Porsche was ready to wed itself to Red Bull for 10 years by partnering with the runaway 2022 F1 championship leader’s engine program and buying a 50% share of its race team. The union was mooted to be announced at the Austrian Grand Prix in early July before the FIA delayed the final wording of the 2026 power unit regulations. Soon came Moroccan legal documents that stated a 4 August date for the deal to be formally announced, only the day came and went.
Prior to the August summer break, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner began to press home how important it was for any new stakeholder to fit the outfit’s “philosophy and DNA” and declared a process of evaluation still awaited. Then at Spa, Audi unexpectedly leapfrogged its sister Volkswagen Group manufacturer to announcing its 2026 F1 participation (initially revealing its plans to build an engine only, with news of its investment in the Sauber operation to follow later this year).
As negotiations stuttered over how the two parties would collaborate – Motorsport.com understands this was largely down to Porsche wanting to take a more hands-on role than Red Bull desired plus the extra commercial and PR commitments – their discussions then collapsed completely. Given Red Bull’s current form, it not wanting to compromise its current approach is objectively logical.
On the Friday morning of the Italian GP weekend, Porsche finally confirmed the marriage was off. Its short statement read: “In the course of the last few months, Dr. Ing. Hc F. Porsche AG and Red Bull GmbH have held talks on the possibility of Porsche’s entry into Formula 1. The two companies have now jointly come to the conclusion that these talks will no longer be continued.
“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. This could not be achieved. With the finalized rule changes, the racing series nevertheless remains an attractive environment for Porsche, which will continue to be monitored. “
Horner, meanwhile, told Motorsport.com: “Porsche is a great brand. But the DNA is quite different. During the discussion process it became clear that there was a strategic non-alignment.
“Red Bull has demonstrated what it’s capable of in F1. And obviously, as an independent team and now engine manufacturer we look forward to go to competing against the OEMs with the powertrain as well as the chassis.”
Red Bull did not want to give up a stake in its F1 team to Porsche
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The options available to Red Bull
Red Bull is still pushing on with its Red Bull Powertrains site, which was constructed and opened in just 55 weeks.
Having somewhat hedged its bets with the precise piston and compression ratio specification for the 2026 engine regulations, it has pressed ahead developing its 1.6-liter V6 combustion engine. Prior to the summer break, the team has begun putting it through its paces on the dyno already.
Part of the cause of the deal with Porsche falling through is that Red Bull deemed the manufacturer to be potentially too interventionist. Therefore, the ideal partner will likely be one that invests well but keeps its distance. A return to the Tag Heuer-style branding exercise that Red Bull ran in lieu of the Renault stickers between 2016 and 2018 would be appealing on that front.
Alternatively, Red Bull could form an alliance with another manufacturer that similarly is willing to be hands-off. Much as it did when carrying the winged badge of Aston Martin. This time around, for example, Hyundai could be an avenue to explore. The Korean firm is pressing on with its electric vehicle transition but despite this, the World Rally Championship’s switch to hybrid for 2022 has sufficed to keep it on the entry list. F1’s similar regulations could be enough to entice it to have its logos feature on future Adrien Newey creations.
It is also known that Honda is considering a return, having canned its factory F1 engine program at the end of 2021 as Max Verstappen was crowned drivers’ champion for the first time. With the Japanese manufacturer’s former F1 managing director Masashi Yamamoto joining Red Bull Powertrains and the Honda engine living on in the sequence of RB cars as a rebadged unit until the end of 2025, that alliance has considerable potential to be rekindled.
In either case, since Red Bull Powertrains is already well on its way to preparing its engine for 2026 and is listed as a power unit manufacturer, an effective sponsorship has the better part of three and half years to be finalized. Porsche doesn’t have that luxury of time.
This type of commercial interest appears to corroborate Domenicali’s view that Porsche aside, there are several other manufacturers that have an appetite to enter F1 at present. Speaking ahead of the Italian GP, he said: “I can only say that Porsche is an integral part of the group that has discussed and continues to discuss the rules behind the new power unit that will come into force in 2026.
“We have all read comments from Porsche and Red Bull, and they will be them to decide what to do. But I believe that we as F1 are currently a very inclusive platform. There are also other manufacturers sitting at the table of the engineers who prefer not to come out into the open. “
Will Porsche still look for an avenue into F1?
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
What about Porsche’s next steps?
The Volkswagen Group has been clear about what F1 – enjoying its Netflix-administered boom – can offer Porsche. The world’s second-biggest car maker still absolutely believes that the ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ adage rings true.
And as the Stuttgart marque is the sportiest brand under the umbrella organization, it wants to compete in the flagship motorsport series that offers far more public and commercial appeal than even extending its wins record at the Le Mans 24 Hours can ever hope.
Alternatively, should Porsche break away from its overlord and enact plans to go public and list itself on the stock exchange, earning success in F1 will not at all negatively impact its share price.
Combine the pros offered by F1 as is with the signing of 2026 engine regulations that introduce a cost cap, greater environmental credentials and a partial reset to afford Porsche a greater chance of being competitive from the off and you get the final line of the statement. Just because Porsche won’t be entering F1 with Red Bull is not to say it won’t be entering F1 full stop. “With the finalized rule changes, the racing series nevertheless remains an attractive environment for Porsche, which will continue to be monitored.”
Even though Porsche wants to come in as more than an engine partner and wishes to take a stake in a race team, there remain several ways in. When Audi was considering which race team it was going to write an enormous check for, before Sauber came out on top, it did its due diligence and evaluated several others. A takeover of McLaren came to nothing after initial discussions before the four-rings looked into Williams and Aston Martin.
Following its acquisition by investment group Dorilton Capital in 2020, and alongside the surging popularity of F1 at present, the price of partnering with Williams has risen considerably. However, there’s already substantial overlap with Porsche thanks to the wealth of ex-VW motorsport figureheads helming the outfit. That team principal Jost Capito, technical director Francois-Xavier Demaison and sporting director Sven Smeets all worked on the dominant Polo WRC program and are all known to the organization is not a negative.
Williams has a number of ex-Volkswagen Racing personnel on board
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Similarly, Audi also conducted a viability study of Aston Martin. While Lawrence Stroll is publicly splashing the cash by committing to an entirely new Silverstone factory, there is noise in the paddock that the Canadian billionaire has his price to sell up given the vast sums the project has consumed so far with only limited success. It would not be inconceivable for the road car side of Aston Martin to also benefit, plausibly breaking away from its Mercedes investor and more closely aligning itself and its technology with that of Porsche.
And then there’s what Michael Andretti’s investment group might offer. Domenicali and the other teams have expressed resistance to the former McLaren GP driver entering an 11th team on the grounds that it further divides the prize pot and, they say, will devalue the existing teams. However, a partnership with Porsche can offer a backdoor route to an entry.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff reckoned Andretti had less to offer than an OEM. But a Porsche-Andretti relationship could allay some of the paddock’s concerns. The Austrian commenting: “If an OEM or an international, multinational group joins F1 and can demonstrate that they are going to spend X amount of dollars in activating, in marketing in the various markets; that’s obviously a totally different value proposition for all the other teams. “
Porsche supplying its all-electric powertrain to the Andretti customer team for Gen3 in Formula E creates an existing partnership that could in theory pave the way for a union in F1 also.
To arrive in time for 2026, however, talks need to be swift. Porsche has until 15 October to be named as an engine manufacturer by the FIA if it wants to enter.
Andretti’s Formula E squad has secured Porsche powertrains for 2022-23 – could a similar deal take place in F1?
Photo by: Alastair Staley / Motorsport Images