People are getting a little ahead of themselves about Volkswagen and Formula 1. Just because Ferdinand Piech has resigned does not mean that the company will instantly be planning an F1 programme next week. The top management may have similar reservations to Piech about the sport, but whatever the case, it will take time before things begin to move and the first step in that process is to decide who will take over as head of the supervisory board. That decision may mean that there is a need for a new chairman of the management board. It seems that Piech was trying to lobby for Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller to replace Martin Winterkorn in this job and that this did not go down well with the board members and they held a second meeting and then informed Piech that he must either stand down or face being fired by the company. No-one is admitting that this is what happened, but that would make sense as the resignation was not expected at all.
It remains to be seen what the supervisory board now does with regard to the role of chairman. Winterkorn (67) is one possibility as he seems to be have solid support from the board, but there is talk too of Ulrich Hackenberg (65), the company’s head of technical development, who could be a compromise candidate. Given that Piech was 78, age does not appear to be a problem for the role of supervisory chairman. The chairmanship of the management board may stay with Winterkorn, but there are plenty of others who are considered possible for the job, including Muller (61), Andreas Renschler (56), the head of VW commercial vehicles, Wolfgang Dürheimer (56), the boss of Bentley and Bugatti, and Rupert Stadler (51), the man in charge of Audi. There is also 50-year-old Stephan Winkelmann, head of Lamborghini, although he has been with the Italian firm for 10 years and may not be deemed to have sufficient experience for the bigger job. Another man who may play a role in the years ahead is Herbert Diess (58) who is joining as head of the Volkswagen brand in July. He comes from BMW. Before any big decisions are made about the sport the firm must go through a number of other decision-making processes, so don’t expect too much too soon.
In 2012 Durheimer publicly proposed an F1 programme. Another man who may be pushing for the idea is Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche’s head of research and development, who was involved in F1 with BMW in the glory years of the early 1980s and then was involved with Porsche’s ill-fated V12 in the early 1990s. He later became head of motorsport at Opel before returning to VW in 2001.