Formula One, like virtually all motorsports, is constantly changing. Rulesets change from year to year as new cars and engines enter the market. The new ground effect cars will be introduced in 2022, but the next big thing will be the new engine formula, which will be introduced in the 2026 season. Porsche has been deliberating whether to enter the sport at that time, when conditions appear to be more favorable.
The 2026 engine rules have sparked much debate and political wrangling among teams and the organizing body. Formula One is eager to attract a new manufacturer, with VW Group companies Audi and Porsche both involved in discussions. Porsche has benefited from the series’ efforts to reduce engine complexity and place a greater emphasis on hybrid technology.
Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President of Porsche Motorsport, has been heavily involved in these discussions and believes that the pieces are beginning to fall into place for Porsche to commit to the series. Laudenbach told the media, “As an OEM, you want to show yourself in motorsport, but it has to be relevant to what happens on the road.” According to what I now know, the FIA took a significant step in that direction. That will be beneficial.”
The company also wishes to see a greater emphasis on electric technology. “The electric component of the powertrain must be given much higher priority. That is significant “Laudenbach stated.
It’s not the first time Porsche has mentioned joining Formula One in recent years. Porsche began developing an engine for the 2021 season as early as 2017, partly as an offshoot of its World Endurance Championship developments. Far from being a shambles, the company built and bench tested a working engine, though plans to enter it in Formula 1 never materialized.
However, it’s clear that many parties involved in Formula 1 engine talks are eager to get Audi or Porsche involved. The anticipated decision to remove the MGU-H energy recovery component in the future was widely reported as a concession made to entice the VAG companies to participate. The MGU-H is in charge of converting engine waste heat into electrical energy, but it is a highly complex and expensive component.
It’s believed that the VW Group companies, as well as Red Bull, were eager to have this part removed in order to save money and development time. Other teams have embraced the concept, with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff stating “I can’t speak for anyone else, but at Mercedes, we’re ready… [Remove the MGU-H] in order to facilitate the Volkswagen Group’s entry.”
Other key factors that appeal to VW Group companies include the new cost cap for teams, which will be reduced to $135 million per season by 2023. Laudenbach comments on the matter, saying, “If you look at PR values, fanbase, advertising value, Formula 1 is extremely good compared to other series,” adding, “At the same time, you have to spend a lot of money, so I think another point is that cost control is in place.”
The buzz in the paddock is that either Porsche or Audi is on the verge of joining for 2026. The form that entry would take is still unknown. With Honda exiting the sport, Porsche or Audi could partner with Red Bull as an engine supplier, gaining a partnership with a high-scoring team from the start. Alternatively, they could buy out an existing team and run their own full entry, giving them a bigger mountain to climb.
“You would need a partner, and the spectrum ranges from the delivery of engines to the purchase of an entire team,” Laudenbach told Sport1. “All variants are certainly under discussion. If you’re trying to get in with a second or third-row team, it will take time and money to succeed.”
The outlook is positive, but a final decision has yet to be made. In order for everything to fall into place, entering Formula One must make financial sense for the company. “For us, motorsport is not an end in itself,” Laudenbach says, “it has to have a sense for the brand.”