Porsche does things other than produce videos on how to pronounce its product names, like making cars or mulling a Formula One entry from time to time. But Porsche’s recent F1 consideration was more than just a thought—the company’s motorsport boss recently said it even built an engine for a possible 2021 entry.
That is, until plans changed.
There are always rumors about which carmakers are joining which racing series within some arbitrary timeline, with some of those hints being more factually supported than others. One of those was the idea from in 2017 that Porsche could return to F1 in 2021 after a few decades away from the series, and while it doesn’t look like that’s going to pan out, Porsche was ready.
Porsche’s motorsport boss, Fritz Enzinger, told Motorsport.com that the team had a six-cylinder F1 engine in the works with the 2021 target, but everything began to fall through when Porsche shut down its extremely successful program in the World Endurance Championship’s top Le Mans Prototype 1 class—leaving LMP1 for the all-electric Formula E Championship.
The LMP1 team, before the Formula E move, was working on an F1-compatible engine, Motorsport.com reports. From the story:
“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,” [Enzinger] 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. Such things can be done in two ways.”
Even when the LMP1 program ended, Motorsport.com reports that Porsche kept on with the F1 engine. The 2021 date was and is important because it’s when F1 is due for another rules overhaul, and Motorsport.com reports that what really ended things for Porsche after the WEC roadblock was when the “the prospect of simplified and cheaper F1 engines stalled” in those very rules.
FIA president Jean Todt even said in September of last year that he didn’t see any new manufacturers joining F1 in 2021, despite the potential for big rules changes. Here’s how things went with Porsche, via Motorsport.com:
Though a move to FE, where Audi was also present, was an “obvious idea”, Enzinger said the six-cylinder engine concept was still pursued because an F1 engine without the MGU-H would “also be interesting for a super sports car”.
“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. That was the order from the board to us.” [...]
Enzinger told Motorsport.com that its six-cylinder engine is complete and running, and that a team of technicians uses it for “analyses and further orders with regard to series relevance.”
But it doesn’t look like it’ll be on the racing grid anytime soon—at least, when it comes to F1.