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Friday, March 24 2023
Porsche abandons F1 plans after fruitless partner search

Porsche has scrapped plans to join Formula 1 in 2026 after failing to find a partner under the upcoming power unit rule changes.

According to a report from The Race, Porsche has wound up its evaluation program for a 2026 entry and will instead focus on its existing motorsport projects, including its Formula E team and its return to the World Endurance Championship.

The Race has further reported that the Volkswagen-owned operation still harbours an interest in joining the sport in the long term despite the 2026 door closing due to a lack of willing collaborators, though those aspirations are unlikely to be fulfilled until next decade.

Volkswagen will still have a presence in Formula 1 under the 2026 engine rules via its Audi brand, which is in the process of buying the Sauber team. It will also build its own engines.

Formula 1 had been unsuccessfully courting Porsche’s involvement for years, but it took plans for new engine rules in the second half of this decade to finally pique the German marque’s interest thanks to the focus on sustainable fuels and simplified engine architecture.

While Audi was quick to move given its ambitions to enter the sport as a full works constructor, Porsche targeted a narrower partnership approach with an existing team owing to it lacking the infrastructure for a full-scale engine project and unwillingness to set up a new entry from scratch.

Red Bull Racing was the obvious choice for a collaboration given the Milton Keynes team is already far down the road of its own engine-building program, having set up Red Bull Powertrains in anticipation of Honda’s departure from the sport.

Rumours were rife for weeks that pen was close to being put to paper, and in July leaked documents from Morocco’s competition regulator revealed plans for Porsche to buy 50 per cent of Red Bull’s entire F1 operation, including the engine division and racing team.

But after more than a month of silence, both Red Bull Racing and Porsche called off the deal, citing irreconcilable differences on how the project would be run.

Porsche expected to have an equal say on running the team in exchange for its buy-in, while Red Bull Racing management wanted to retain autonomy.

“The premise was always that a partnership would be based on an equal footing, which would include not only an engine partnership but also the team,” Porsche said in a statement. “This could not be achieved.”

Christian Horner said the deal would have risked the race team losing its competitive edge.

“One of our core strengths has been our independence and our quick decision-making and lack of bureaucracy,” he said. “I think we’ve seen on so many occasions manufacturers have been less autonomous in their decision-making and that was a key aspect of protecting what we have and how we operate, which has proved to be reasonably successful.”

Red Bull Racing subsequently inked a deal with Ford to supply some technical expertise on the hybrid part of the power unit. The American auto giant will also have its name incorporated on the engine badge.

Porsche continued its search or a partner, with rumours that it would use and rebadge the Audio motor in any deal, but there have evidently been no willing sellers on the grid. A mooted tie-up with Andretti was also shot down given the American team’s F1 bid is already backed up by a supply of Renault power units.

While the German marque hasn’t given up on F1 entirely, the failure to secure a path onto the grid for the new rules in 2026 will likely blow out its potential joining date into the next decade.

Assuming Porsche remains unwilling to plough money into setting up a new team from a blank slate, it would presumably have to tool up for a power unit project to become an engine supplier if it wants to be involved.

It’s too late to embark on such a plan and be ready for 2026, and debuting in the middle of a rules cycle would immediately put the team on the back foot in terms of competitiveness, as Honda found out at the start of the hybrid era.

The German marque might therefore turn its focus to being ready for the following engine cycle due in 2031.

Porsche’s non-entry will likely leave F1 with five engine suppliers in 2026 — Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault, Audi and Red Bull-Ford — though Honda is reportedly attempting to strike a deal to stay in the sport as a power unit supplier after backtracking on its 2020 decision to withdraw from the sport.

Posted by: AT 02:34 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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