While Porsche supplied turbocharged V6 engines to Formula One teams in the 1980s, most famously McLaren during its peak, and later built an ill-fated V12 for the Footwork team, the German sports car maker has been absent from F1 since 1991. During the most recent Austrian Grand Prix, however, Porsche took part in a meeting to determine the sport’s next engine regulations for the 2025 season, indicating it is at least a little interested in returning to the pinnacle of racing. There are rumors that the company had spent a lot of time and effort developing a current turbocharged V6 engine for the 2021 season, but that plan was shelved at least until the next engine regs come into play.
An F1 Commission meeting earlier this year outlined a handful of key objectives that the sport considers important for the next generation of power unit. First and foremost, the overall operations of F1 need to be environmentally sustainable, while relevant to social and automotive sectors. The Commission understands a need to develop fully sustainable fuels, sometimes called e-fuel. They are focused on creating a powerful but emotive power unit, hopefully making the cars sound a bit louder and stronger than the current V6T engine. All of this must be done with significant cost reductions to teams, and must be done in a way that is attractive to new power unit manufacturers. F1 is currently powered by Ferrari, Mercedes, Honda, and Renault, but Honda will be leaving the sport at the end of the season.
Back in February Porsche VP of motor sport, Fritz Enzinger, indicated that the new direction for F1 is attractive for both the Porsche and Audi brands. The meeting this weekend was attended by existing manufacturers Mercedes, Ferrari, and Renault. Honda was absent, given its decision to pull out, but Red Bull was involved as the team plans to take over Honda’s operations and supply its own engines for the Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Alpha Tauri teams. Representatives from Porsche and Audi were also both present, including Enzinger himself. The meeting is said to have been a preliminary discussion, and does not necessarily indicate that Porsche will join the grid in 2025, though it’s certainly a first step in that direction.
The current engine regulations, introduced back in 2014, have clearly favored Mercedes-AMG’s power unit. The Mercedes team has won 105 races, with one additional Grand Prix victory by a Mercedes-powered Racing Point in 2020, under those engine regulations, which will continue through the new 2025 rules. While the chassis rules will change for 2022, the new engine regs will not come into effect for a few more years. If Porsche wanted to join the sport, that would be the time to do it. The new rules, presumably, will include some way to keep a single manufacturer from being quite so dominant as Mercedes has been for the last eight seasons. Presumably these competition regulations will allow Porsche to come in to a new sport and be competitive with the quickness.
As someone who watches every single Grand Prix of the season, I would welcome Porsche to the sport, as it would give me yet another place to root for the Crested brand. I just hope they don’t drop the Formula E program in favor of F1. I’d really love to see both programs continue.