While Formula 1 has no shortage of iconic car manufacturers knocking around and lending their name to teams (Ferrari, Aston Martin and McLaren all have heavy presences on the grid), the sport is in rather desperate need of new technical blood. Just four companies — Ferrari, Renault, Mercedes and Honda — actually make engines for the 10 total teams that currently occupy the championship, with the latter of those set to leave the sport at the end of this year.
However one new manufacturer is rumoured to be making what would be a seismic entry into the sport, reviving a racing legacy that has been dormant for decades, and bringing the technical power of one of the world’s largest car manufacturers to the F1 playing field. According to a report from the BBC, the Volkswagen group is considering entering the sport, with a Porsche-branded team the most likely avenue for entry if they decide to do so.
2022 Porsche F1 Livery Concept
Translated from their recently revealed 920 Hypercar concept form their 'unseen' collection, just love the simple minimalist graphical blocking of the elements
— Sean Bull Design (@seanbulldesign) January 7, 2021
This lack of engine suppliers has become an increasing issue for the sport in recent years, increasing reliance by so-called ‘customer teams’ on the companies that do actually manufacture engines. A true factory-backed team could radically alter the balance of power in the sport, taking the onus away from the typically dominant teams of Mercedes and Ferrari, and as far as historic names go, you couldn’t look much further than Porsche.
The iconic Stuttgart carmaker hasn’t entered a constructor-made car since the mid-1960s, with the 718 the last true Porsche to take to the track in an official Formula 1 race. The German manufacturer did sporadically supply engines to the teams throughout the three decades that followed with varied success — Porsche’s golden era in the sport coming during the ’80s when it supplied engine units to Niki Lauda’s McLaren team.
Since then, Porsche — along with the rest of the Volkswagen group that owns it — has focused primarily on sportscar racing. The brand’s legacy at Le Mans speaks for itself. However Porsche have hinted at their interest in an F1 return more frequently over recent years.
With the VW Group, which also owns Audi, now having largely left the sports car racing scene (aside from running Porsche 911 race cars in endurance events), speculation has been rife for a while that the group, which has a strong vested interest in the future of electric cars and hybrid powertrains, has earmarked open-wheel racing as its most lucrative potential source of motorsport publicity. This comes as both Formula 1 and Formula E, the latter of which Porsche is already entered in, take further steps to embrace both renewable fuels and electric/hybrid technology to power their cars.
Any potential entry into the sport would likely hinge on Formula 1’s adoption of more environmentally-friendly fuels. In March, Porsche Motorsport vice-president Fritz Enzinger told BBC Sport that an F1 entry from Porsche “would be of great interest if aspects of sustainability – for instance, the implementation of e-fuels – play a role in this.
“Should these aspects be confirmed, we will evaluate them in detail within the VW Group and discuss further steps,” he continued.
Since then, Formula 1’s stakeholders and teams have held numerous talks in which the medium-term future of the sport and its rules have been discussed. In perhaps the most concrete evidence of the VW group’s interest in going down this avenue, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann and Porsche CEO Oliver Blume both reportedly attended round-table discussions in Austria last month, which regarded the direction of the next F1 power unit regulations.
Just what a VW Group entry into Formula 1 would look like is anyone’s guess. It is, of course, a further stretch to imagine that either Porsche or Audi would consider taking up the cost of entering a works team into the sport, and it’s more realistic to assume that the group would instead opt to enter merely as a supplier of power units to customer, much like the role Honda currently plays with teams like Red Bull and Alpha Tauri.
As such, this makes it unlikely that Porsche will enter the sport until at least 2025, when these power unit changes will come into effect. This could potentially even be pushed to 2026, as disagreements over the future of Formula 1 between the teams are still ongoing, and may force a one-year delay in any rules being handed down.
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