As the FIA prepared to finalise the Formula One power unit regulations for new breed of engines due in 2026, much of the media speculation was over how Porsche and Audi would enter Formula One.Neither Volkswagen group manufacturer apparently had the desire to start from scratch with a team building both a power unit and a chassis but rather preferred collaboration with existing Formula One squads.
Initially Audi set its eyes on McLaren offering an alleged $500m to buy into the British marque’s F1 racing team.
McLaren turn down Audi
Yet during the Miami GP McLaren CEO Zak Brown killed the idea dead admitting, “We did have conversations with Audi and we are not for sale.”
“Our shareholders are very committed to McLaren. Shareholders did some substantial investments to give to the team the resources we need to get back to the front,” added Brown.
“Commercially we are doing really well. Morale in the team is really good. We don’t have any interest in selling the racing team.”
McLaren’s majority shareholders are the Mumtalakat Holding Company — the sovereign wealth fund of Bahrain — who hold a 56.4% stake according to UK Companies House records. TAG group led by the late Mansour Ojjeh, owns 14.32%. The rest of the company is owned by a range of minority shareholders.
The collapse of the proposed McLaren/Audi linkup forced the German manufacturer to look elsewhere.
Audi F1 entry agreed for 2026
Audi confirmed their 2026 entry into Formula One with the FIA in August though said they would announce their partner by the end of 2022.
That said its widely believed Audi have done a deal with Swiss based F1 team Sauber who are currently sponsored by Alfa Romeo.
Unlike Audi, Porsche didn’t explore other options other than a hookup with Red bull Racing. A deal was widely reported that Porsche were looking to buy 50% of the Milton Keynes Racing team.
Given Red Bull’s independent history this always appeared a strange arrangement where the team from Milton Keynes was giving up too much control.
Porsche/Red Bull deal doomed from the beginning
The warning signs of the deal collapsing were there for all to see as Christian Horner gave a series of interviews prior to the summer break this year repeatedly stressing the need for a partner “that works within our DNA”.
Whilst part of the VW group, Porsche has its own board of directors based in Stuttgart and has continued to operate the iconic brand in a fairly conservative fashion over the years.
When asked in Japan about what gives the current Red Bull Racing model such a competitive advantage, Christian Horner was blunt with his reply.
“Recently we had exactly that dilemma where we had the opportunity to work with an OEM [Porsche] taking a significant shareholding in the team.
“But it was recognised that our DNA would be affected if we could not continue to operate exactly in the manner that has made us successful with that ability to make quick-fire decisions without having to go through layers and layers of process and bureaucracy.”
Red Bull renew their partnership with Honda
At present Formula One power units are ‘frozen’ in terms of design until 2026 and Red Bull use the same Honda power unit design from 2020 when the Japanese manufacturer withdrew from the sport.
It was thought initially the Red Bull would buy the intellectual property for the power train from Honda, however this idea was dropped and the full Honda logo reappeared on the RB18 at the Japanese GP.
The reason Red Bull Racing declined to buy the intellectual property is because they want to join Formula One as a new power train manufacturer in 2026 along with Audi.
The ‘new’ manufacturers will be given some competitive advantage over the existing ones, with more budget and more flexibility around the design regulation process.
If Red Bull acquired the Honda IP and produced the current power unit in house, they would be deemed an existing manufacturer come 2026.
So the current Honda power unit used by Alpha Tauri and RBR is still produced in Japan.
Horner open to the right relationship
Whilst Christian Horner does not rule out a future partnership on the power unit for 2026 he was adamant how any such arrangement would operate.
“We are fully focused on a Red Bull power unit,” insisted Horner.
“If there was a like-minded partner that could contribute something to the project, then, of course, you would have to absolutely consider that.
“But it’s not a prerequisite.”
TJ13 argued earlier this season that RBR would persuade Honda to return to F1 for 2026. The Japanese manufacturer left the sport to focus its brand on carbon neutral and electrical designs to power its automotive division.
For 2026 the new F1 power trains will be run on carbon neutral bio fuel and 50% of the power only will come from the internal combustion engine. The other 50% will be electrical power.
Honda F1 return for 2026
Its more than conceivable Red Bull and Honda will renew their relationship with the Japanese manufacturer designing and branding the electrical part of the PU and Red Bull Power Trains responsible for the internal combustion engine.
With regards to Christian Horner’s criteria for any future partners, Adrian Newey said it all following Max Verstappens win at the Japanese GP.
“They’ve [Honda] been a great partner, they really have. Technically they came up with a great engine.But just as important they’ve been very good to work with in terms of no politics.
We have a good engineering relationship in terms of the integration between car and engine.
It’s just been a delight.”
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— Will Buxton (@wbuxtonofficial) October 15, 2022