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Piech retiring early?

THERE have been reports in recent days suggesting that Ferdinand Piech, the boss of the Volkswagen Group is to retire early and will not be staying on as long as he could with Europe's biggest car maker. Piech has been the architect of much of Volkswagen's growth in recent years but has always been against a direct involvement in Formula 1 despite a trend amongst other car manufacturers to buy teams.

Piech is a great believer in racing improving the product in the industry but has argued in recent years that there is no need for a Grand Prix program, despite the fact that Audi has won in all the other categories it has contested, including a dramatic 1-2-3 victory in last year's Le Mans 24 Hours.

The important question now is who will replace Piech as head of the Volkswagen group with two obvious candidates for the job: Franz-Josef Paefgen, the chairman of Audi and Bernd Pischetsrieder, who is in charge of the Spanish company SEAT. Pischetsrieder was formerly head of BMW and was the motive force behind the company's F1 plans before he was ousted in a boardroom battle with Wolfgang Reitzle (who is now heading the Jaguar company). Pischetsrieder has made no secret of his belief that VW should be in F1 and has visited at least two races this year. He recently withdrew SEAT from the World╩Rally╩Championship. If Pischetsrieder is named as Piech's successor, it is highly likely that one of the Volkswagen brands will be used in Formula 1. The company is planning to enter Bentleys at Le Mans and may decide that SEAT aim to build up an image to attract a young and sporty audience is best suited to an F1 program.

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