First it was a rumor, then a maybe, then it was a no way, then a maybe again, and now it’s finally officially confirmed news that Porsche will be re-joining the Formula One grid for the 2026 season. The official statement from Volkswagen Group was that the move for Porsche and sister brand Audi would come when the 2026 engine regulations were finalized. In a discussion on YouTube on Monday, VW CEO Herbert Diess announced to the residents of Wolfsburg that the company is quite advanced in its preparations to enter the sport. Diess also confirmed that much of this consideration has been as a result of F1’s boom growth in the U.S. market.
“Formula 1 is developing extremely positively worldwide,” he said. “The marketing that is happening there, plus Netflix, has led to Formula 1’s following growing significantly in the U.S. as well. Asia is growing significantly, including among young customer groups. If you look at the major sporting events or events in the world, it’s the case that in motorsport, it’s really only Formula 1 that counts and is becoming increasingly differentiated.
“If you do motorsport, you should do Formula 1 as that’s where the impact is greatest. What’s more, you can’t enter Formula 1 unless a technology window opens up which means, in order to get in there, a rule change: so that everyone starts again from the same place. As Markus Duesman [Audi chair] always tells me, you usually make up one second per season on a medium-sized race track simply by optimizing details, but you can’t catch up on that when you join a new team: you need five or 10 years to be among the front runners. In other words, you can only get onboard if you have a major rule change.
“That’s coming now, and it will also come in the direction of 2026, when the engines will be electrified to a much greater extent, including with synthetic fuels. That means you need a new engine development and you need three or four years to develop a new engine. That means you can decide now to do Formula 1 – or then probably not again for 10 years. And our two premium brands think that’s the right thing to do, and are prioritizing it.”
There has been no confirmation yet as to where Porsche will end up, but the Stuttgart brand has been most closely tied to Red Bull Racing. Diess did mention that Porsche’s plans are a bit more “concrete” than Audi’s. It seems Audi does not yet have a deal to partner with any existing F1 teams. It has been rumored that Audi wants to purchase the McLaren team, but a deal like that will likely take time.
Thankfully for us Porsche fans, Diess also said that Porsche has to remain a sports car brand first, “Porsche has to be the sportiest car brand in the world – so Porsche has to do motorsport,” he said. “And you come to the conclusion: if Porsche does motorsport, the most efficient thing is to do Formula 1. You almost have to put a check mark on that.” Interestingly, this announcement means that Porsche will be participating in Formula One, Formula E, FIA World Endurance Championship, and IMSA with factory-driven efforts. There is no other company in the world committing themselves to motorsport like Porsche is. But it should be known that the decision was not without detractors.
“The discussion on the Board was not unanimous,” Diess continued. “We certainly have other priorities strategically. It’s not necessarily motorsport, but our cars have to be technically up to date, we have to be able to drive autonomously, we need the software capabilities, we need batteries for our cars. We have enough to do and we don’t really need to do Formula 1. But our premium brands say that’s the most important lever to increase the brand value and to be able to take a little bit more for the cars in terms of pricing. And also to demonstrate to the competition that you have superior technology, in the case of Audi. That’s why the Board of Management and the Supervisory Board have all voted in favor of this. Audi still has to decide in which constellation and with which team. But both have started to develop engines.”
Excellent, so let’s see what the next generation of Porsche-powered F1 cars can do. Red Bull is currently building its own engines, so it’s possible the deal could be done even earlier from a marketing standpoint, with Porsche ending up on the valve covers of even next year’s Red Bull. Maybe the engineers could also help RBR continue to build the best engines it can. With three engine failures from the first four Grands Prix of the season, it seems like they could use the help.