are done to a plan. VW rotate their people, to plans designed to fill and develop careers, not only hire and fire. It’s about fourteen years since they started to act upon their thinking, with WEC. For F1, having VW come in, could be tremendous. But VW may think of it in a much more workaday fashion. At the very least, when putting such vast energies into motion, one is level headed. The bar to results has been raised, notably, this yea. Any delays to schedule I believe result from requiring the emasculation, formal, of BCE. And possibly CVC, also. This Strategy Group or whatever it is, looks to me more like a poison pill, as a obstacle to other big manufacturers, than it does simply fulfill divide and rule business as usual for BCE. Clearly, it is the target of competition authority interest.

  3. They might be interesting, but Audi just lost two key names in their engineering department in Howden Haynes and Kyle Wilson-Clarke. There have been other movements too.

    Of course those coming in could blocks to help build the foundations for an F1 programme, but it is also possible that the people coming in are just replacements to some degree or other.

    Should Audi ever leave, it would be unfortunate given the P1 competition is beginning to get quite interesting.

        1. Just had to check back to remind myself – his company is ‘Progressive Motorsport.’ They have just moved to a new premises in Brackley and are expanding several of their engineering programmes.

  4. Yes finally (as all true petrol heads knew all along), the cat’s out of the bag on DIEsels (Paris et al will attempt to ban them from city centres anytime soon)! So Audi need petrol hybrid development NOT LMS DIEsel polutants!

      1. I am sure this means something to you, but is yet more tosh as far as I am concerned… If you have something sensible to say, then say it.

  5. I was once told that the beef between Piëch and Ecclestone is personal, because of a close relationship Piëch has with Juan Carlos, a known huge F1 fan. The subtext being my mention of Bernie screwing things up and spoiling things. The very idea of a influential auto man, coming in, seriously, to the sport, who has a personal enmity with the ways of Bernie, I confess to finding tantalizing. As to anything of the relationships, I can only say the person telling had some position to have a clue, but you can’t put store in such things, even if they are truthful indiscretions, the fact of a indiscretion makes one doubt. But it was kind if throwaway almost matter if fact, not a nudge nudge, wink wink confidence, and there was no real context in which it could have been something said for ulterior purpose. F Piëch is certainly a highly concentrated, willful, man. It’s all too easy to imagine a grudge, over such a non trivial thing as messing up the sport. Oh, and favoring a certain lot in red, time that VW AG were just pummeling money and talent into their luxury brands for the first time, in earnest, time of the conversation. Before the AUDI LMP surge. Before even the Bentley direction was decided, that policy being the subject of our chat, when all was rather up in the air.

    That’s enough wishful thinking, for a late December evening, warmed by a good glass and imminent cheerful company!

  6. The sudden success this year of Mercedes wasn’t foreseen by many, and VW Group were probably no exception.

    To see the Mercedes team’s fortunes so suddenly reversed must have rung a few bells in Wolfsburg.

    1. Was Mercedes success sudden and unforeseen? On paper I guess anyone could have come up trumps under the new rules, but there were indicators they were most likely to succeed.

      Indeed they should have been odds on favourites preseason for a number of reasons. Very easy for me to say that now though, I acknowledge that. I’d be surprised though if the smart men at VAG were caught unawares.

      On the other hand I have the thought that If Audi continue in WEC they know they will be pouring money down a drain. Over the next few years I’m guessing Porsche will be a juggernaut intent on keeping their enviable Le Man record and accompanying WEC successes out of Audi’s reach. Porsche’s racing heritage is largely built on Le Mans triumph, it makes sense for them to do everything to retain that. They will never achieve that sort of reputation through F1, so it would make sense for Audi to step out of that environment till Porsche has had it’s run and retired again. It doesn’t hurt Audi to stay on whilst Porsche builds momentum, ie 2014, but it’s going to make less sense to do so once Porsche hit their stride.

      In the meantime F1 might offer good opportunities for VAG, everyone seems convinced they intend to enter F1, it’s a rumour/idea that’s been building momentum for a decade. I don’t imagine it’s driven by Mercedes F1 success, that would be a pretty knee jerk reaction, but I may be completely wrong on that front. Perhaps it is as simple as F1’s engine regs being more appealing. Given the current political situation in F1, Bernie, other points that John (other John) make, maybe F1 isn’t as appealing as we’d like to assume.

      Here’s one from completely left field – maybe VAG aren’t gearing up for F1, maybe they are looking at a different series. They could be the first big manufacturer to launch into Formula E. Might be easy pickings for the next few years. Crazy idea, absolutely. People will say there is no coverage, no-one cares about Formula E, but if VAG got involved and started winning they will guarantee people find out about it. The only question for me is whether electric engines factor into their future business model. I know many will point out that the electric engine has no future, I don’t pretend to know. I believe steam engine aficionados made the same predictions about petrol engines in the 1920’s (?). Let Porsche have their WEC triumphs, let MB have their F1 triumphs, a move to Formula E could give VAG a dominant niche where they can beat their German opposition simply by playing in an exclusive field.

      Anyways, it’s that time of the year to throw crazy ideas around, I hope I’ve provided some entertainment, please don’t take me for too much of an idiot for suggesting something that no-one else has considered. VAG to F1 may well be a no brainer, but I don’t think it hurts to look beyond the obvious before accepting it as gospel. Apologies if I’ve offended anyone with what could amount to heretical thinking.

      1. A quick clarification, I realise that Audi has an entry via Abt in the 2014 Formula E Championship. It is pretty much a single spec series this season, but in following seasons it will be open for manufacturing development and this may be where VAG see potential. Again, it looks like a crazy idea at this stage, but then again, a commitment to F1 with Ecclestone as ringmaster, the Strategy Group as a Heathers clique and a pending EU commission looks pretty crazy as well, at least in the short term. Who knows.

        1. True. Toyota are looking sensational. Compare their WEC efforts to the embarrassment of their F1 campaign, where they paid buckets of money to potentially harm their reputation. People talk, quite correctly, about the marketing benefits of a successful F1 program, but don’t often talk about the flip side. Failing so obviously on the global f1 arena can amount to paying for huge amounts of brand negative advertising.

          Porsche will have a serious fight on their hands against Toyota, one which they could lose. This season went to Toyota. I think we saw signs of the Porsche beast stirring toward the end of season. I expect they will pour whatever they need into the LMP project to win it. However, if Audi pull out, it might not hurt Porsche as much to lose against Toyota as it would to lose against Audi. Playing off against a rival Germany company is a little different to playing off against a Japanese company. For me, each has it’s merits, but for many the names represent entirely different things, whereas Audi and Porsche, and Mercedes for that matter appear to be direct competitors.

          You are absolutely right though, Porsche have to beat Toyota in order to keep adding trophies and I didn’t mean to suggest it would be an easy task, or even a given.

          1. Also bear in mind, Audi’s late (enforced) change to the 2mj energy recovery unit. Should they ever move back to their originally proposed 4mj unit, they may be a more prominent force again.

            If the P1 regs have one thing over F1, it’s that their engine and energy recovery regs are far more flexible than what F1 can muster at the moment.

            As an aside, while some folks might say Audi have dominated Le Mans for years – and they have – they were lucky this year, in that the 2014 was as much about other teams taking themselves out of the running, rather than Audi winning with their tortoise approach.

  7. The powertrain technology in F1 would fit perfectly into Audi’s road cars and their image. I don’t think that Audi would need to enter F1 to perfect this.

  8. Cheers for that joe. That’s what I am signed up for. How do you get this info! Also, your always very good at breaking down the deals and contracts side of the sport, I find it as interesting as the rest. Could you perhaps do a piece in your e mag like “the last 10 years in shady deals and contracts” giving us a clear account of it? I try and follow but I always seem to be left with more questions than answers.

  9. Wonder if these resources could be applied to an Audi entry into Formula-E (and gain additional publicity for Audi E-Tron)? Just the other day I read that Alejandro Agag hoped 3 or 4 different makers of motors and batteries would join for their second season in 2015-2016 (when teams can bring their own innovations and powertrains). Though I don’t know if there’d be a conflict since battery development doesn’t “open up” until 2016-2017.

    Also tying in… Since Stefano Domenicali is working with VAG, and should he be helping them with a potential Formula E entry, would that violate a non-compete with Ferrari (I assume ‘no’ since it’s a different series, but you never know…)?

    BTW — great job on the blog. I was only introduced to it recently, I’m from America, and it’s become a “must read” every day for no BS news.

      1. Don’t worry Adam. If they do announce a massive Formula E program you’re going to look like a genius, if not no one will give it a second thought!

        I’d love to see another big player in F1. It would certainly be vindication for the new PU rules if they started getting interested again.

  10. With regard to Audi and a possible change from WEC to F1, I would suggest that it’s because it’s different rather than better or worse.

    It must be very difficult to measure the impact a motor sport program has on profits.

  11. I would love to see the four rings in F1. I know that means very little to an enormous company, but to me, Audi’s motorsport heritage is pretty special. They seem to only attempt things they have truly prepared for. Seeing Audi “do a Brawn” would be amazing. They’ve done it before in almost every other category they’ve entered.

  12. Based on a working relationship with Audi, I disagree with you this time, Joe. Audi are in LMP1 for far more than the publicity. The LMP1 programme is thoroughly integrated into road car development, and the relative technical freedom compared to F1 allows them to pursue more road-relevant solutions than F1 would. There is also the little problem of being allowed to use their flagship diesel technology in F1; it would take a pretty major change in their corporate strategy to race petrol engines. Finally, Audi say the their high-volume dealer/customer relations effort in the WEC delivers much better value than they would receive in F1. So, if VAG are preparing for F1 down the road, I seriously doubt it will be with the Audi brand…

      1. If you mean the numbers mentioned in the post by Santa’s Little Helper:

        “… Audi got the equivalent of €430 million worth of advertising out of their investment in the LMP1 teams (Porsche & Audi combined) as opposed to something around €1.2Billion for Mercedes in F1 for around the same level of investment as VW group put into WEC…”

        then that only refers to the global advertising value (which does not include hospitality), and I was talking about other forms of value. If you mean other figures, I’m afraid I haven’t seen them. Audi’s internal assessment is that their WEC spend is well worth it.

        1. I think it would be fair to say that the days are long past, when being in F1 as a car manufacturer, meant instant sales success. That sort of thing was correct in the early motorsport years and maybe as far as the 1980’s to early 1990’s.
          However, in general, I don’t think any car maker is going to have the same sales effect from being in F1, as say Ford had from their first LM wins in 1966.
          An F1 team these days is more a vanity project for a car builder, than some amazing sales tool. And as someone pointed out, for Audi to use F1 as a marketing tool, the series would have to move to, or include an equivalent Diesel formula, which is hardly likely at all.
          In the UK, for some 40 years now, the biggest success for a car builder has been to crack the Fleet Sales market, and that’s all about reliability and running costs and not about motor racing.

    1. Audi is marketing their tdi tech yes, but don’t forget their other little drawcard, quattro….. They have raced without it before when either outlawed or simply never allowed in the first place, so you should never say never.

  13. Interesting that Audi sales have increased by approx 200,000 per year since 2000 to now (their period of Le Mans domination) …whereas Renaults sales from 2010 to 2013 (the Vettel/Red Bull years) fell by approx 350,000.

    1. Dear JJ
      I think it a bit simplistic to equate market success (or failure) purely with racing program’s. if it were that straightforward, every motor vehicle manufacturer would be entering Motorsport, surely?
      In the period since 2000, Audi’s model range has increased significantly. I am not sure the same can be said of Renault.
      I think, too, that Audi’s reputation for build quality leaves Renault’s for dead.
      Certainly, in Australia, at least, dealer network and advertising spend are also very much in Audi’s favour.
      I am not saying that motor racing is inconsequential, as far as ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ goes, but, surely Renault’s retreat from being an F1 team to an engine supplier also needs to be factored in?
      Perhaps, too, a perception that German design, engineering and manufacture are superior to that of France??
      Cheers
      MarkR

    2. Audi builds their own chassis, and the car is branded as an Audi. Red Bull builds a chassis, and brands it a Red Bull (up until last year when it became Infiniti RBR) and use a Renault engine.

      So it would make sense that Audi would sell Audi’s, and Red Bull does not sell Renaults.

      Apples and Oranges.

  14. Concerning the quarrel Ecclestone-Piech, wasn´t there something with a Porsche 908 which Ecclestone wanted to race first and didn´t in the end??

    Just want to add that I would highly appreciate it to see the Joest staff working in F1 and I am sure the four rings would do the same good job as they did in their other fields of motorracing. The battle Auto Union vs. Mercedes would deliver a rich vintage heritage to F1. Good vibrations is something which F1 desperately needs.

    1. Sorry Mistral, but the broader context of the Auto Union vs Mercedes thing does not smack of good vibrations to me, however impressive the cars might have been.

  15. I would imagine that the animosity between Piech and Ecclestone is simply a matter of two very … well, “strong” personalities who don’t want to give the other the light of day. “This sport ain’t big enough for the both of us.” Bernie comes across as doing business almost entirely on instinct (but you would know a lot more about this, Joe), so his distrust would be enough for him to avoid doing business with Piech. The little I know of Piech would suggest he needs a bit more concrete reasoning to avoid Ecclestone, but that’s not hard to find and once formed, Piech’s opinions are about as likely to change as Ecclestone’s (visible) opinions are likely to remain the same.

  16. There were some ‘words’ between the two many years ago at the German GP is the rumor I’ve heard but it goes deeper, probably along the lines of one single rule change in F1 could wipe out millions and millions of dollars of development on the whim of one man. We’ve seen such skullduggery either by Bernie or the head of FIA where rule/equipment changes have happened many times and each time the manufacturers (and teams) have to carry the can for such changes and costs. If I said to any of you here: I’m the mayor and this year I’ve decided that all of you have to repave your driveways and that’s all there is to it. So you react and either move out of your house or repave your driveway. And a few years later even though the driveway is perfectly fine, the mayor now decides that paving stones look better so he orders everyone to tear up the driveway and use paving stones. So here we have a prospective new resident watching all of this on the sidelines whom may have wanted to move into the area and buy a home who says to himself that maybe its better if I wait until this particular mayor leaves or is deceased…

  17. All this talk of hirings, politics, entry, bankruptcy, privileged inner circle, etc, makes me think of Haas. He’s no fool, but the poor sucker has another thing coming.

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