Porsche, Formula E, 2020

Analysis: Does serious intent lie behind the latest ‘Porsche F1 team’ rumours?

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Last December the FIA Technical Department delivered barrels of a 100%-sustainable fuel to F1’s current power unit suppliers for evaluation. This second-generation bio-brew, blended specifically for trialling in F1 engines, produced from bio-waste not suitable for human or animal consumption, forms part of the governing body’s objective of becoming a net-zero producer of carbon by 2030.

It is no secret Formula 1 is actively seeking new teams and/or engine suppliers. The situation has become more urgent since last October, when Honda announced its intention to withdraw at the end of the 2021 F1 season. Amongst those most frequently tipped as possible entrants are various of Volkswagen Group’s brands – usually Porsche and Audi, although Lamborghini and Bugatti also rate mentions – and Hyundai Group, which includes KIA.

In various interviews published by RaceFans over the past 12 months – most recently with F1 managing director Ross Brawn – the recurring theme had been F1’s objectives for its new 2025 power unit regulations. F1’s intention is to ensure the internal combustion engine has a solid future by pioneering the use of non-fossil fuels. In July last year we reported Porsche was investigating the use of synthetic fuels.

Shortly after settling into his new role as F1 boss in January, Stefano Domenicali, who is extremely well-connected within the wider motor industry after successful stints with Ferrari (then part of Fiat), Audi and Lamborghini, spoke openly of his desire to attract incoming brands and teams, adding that there was strong interest.

Dan Gurney, Porsche, Rouen-les-Essarts, 1962
Porsche 804: Porsche’s only F1 race-winner
“We are receiving a lot of interest from OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] who want to understand the future of Formula 1,” he said during a select media briefing attended by RaceFans. “We are receiving – it seems strange from outside, but I’m very happy for that – some new requests for teams or other organisations that want to see if there is a possibility to invest in Formula 1.”

Earlier this week the BBC reported “Porsche and Volkswagen Group considering entering F1”, quoting VW Group head of motorsport Dr Fritz Enzinger saying, “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.”

Enzinger’s comments prompted a flurry of similar articles, most with broadly similar headlines. But do the highly respected engineer’s words actually translate into “considering an entry”? For starters, note the riders writ large in his comments: “would”, “if”, “for instance”, “should”, “evaluate”, “discuss”, “further”, “steps”. That is eight provisos in 40 words.

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More significantly, Enzinger turns 65 in September. German companies are sticklers about retirement policies and a Porsche insider said his replacement has already been chosen. The initial framework for F1’s new power unit regulations is unlikely to be presented to teams before the end of 2021 and only formalised a year later, so the Austrian is unlikely to have executive input into any F1 discussions held within the wider VW Group.

Fritz Enzinger, 2020
Enzinger hinted at F1 interest by Porsche
In any event, who knows what categories his successor will target? Predecessor Wolfgang Dürheimer, for example, nudged the VW Group towards rally, sports and GT racing, deliberately steering clear of F1. Being up to speed on the future direction of major motorsport categories, though, forms part of the job specification of every motorsport director worthy of the title to gauge whether these fit any future plans of the employer.

Thus, attending F1 Engine Advisory Committee meetings – as Porsche and other brands have variously done since at least 2009 – is no guarantee that a company will enter the sport, as proven by the number of ‘interested’ parties who have come and gone without commitment during that period. Forget not that the only new entrant in almost 15 years has been Honda, which has dipped in and out of F1 since 1964 and is presently heading for the door once again.

Porsche has in any event announced its 2023 return to the World Endurance Championship in the LMDh class, so is unlikely to have the resources to develop a complete car for one category and (at the very least) a highly complex power unit for a totally different application and category. Running the two programmes simultaneously is a recipe for failure.

Consider, too, comments made by Oliver Blume, chairman of the Porsche board, during the announcement: “The new LMDh class allows us to fight for overall victory with a hybrid system in the classics of Le Mans, Sebring and Daytona – without costing a fortune.” Does that sound like a company boss willing to spend gazillions on F1, particularly one still committed to Formula E?

Alain Prost, McLaren, Monaco, 1985
TAG-funded Porsches powered McLaren to multiple title wins
Assuming the new formula ticks all eight boxes referred to above, there is no impediment to another VW group brand entering F1, but the question is which one: Bugatti, Lamborghini, Audi, VW, Seat or Skoda? Bugatti is low-volume and far removed from the mainstream brands, Lamborghini is going great guns – thanks to Domenicali – and is unlikely to benefit commensurately by going up against Ferrari.

Seat and Skoda just don’t fit the F1 bill, leaving Audi, which recently exited Formula E to focus on LMDh and Dakar. Where does that leave resources for F1? Particularly as Audi has recently embraced road car electrification as it strives to shake off the soot of Dieselgate, the scandal which scuppered its most recent F1 plans.

Yes, F1 desperately needs at least one additional engine supplier – possibly even as team owner – to commit to F1, and the VW Group has the financial clout and engineering resource to make a proper fist of it. That said, talk is cheap and on current evidence the most eligible brands seem occupied elsewhere.

None of this means, that VW Group will not enter F1 in some shape of form come 2025, but at this stage the situation seems to be more one of peripherally considering whether to even consider F1 in the first place than a serious evaluation of a plan to enter.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 45 comments on “Analysis: Does serious intent lie behind the latest ‘Porsche F1 team’ rumours?”

    1. https://singularityhub.com/2019/04/29/electric-cars-are-estimated-to-be-cheaper-than-regular-cars-by-2022/

      The combustion engine is a dead horse, and all the car manufacturers know it.
      Within the next 5 to 10 years (my bet is on 5) your average Jane and Joe will buy a new electric car, and be happy about it. Forget about range, cost is the deciding factor.
      Instead of focusing on sustainable fuel, F1 should either buy FE and focus on rabid charging batteries, or keep the current engines, ditch the manufacturers, see if sustainable fuel is possible and get on with it.

      And yes, there will be a lot of combustion cars still going on, but they don’t make a single dime for the manufacturers, only the likes of Shell, Exxon and such will benefit from those.

        1. @jerejj
          I wish I could take credit for them, but they’re all freely available on the internet :)

            1. Niki101 The first article you reference above is from nearly 2 years ago and is full of holes, and the recent article you cite about VW’s aims also claims much is not supported with facts but rather theories, and they also state ICE development will continue. I think you’re way off the mark with what the realities are.

            2. No, he’s bang on the money. 2030 is the key date in Europe for ending sales of new internal combustion engine-powered vehicles. ICE has a bit more life left in it in the US, where it will be held dear by the same types who don’t believe in germ theory or mail-in voting.

              There was a great interview with Zac Brown Motor Sport where he discusses where he’d like to see F1 go, and like many of us have suggested it’s a route that deemphasizes the link between F1 and road cars, which is largely illusory. If you want to go racing to develop road car tech, then go endurance racing. F1’s carbon impact comes from the teams traveling around the world and tens of thousands of spectators driving to each event. The fuel needed to run 20-22 racing cars for about 150 hours a year is utterly irrelevant.

          1. what makes you think that electricity will cost much less when 50% of the cars outside will drive electric? At this moment, in some countries, e.g. Germany, it costs as much as LPG (gas). Whats the point of having electric and wait at least 30 minutes to charge, and all Motorways having enough charging points by that time? That’s definitely not possible in 5 years, considering not every average Joe has an access to their own charging stations at home, let alone having their own garage.

            I will give 10 years and it’ll still be struggle to get those cars charged for an average Joe like me. I would still stick to combustine engines because with so much hype my combustine engine cars will be even more cheaper to get, I hope.

      1. I just don’t see it happening that way in the United States. Our government can barely agree how to fight the Corona virus. Texas politicians blamed the power outages on windmills in half the population was happy to believe it.

        I just don’t see a path to the United States getting away from large gas guzzling vehicles.

        1. That’s because the reliance on “green” power was part of the problem.

          No, in 5 years most people will NOT be buying electric cars. The prices are far too expensive and the at home infrastructure is almost completely lacking to support them.

          1. That’s because the reliance on “green” power was part of the problem.

            If you talk about Texas that is utter and complete nonsense!
            Typical a political spin to avoid accountability for their actions or lack of them.

            1. No, it is not, and considering I live here, I’m well aware of the issue. I didn’t say it was ALL of the problem, I said it was PART of the problem, there’s a big difference. Yes, ERCOT failed us, they didn’t properly winterize, BUT because of the migration towards things like windmills, which are generating an increasing percentage of our energy rather than better means like Nuclear or Natural Gas, when they stopped producing, there was no slack left in the system and the rest is history.

              You greenie weenie, leftist, enviro nuts are going to have to understand that it takes a combination of everything for a reliable grid and stop pushing us towards this stuff that is problematic and will end up with people unable to afford their power bills.

            2. infrastructure needs to be in place before the uptake of EVs will shoot up. I would be happy for my partner to have one for her daily commute, but its just not practical for us to have in NZ as the infrastructure isn’t in place, and I would imagine this applies to all countries, although I was told by an EV charging station salesman a couple of weeks ago that he says the UK now has more charging stations than petrol stations, I’ve not fact checked that but I find that inconceiveable unless they have gone super focussed on achieving this. I lived in London until 2015 and none of my local gas stations had charging stations, although there was a hotel round the corner that had 3 charge ports.
              As a further example, NZ has one of the highest boat ownership rates in the world, might even be the highest, I can’t see a small electric car being capable of towing a boat, and given that many tow their boats to the lakes, from over 100kms away, the practicalities of a diminished range due to towing a boat, there and back, will be a major issue unless charging stations were available at popular lake sides, although it is then complicated by someone leaving their car charging whilst out on the water, reducing the amount of cars than can practically charge their car.
              I’m all for hybrid, and I might consider it for my next car, although the ones I have a looked at have severely compromised boot (trunk) space, so I might need to downsize to a 2L turbo station wagon instead, which atleast in terms of my own footprint, would be far better than my Passat 3.2 4Motion fuel economy.
              Sadly, this isn’t a solution that will be fixed in the next 5 years, and governments need to think practically about this before trying to achieve their emissions targets without considering the impact it has on the population and the knock on effect of the economy.
              damn I waffled a bit there, sorry.

            3. They’re cheaper so renewables are inevitable in a ‘competitive’ market (hence ummm Texas) – right wing blame shifting doesn’t address the need to responsibly regulate (… ensure directed financial drivers) to ensure peak capacity, winterisation & frequency management happen and price gouging doesn’t. The clear faceplant in Texas.

            4. @jblank, You are drinking the coolaid provided by the energy companies. Sure, around half of the 15% of green power in Texas was knocked out by failure to winterise, but that same failure to winterise caused the failure rate of 30%+ of the 85% coal/gas/nuclear power supply. It was entirely the failure of free enterprise power companies to spend money (bad for their bonus) to prepare for what used to be a very rare occurrence, not wind and solar, that caused the blackouts. Wind and solar are used far more in Scandinavia than in the USA, which shows that they work in cold climates.

          2. Blanky, your take on Texas is way off the mark. Those greedheads were too cheap to weatherproof their windmills and paid the price.

            1. @Kris Baxter – like here in Oz, as we have no mass vehicle manufacturing industry so new vehicle sales will be entirely dependent on what is available overseas. As the major manufacturers in Europe have agreed the way is in ‘volts‘ and also agreed on common ancillaries, eg. charging connectors, for more viable Economies of Scale. Coupled with this a number of strategic countries will cease petrol/oil sales circa 2035, to give Govts adequate time to meet global environmental commitments by 2050. We are already @ 2021.
              The used vehicle market is entirely different. Without environmentally friendly bio-fuels the ICE [internal combustion engine] market for new vehicles would collapse earlier than circa 2035, as would the used car market with all the $$’s & employment etc. it generates. Many people prefer used to new and/or simply can not afford new.
              Also should not forget the ginormous oldies/classic market for us revheads.

            2. @ferrox-glideh oh classic move! Claim that one industry was too cheap to protect themselves and completely neglect to mention that the same is true of the competition.

              Try again.

            3. @justrhysism The problem with Texas’s electrical grid is that of deregulation. Private companies care more about their bottom line that providing decent service, even when lives are literally on the line. Texas got taught a real big lesson about the value of government over private management. So yeah, competition is the problem here, not just The competition.

        2. Oli.gendebien
          9th March 2021, 0:05

          I don’t see that happening in the US either. They are not early adopters, more like laggards. They are still using the imperial system after all, but elsewhere the move towards electric is inexorable. Places that can’t afford gas guzzling SUVs have moved to bikes or motorcycles which are much easier to move towards electric motors.

      2. The average Joe? Nah…

        Where are they going to charge it? Too many people park on the road or some distance from their home (think high rise or city centre).

        Where is the extra power grid capacity going to come from? Nuclear is waaaay behind schedule, or out right cancelled, and we can’t meat our CO2 targets by quickly building some cheap coal or gas plants because capture/storage isn’t ready. And even if you solve that there isn’t enough HT transit capacity.

        1. US ~ 3% annual growth is more than enough to cater for 100% EV transition in just 10 yrs – off peak no issue (EV demand can be matched to non base load), Europe should need even less development with a better grid and less mileage per vehicle. Flat dwellers can DC charge.
          I can’t see F1 as generally very attractive to the two companies with the most aggressive EV roadmap (VAG & Hyundai) except for specifically the Lambo stable – knocked out to easily?

        2. @falken, yes sure and nicotine is neither addictive or bad for you. You need to check on what you read and where it’s coming from. Hail Trump.!

      3. Road cars and F1 are two completely seperate things. As for road cars, I think the shift from ICEs to fully electric engines is going to happen fairly soon, maybe not in 5 years, but still sooner than one might expect.

        F1 is a completely different story though. The current batteries are nowhere near as potent enough to handle tracks like Spa or Monza (FE can’t even go up the hill to the Casino square at Monaco). That’s why I think a merge between F1 and FE isn’t going to happen for at least the next 10 years.

        So what can F1 do in the meantime? Focus on solutions to minimize the engines’ carbon footprint (sustainable fuel and better batteries/more electrical power-output).
        I’m not quite sure what you mean by “ditch the manufacturers”?! Who is going to develop fuel and/or batteries, if there aren’t any manufacturers? F1/FIA don’t have the budget to do it themselves.

        1. As you’ve mentioned, F1 depends on road car manufacturers and therefore one cannot divorce F1 from the ‘green revolution’ because there’s no way the manufacturers will just throw money at ICE for just F1 and its fans, will they?
          So unless F1 and FIA are willing and able to invest in independent production of ICE, they have no choice really; they either have to go along with sustainable/synthetic fuels and hybridisation that the car manufacturers are demanding, buy FE and go full electric or cease to exist!?

          The fact is the car manufacturers need to sell cars and given the global trends including regulation from governments and more and more people becoming environmental conscious, they simply cannot afford to be associated with a sport that won’t adapt to the times…thus the need for F1 to make sustainable and green changes.
          Sorry petrol heads, F1 is part of the world and the world is far far bigger than F1.

      4. Jack (@jackisthestig)
        7th March 2021, 15:22

        I can’t see how motorsport would be relevant to the mass market in a mostly electric future. People buying such cars would have no regard for the relevance between motorsport and the four-wheeled domestic appliance they drive. There is no point in F1 alienating its existing fans by going electric in order to chase a future audience which won’t exist.

        There will remain a shrunken industry of internal combustion manufacturers producing expensive, low volume cars for driving enthusiasts. F1 should be their playground, it’s a perfect fit.

      5. Porsche invested, albeit a small amount of 26 million, in a production facility of synthetic fuels.

        Porsche’s projections are 500.000 liters in 2022, 55 million liters in 2024 and 550 million liters in 2026.

        In the long run the question isn’t what is cheaper, but what is sustainable and uses the least amount of scarce resources, and needs the fewest investments to be implemented.

        Not even Europe’s electricity network is going to be ready on time to have the entire fleet of cars be EVs.
        Imagine how far the rest of the world will be lagging behind to be able to implement EVs while compensating the downsides.

        Whereas synthetic fuels made out of water and CO2, that could be fully sustainble can be implemented anywhere in the world immediately as it comes out of the factory.

        And when it comes down to F1, synthetic fuels trump electric where it matters, emotion. That sweet sweet V10 sound could actually be back.

        https://www.dw.com/en/porsche-to-produce-fuel-as-clean-as-electric-vehicles/a-56787413

        https://www.motor1.com/news/489509/porsche-synthetic-fuel-2022-production/

      6. Electric battery only is just an intermediate solition until the hydrogen infrastructure is ready

    2. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
      7th March 2021, 12:21

      Good piece on the entire situation and to me pretty much sums up what’s wrong with the car industry nowadays. You’ve got this umbrella under which a lot of brands fall, but under the hood it’s basically all the same. Same goes for the Peuegot-group and that alliance with Renault, Mitsubishi and Nissan. Chances of more than 1 of each group competing alongside another are slim, meaning you’ll have just 1 brand really pushing it. The more brands fall under the same umbrella, the slimmer the chance of finding an OEM willing to invest.

      If Porsche and Audi are too busy with their other projects and we know you need to be a top-dog in the industry to have enough funds to throw at F1 to make it, options are limited. You’ve got what, Ford and Toyota (and General Motors, but that would only be interesting if they wanted to stick to fossil fuel), which both have a history in F1. And both a story that ended with them leaving, especially Toyota.

      So unless VW decides to move in themselves or get Porsch/Audi to get involved, it’s going to be hard to find a proper OEM that will stay on the grid for a longer duration. Red Bull Skoda has an interesting ring to it.. Although more along the lines of a drink you order in a bar after you’ve had too many already…

      1. While sitting on your Red Bull Seat !?

    3. That’s a tough one. It seems by the going of things that all major manufacturers will have an electric chassis architecture ready for mass markets by 2025.

      Carbon fuel type of engines may be gone from large urban conglomerates by 2030. Those types of engines may be restricted to rural areas, great distances in low populated areas and heavy machinery.

      So, where does our beloved 18.000 RPM twin turbo hair raising engine fits in all this? I guess the sport side of it, the competition, the heroes, the entertainment are the answer. Sustainable businesses model as an spectacle is what can keep F1 standing up in the next 10 years. The fastest, the more advanced, the sharpest driver competition.

      Hard fans as we can be, we’ll follow it regardless. But it won’t make a big difference on what car we buy. Ownership is becoming outdated.I guess traditional manufacturers know that.

    4. In various interviews published by RaceFans over the past 12 months – most recently with F1 managing director Ross Brawn – the recurring theme had been F1’s objectives for its new 2025 power unit regulations. F1’s intention is to ensure the internal combustion engine has a solid future by pioneering the use of non-fossil fuels. In July last year we reported Porsche was investigating the use of synthetic fuels.

      I don’t think anyone thinks EV’s will be dominating the market by 2025 but with the improvements in storage and charging technology the Motoring world is going to change rapidly over the next decade. I think alternative fuels may have a short term place in the market but the ICE is on it’s last legs, unless the big manufacturers can convince the governments of the EU, US, China and Asia to change their stance on ICE.
      Until then the majors will continue shifting their focus to electric/hydrogen power because of government regulation driven by public expectations.

      1. @johnrkh
        As you say, it depends on the question, if the car manufacturers can convince the governments (especially Europe and North America) that there is a lot of potential in sustainable fuel and that its carbon footprint is lower than that of batteries in electric cars.
        They could argue that a large part of batteries is produced in China (correct me if I’m wrong), so shipping them to Europe/America isn’t really helping its carbon footprint (unless they can find a carbon-neutral way of shipping them). Plus, most of the electrical energy at charging stations comes from coal-fired power plants (simply because it’s the cheapest form of energy), which isn’t very environmentally friendly either. Unless they are able to switch to “cleaner” forms of energy, like hydroelectric power plants, but that’s gonna cost a whole lot more.

        1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source

          tl;dr cheapest forms of energy are wind and solar. Coal isn’t even close.

    5. Best for F1 would be the OEM’s leaving the sport and playing with the EV’s. Return F1 to a much simpler racing formula of a box rule and an ICE engine limit size.

      Open up the formula to anyone of a hundred or so engine builders to create 3, 5 or even 7 litre ICE to power the single seaters.

      Do away with the fancy road car applicable regenerative and battery systems, return to innovative chassis and engine designs.

      Who needs the OEM’s anyway. They are best out of the sport.

    6. There is no such thing as Porsche. Just money vw’s money.

      1. Go and wash your mouth young man.

    7. Neil (@neilosjames)
      7th March 2021, 17:02

      I’ve mentally parked the VW/Audi/Porsche/etc F1 entry in the same part of my brain as the end of poverty, world peace, time travel and the second coming of Christ.

      Lots and lots and lots and lots of words spoken and written about them, dozens of theories for each, but if any of them ever actually happen you’ll be able to knock me over with a feather plucked from a flying pig’s hindquarters.

      1. Noble idea, but how are you know about timetravel if someone can do that they never will go public with it.
        Of the four i think only world peace is possible…

    8. IMO road car relevance / development and F1 have divorced over 10 years ago. Manufacturer R&D budgets completely dwarf F1 budgets, and they are interested in active suspension, anti-lock brakes, massive driver aids, etc, all of which make the skill of a driver less and less of a factor. F1 is motorsport and ultimately entertainment. I’d love to see the data for F1 where “win Sunday sell Monday” exists today.

      1. Ferrariworld monstering Abu Dhabi track probably indicates that marque believes in it – not sure the effect would extend to a Skoda.

    9. There’s as much likelihood of seeing Porsche back on the F1 grid as there is Rich Energy…

    10. Bit of an essay this, and is just my interpretation:

      I get the impression that manufacturers like Renault and Mercedes are now actively attempting to create distance between their main brands and performance divisions. This comment assumes the Mercedes name will disappear from F1 altogether in the forthcoming years, to be replaced by AMG (and perhaps Ineos, too, e.g. AMG-Ineos F1 Team).

      Exposure to Alpine and AMG is great from an advertising perspective in some regards, but the potential market for both ‘sub’-brands is a lot smaller. However, success for both teams creates a positive perception of the capabilities of each manufacturer’s trickle-down machinery and road-going offerings in the eyes of the public (in the same subliminal way Ferrari is/was still seen to be covertly advertising Marlboro cigarettes, albeit without the ‘positive’ part). It feels like a pivot that’s reactive to what’s happening outside of F1, and a compromise that falls short of leaving the sport altogether prior to 2025.

      Public perception of high-performance vehicles is still that they aren’t environmentally-friendly or sustainable. They are uncompromising, so the ‘no-holds-barred’ approach of Alpine and AMG (the performance divisions of Renault and Mercedes) fits perfectly with F1 and doesn’t damage the core brands as they look to cleaner alternatives to combustion engines. The desire to be seen as evermore clean and progressive is clearly indicated by Alpine’s rebranding and the encroachment of AMG onto the Mercedes’ bodywork, which suggests a gradual transition. I think this is a sign of the changing times, and a significant warning for F1 that it would do well to heed.

      This is why VW/Porsche is on the fence, in my opinion. They want to see clear, obvious restyling of F1 as environmentally conscious, clean and sustainable from 2025 – in a way the sport is not currently. If they don’t field a team, it’s a sign F1 has not gone far enough in the right direction (and I make no apologies for stating that it is the right direction). F1 will be in serious danger of losing its relevance and appeal to younger demographics altogether, as an archaic, dirty, old-fashioned and not remotely fashionable sport that many brands and celebrities will not want to be associated with any longer.

      It is very hard for some to accept, and those who don’t now maybe never do – I can understand why – but it is inevitable that F1 will have to change dramatically for the sport to still exist and maintain its position on top of the motorsport hierarchy a decade or so from now.

    11. Unfortunately the article is an unreadable clutter of random quotes and links to what was uncovered before by RF again.

      Still, seeing how Porsche is pushing for their eFuel, it makes sense they would use any outlet to advertise this new product. They claim the new Porsche 911 GT3 runs as “clean” as EV cars when burning eFuel. Why not do the same with F1?

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