Opinion: What next for Porsche in Formula 1?

Red bull f1 car with porsche logo

Red Bull deal fell through over disagreement regarding Porsche’s involvement

Porsche has scrapped its deal to enter F1 with Red Bull Racing but is still considering an entry

The failure of Porsche and Red Bull Racing to forge an alliance in Formula 1 leaves the German manufacturer with limited possibilities if it does still wish to make an entry into the pinnacle of motorsport when the engine rules change in 2026. How and with whom are two monumental questions, for which there are no obvious answers.

The tensions in the Red Bull deal had been obvious for a while. Team principal Christian Horner made it all too clear in public that he wasn’t in favour of an agreement whereby Porsche would take a 50% share in the operation, ensuring it would be much more than a simple powertrain supplier, as Honda had been with the Austro-British team previously.

Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz was said to be keen on a Porsche deal that at first glance made sense. He’s 78 and surely mindful of securing the future of the team beyond his lifetime, and a tie-in with such a prestigious and powerful car manufacturer was a strong and obvious option.

That Horner has managed to resist losing control, in a deal that might have spelt the beginning of the end of his long and successful time running Red Bull’s F1 operation, says much about his influence.

You can understand his position. Horner rightly takes a large slice of credit for turning the team formerly known as Jaguar Racing from a shambles into one of the greatest and most successful in F1 history: four consecutive double titles with Sebastian Vettel between 2010 and 2013, a drivers’ crown with Max Verstappen last year and this season what looks certain to be a second championship for the Dutchman and the bonus of a constructors’ trophy too.

At the same time, Horner is nearing completion of a monumental project to build and launch a powertrain division employing more than 400 people on the Milton Keynes campus – solely to build a handful of F1 engines each year.

Thanks to a strong portfolio of commercial sponsors, Red Bull clearly doesn’t need Porsche now and arguably won’t in the future.

There was always a big question mark over how such a partnership would work. Porsche badges on an engine designed by Red Bull’s employees in Milton Keynes? That was never going to wash for a manufacturer with a proud tradition of motorsport success on its own terms. The pieces of this jigsaw never did quite match up, and that much was obvious when Autocar paid Horner a visit to find out more about the powertrain division before the start of the season. On the subject of Porsche, he welcomed the interest – but we sensed some reticence about how an alliance might work.

So what now? In its statement, Porsche said: “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 finalised rule changes, the racing series nevertheless remains an attractive environment for Porsche, which will continue to be monitored.”

Other team-partnership options are limited. Williams is the most obvious, but if that’s an option, why wasn’t it one taken up before, even with ex-Volkswagen Group man Jost Capito at the helm?

Audi looks certain to partner with the Swiss Sauber team for its own F1 entry in 2026 when it also could have pursued a deal with Williams – but didn’t.

So how about a Porsche partnership with McLaren, which is currently a mere customer team powered by Mercedes-Benz? Its resistance to Audi’s alleged approach last year doesn’t bode well on that one.

A Porsche badge on the Audi engine clearly won’t wash, and anyway it goes against current regulations. So how about setting up a team from scratch? That would be fraught with jeopardy, both financially and from a competitive standpoint. It would be wonderful for us, the watching world, to see how it would play out – but for Porsche it surely makes no sense.

The brand does already have plenty of motorsport on its plate. Testing of the new 963 LMDh hypercar with which it hopes to win a 20th Le Mans 24 Hours next year is already well under way, while its preparations for the Gen3 era of the Formula E electric single-seater series continue.

Then there are its global interests and commitment in GT racing, including its own range of one-make Cup series.

Porsche hasn’t needed F1 up to now and can flourish quite happily without it in the future. But still, missing out on the chance to capitalise on the current strength of the biggest motorsport market of them all, and to lose the opportunity to come in as an almost guaranteed top-line competitive entity, will be a bitter pill to swallow. It’s F1’s loss too.

As for Red Bull, will it now renew its old partnership with Honda? The Japanese car maker is said to be considering a return, despite only pulling out last year, while Red Bull shoots towards a double title success with its powertrain now carrying the badges of the energy-drinks brand – which also claims the credit. If there is regret within Honda, no wonder.

The company was a perfect engine partner for Horner and technical director Adrian Newey, because it left them free to manage the team’s operations entirely on their own terms – which would never have been the case with Porsche.

Honda’s return would be much welcomed by all in F1 and would also cap a significant victory for Horner in the boardroom. Whatever happens next, it seems Red Bull is still ‘his’ team.

Source: Autocar

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