Porsche have a limited exposure in their history to Formula One though should understand the ways of the Piranha club. Their prevarication with declaring an F1 entry has merely damaged their credibility amongst inside F1 overseers. The new generation of F1 power units are set to be introduced in 2026 and Porsche have been flirting with an F1 entry for almost a decade now.
It feels like Porsche have for years been merely playing with the idea of returning to Formula One, but TJ13 sees no serious intent on behalf of the German brand. In fact Porsche’s history with F1 demonstrates a lack of commitment to the sport with brief flirtatious interludes of participation.
Porsche designed 1500 cc F2 cars in the late 1950’s and moved them up to F1 in 1961, but they were not competitive. For 1962 Porsche developed a flat eight powered and sleek looking Porsche 804, though beautiful to the eye, it won just one championship race at the 1962 French GP.
Porsche retired from F1 a week later citing “high costs”.
Porsche returned to Formula One in 1983 almost two decades later. McLaren had been using the Ford built V8’s since 1968 and needed to get with the latest forced induction engine programme.
TAG were engaged to pay for the programme because Porsche refused to do it on a works team relationship basis, reluctant to have their name on the engines, fearing bad publicity if they failed.
They designed and supplied water-cooled V6 turbo engines badged as TAG power units for the McLaren Team, though the engines bore a “made by Porsche” identification.
In 1983, the Porsche engine didn’t cover itself in glory, but a year later McLaren and Porsche won 12 of the 16 races and the F1 championships.
The TAG badged Porsche engine saw two more years of championship title wins but by 1987 was becoming long in the tooth. McLaren persuaded the Williams F1 team’s engine partner Honda to replace Porsche in 1988.
Despite the success of the TAG/Porsche engines in the McLaren, the power unit was never the most powerful in F1 because they couldn’t deliver the higher turbo boost like their rivals. McLaren’s drivers repeatedly begged for Porsche to build more powerful qualifying engines, though the team refused to stump up the expense.
The Tag engines were more fuel efficient and their lack of high end power did not stop McLaren from claiming 7 pole positions (6 for Prost, 1 for Keke Rosberg) and 21 front-row starts.
Porsche’s next dalliance with F1 was in 1991 but it brought disastrous results. The Footwork Arrows cars were powered by an overweight Porsche 3512 double V6 engine which weighed 180kg. McLaren designer Alan Jenkins claimed the new engine was in fact 2 combined TAG V6 engines used by McLaren from 1983 to 1987 minus the turbochargers.
The engine failed to score a single point for Arrows and even failed even to qualify for over half the races that year. Porsche was sacked in favour of Cosworth for the following season and since then the German racing marque has not participated in Formula One.
Porsche dominated the LMP1 category of the World Endurance Championship between 2015 and 2017. Their engine design and build department at the time numbered about 40.
By way of contrast, Mercedes AMG F1 which has dominated Formula One in the hybrid era began in 2014 employs around 700 people in its Brixworth facility, the home of their power trains.
Prior to their withdrawal from the WEC, Porsche’s head of motorsport Fritz Enzinger claimed, “At the end of 2017, we received a concrete order from our parent company to further develop a highly efficient six-cylinder engine, despite its LMP1 withdrawal,” he said.
“Not only on paper but actually as hardware and with the idea that this engine will be put to the test in 2019.”
“In 2017 there were signals from Formula 1 that the regulations were to be changed and that energy recovery from the exhaust gases [the MGU-H] was no longer required,” he said.
“As of 2017, Porsche was a member of the FIA Manufacturers Commission and was involved in the discussions about the future drive strategy in Formula 1 from 2021 and represented at the meetings.
“On the one hand, we took part in these working groups. On the other hand, the guys developed a six-cylinder for the WEC in parallel.
“Of course, we thought about what would have to change if the engine were to be used in Formula 1.
The next generation of F1 power units were originally to be introduced in 2021, though dalliance from the likes of Porsche and Audi followed by the pandemic saw this program repeatedly delayed. Now the new F1 power units are expected to debut in 20226.
TJ13 has repeatedly questioned the much reported tie up between Porsche and Red Bull for the next generation of F1 power units. In particular, the reports of a 50% buy-in from the German marque into the Red Bull Racing team we have repeatedly scorned as risible disinformation.
Dietrich Mateschitzh doesn’t need anyone else money and Red Bull Power trains have invested 100’s of millions in a new power train facility in Milton Keynes. They are currently favoured by the F1 rules to freeze engine design until 2026 and so are running their former Honda F1 power unit with consultancy expertise from Japan.
Red Bull recently announced this partnership would continue until the end of 2025.
Red Bull Racing were so badly burned by Renault letting them down in 2014 as the new hybrid V6 engines first ran, that a plan was formed within the team to never again be dependent on a power unit supplier. That journey saw Red Bull Powertrains build their Milton Keynes new facility in just 54 weeks.
TJ13 has previously reported Andy Cowell, the Mercedes genius V6 hybrid power unit designer, will be announced shortly as Red Bull’s 2026 power unit design technical officer.
Further, Gordon Murray is believed to be involved as a consultant having recently designed and built the most powerful V12 combustion engine ever designed for his T50 hypercar.
“The T50 produces the highest power density of any naturally aspirated road car engine ever made – 166PS-per-litre. This record, coupled with the lightness of the unit, places this engine right at the pinnacle of naturally aspirated powertrain development.”
“To achieve the lowest weight possible the block in the T.50 is made from a high-strength aluminium alloy, the crankshaft is made from steel and weighs only 13 kilograms, and the connecting rods and valves are made from titanium – as is the clutch housing. This all contributed to engine weight of just 178kg – yet another road-car record.”
Red Bull Racing do not really need Porsche and Christian Horner has in several interviews gone to great lengths to play down the potential Porsche future involvement with the team. Speaking specifically about a possible power unit partner, Horner is adamant that Red Bull Racing will be in charge of any partner relationships.
“Any partnership would have to fit with the Red Bull philosophy, obviously, the DNA, the culture of who we are, how we go racing and what we’ve achieved. It would be absolutely fundamental to any discussion of not changing that, you know. We’re successful for a reason. And you know, of course, in any discussion that would be conditional on any involvement.”
Further, Red Bull Racing’s ambition is to match Ferrari’s production facility.
“In Milton Keynes we’ve gone from being an industrial estate or a few units on an industrial estate to being a technology campus”
“And that, you know, the investment by the group has been significant. And I think with the new power unit regulations coming for 2026, we’ll be the only team, other than Ferrari, to have everything under one roof, on one site, on one campus. And that’s tremendously exciting for us. And so Red Bull has seen, you know, tremendous growth in the sport in everything that we’re doing, and I think that commitment and that investment has been second to none.”
Given Porsche’s lack of historical F1 pedigree and Luke warm interest over the years; this clearly does not fit with the ambitious F1 aspirations of the Red Bull Racing outfit. TJ13 has been led to believe the announcement that Porsche will ‘withdraw’ from a partnership with the F1 Milton Keynes based team is merely a few weeks away.