Could Formula 1 see another prominent sports car maker join its ranks? It’s not out of the question, though it is contingent on where F1 decides to go with its forthcoming engine changes. Porsche’s synthetic fuel program looks like the impetus.
If Porsche — and, perhaps more importantly, parent company Volkswagen — like what they see, and F1 perhaps goes the route of employing synthetic fuel, the 911 maker may join the party, according to a report that broke late Wednesday evening from the BBC.
Any move depends on the direction of the sport’s next engine regulations, which are due to be introduced in 2025.
Porsche Motorsport vice-president Fritz Enzinger told BBC Sport: “It would be of great interest if aspects of sustainability — for instance, the implementation of e-fuels — play a role in this.
“Should these aspects be confirmed, we will evaluate them in detail within the VW Group and discuss further steps.”
Formula 1's new engine regulations will take effect four years from now, though constructors and the FIA haven’t settled on precisely how they’ll look yet. As it turns out, Porsche has been an active member of these discussions, according to senior F1 officials referenced in the BBC article.
Do not forget that Porsche revealed in 2019 that it had built an engine for the 2021 Formula 1 regulations. This is not idle speculation.
A freeze in development of current engines will take effect at the conclusion of the upcoming season. Between 2022 and 2024, the power units will be unchanged, helping teams save costs and protect personnel during the ongoing global pandemic. The freeze will also ensure Red Bull won’t have to go out and find a new engine during those years, as the Austrian team will lose Honda as its partner at the end of 2021.
That last part is relevant to the Porsche discussion, because the BBC states Volkswagen participated in “exploratory talks” about some degree of partnership with Red Bull, Williams and McLaren.
It’s no coincidence that Porsche Motorsport’s Fritz Enzinger mentioned F1's potential adoption of e-fuels as an attractive step for the carmaker. Porsche is actively researching clean-burning synthetic fuels that would theoretically contribute no more carbon dioxide to the environment than an electric car does over the entirety of its manufacturing and lifespan. Audi, McLaren, and BMW are similarly interested in the technology.
Porsche participates in Formula E, though Audi and BMW notably announced they will leave the series at the end of the current season.
With F1 aiming for a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030, it seems likely a move to synthetic fuel will be part of the overall plan to get there. “Hybrid will be a diversified platform on which [manufacturers] can invest and promote the efficiency of their power unit or powertrain,” F1 president Stefano Domenicali recently said of future regulations. “Carbon neutrality is the other element at the center of our discussion — eco-fuel, organic fuel.”