Porsche is strongly considering coming back to Formula One as an engine supplier when a new set of engine regulations kick in in 2021, reports Motorsport.com. Porsche representatives have been taking part in discussions about the new engine formula alongside F1's current teams and, so far, they like what they see.
Most recently, Porsche Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board and Member of the Board for Finances and IT Lutz Meschke met with F1 Managing Director of Motorsports Ross Brawn and the sport’s other heads over the Italian Grand Prix weekend.
Meschke confirmed to Motorsport.com that Porsche is impressed with Formula One’s current push for cheaper and simpler technology in the next round of engine regulations:
F1 could be one of the right places. As you know Formula E is very important for us now, and F1 is always a good topic to think about. And I think we are in quite good discussions regarding the new engine.
Meschke also said that Porsche’s main interest is in being an engine supplier, not running a full works team like Mercedes or Renault currently do, and to Porsche, a simplified version of the current twin-turbo V6 spec has a lot of appeal.
This actually makes some sense in a strange way. In July, Porsche announced that they would be leaving the top LMP1 class of the World Endurance Championship in favor of the cheaper, electric-focused Formula E, starting in the 2019-2020 season. As much as everyone likes to tout the all-electric start-up series Formula E as “the future,” it’s still struggling to find its own fanbase.
And part of why Porsche left the WEC was because the series simply wasn’t doing enough for the brand, Motorsport.com notes:
The F1 opportunity has opened up because Porsche stops its LMP1 project at the end of this season, having decided that it doesn’t get sufficient return for what is in effect an F1-size budget, but without the income and sponsorship that the likes of Mercedes enjoy.
While Motorsport.com didn’t specify what a “sufficient return” is, F1 does have a larger following compared to WEC, save for maybe around the WEC’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Sponsors want to be seen after all, and F1 would all but guarantee that.
Porsche has had mixed success in F1 over the years. The Porsche 718 it entered in the 1950s first started life as a Formula Two car that was not competitive in the main show. They had one lone constructor win with the Porsche 804 in 1962 before they deemed F1 too expensive and too different from road cars. Then Porsche returned in the 1980s where they had great success with a water-cooled V6 turbo made for the McLaren team that led the team to two constructors’ championships, in addition to three drivers’ championships.
But Porsche’s last entry in F1 as an engine manufacturer, in 1991, was a steaming turd. The Porsche 3512 engine was basically two of their hyper-successful 1980s McLaren engines stuck together to make a V12, as then-McLaren chief designer Steve Nichols told Autosport. It was a lazy design that was too big, overweight and not competitive at all in its Footwork chassis. It failed to qualify for half the races that year and Porsche was promptly canned as an engine supplier. (Ah, quick firings for-cause. Those were the days, right, McLaren?)
Porsche didn’t completely walk away from Formula One after that, though, as Porsche pays F1 to run its Porsche Supercup series as a support race for F1. Likewise, Porsche has had a technical relationship with Williams in recent years, and various rumors and reports keep linking Red Bull to different Volkswagen Group brands.
As long as Porsche doesn’t repeat their Footwork shenanigans, I’m so ready to watch a Red Bull-Porsche, it’s not even funny.