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Porsche "evaluating" F1 move

NEWS STORY
04/03/2021

With an eye on the sport's increasing move towards sustainability, Porsche and its parent company, the Volkswagen Group are evaluating entering F1.

For as long as anyone can remember there has been talk of Porsche returning to Formula One. The legendary German manufacturer first entered the sport in 1961 with its F2 car, returning a year later with the purpose built 804, which, in the hands of Dan Gurney, gave the company its sole F1 win as a constructor.

In the early 80s, Porsche returned to the sport, this time as engine partner to McLaren, the TAG-badged units taking the Woking team to successive constructor titles in 1984 and 1985, and driver titles for Niki Lauda (1984) and Alain Prost (1985 and 1986).

However, similar to the nightmare that beset Honda's initial return to F1 with McLaren in 2015, Porsche’s return to F1 in 1991 was a disaster, the Footwork Arrows regularly failing to qualify for races and late that same season the team switched to Cosworth and Porsche left F1 never to return.

Over the years since there has been much talk of a return but in early 2015 Porsche’s head of development, Wolfgang Hatz ruled out a return, claiming that Le Mans was more attractive.

"Formula One has never been an issue for us and won't be," he said. "Le Mans is a more attractive environment for us - there are more and more competitors and we learn more about the production of road cars."

Just over two years later and there appeared to be a change of heart, when it was revealed that Porsche, along with Cosworth and Aston Martin, had attended a meeting of the Power Unit Working Group, and was just weeks away from making a decision on whether to return to F1.

Two months later, and having announced the termination of its LMP1 programme while at the same time confirming its foray into Formula E, deputy chairman, Lutz Meschke met with F1 bosses at Monza as the German manufacturer continued to mull a possible return.

"F1 could be one of the right places," Meschke told Autosport. "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."

Asked if the plans for a more basic twin-turbo V6, which would see the controversial and expensive MGU-H dropped, might make F1 more attractive to Porsche, Meschke said: "Absolutely. We have to cut costs in F1, and it's a good way to reach this target."

However, he insisted that his company, which is part of the VW Group, had no intention of returning to F1 as a constructor, merely as an engine supplier.

His comments came at a time VW Group director, Bernhard Gobmeier, appeared to rule out F1, claiming that the sport was on a "dangerous path",

"It is expensive," he said, according to Motorsport.com. "Most of the teams, apart from the big four, have financial problems. And tracks cannot pay what they are asking for. Due to its expensive nature, they are walking a very dangerous path in my personal opinion. We see it everywhere.

"Mercedes has over 1,500 people working on the F1 project," he added. "That is not even considering the suppliers, though it is not so much. It is probably 2,000 people on two cars. You should consider how expensive wages are in England and how expensive material is.

"In America, they have cost control on their minds. They manage it well. In Europe, there are a lot of different categories. In some of them, cost control is really good. But, F1 is completely out of range and so is the WEC.

"The number of sponsors is going down," he continued. "The big sponsors, like the cigarette companies, are not there anymore. The small sponsors are also reducing. The number of sponsors is going down and so are the spectator numbers. At the same time, the cost is increasing. Something is not fitting there. They have to make the races more spectacular.

"MotoGP is above F1 from the show point of view. It is one hundred times better. There is no comparison. MotoGP, its supporting races and World Superbikes are way better than F1."

It was subsequently revealed however that prior to its exit from LMP1, Porsche had begun work on a potential F1 power unit.

"In 2017 there were signals from Formula 1 that the regulations were to be changed and that energy recovery from the exhaust gases was no longer required," Porsche's head of motorsport Fritz Enzinger told Motorsport.com referring to the original plan to drop the MGU-H. "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.

"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 reveals. "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."

Admitting that the unit was "complete and running on the test bench" overseen by a team of "20 to 25 technicians", "for analyses and further orders with regard to series relevance", Enzinger added. "The possible use for this six-cylinder engine was completely open. If it had been decided to send Porsche 2021 to Formula 1, we would have made it the way we did in 2018."

Now, according to the BBC, the sport's increased drive towards sustainability is making it attractive to Porsche once again.

"It would be of great interest if aspects of sustainability - for instance, the implementation of e-fuels - play a role in this," he told the broadcaster. "Should these aspects be confirmed, we will evaluate them in detail within the VW Group and discuss further steps.

"Porsche and Volkswagen AG are observing the constantly changing regulations in all relevant racing series around the world," he added. "This is also the case with regard to the emerging new engine and drivetrain regulation for Formula 1 from 2025."

"Formula 1 has long served as platform for introducing next generation advancements in the automotive world," said Ross Brawn in December after it was revealed that F1's engine manufacturers have received their first barrels of sustainable fuel. "We are delighted by the momentum on sustainable fuels which perfectly aligns with our plan to be net zero carbon as a sport by 2030.

"Our top sustainability priority now is building a roadmap for the hybrid engine that reduces emissions and has a real world benefit for road cars. We believe we have the opportunity to do that with a next generation engine that combines hybrid technology with sustainable fuels."

In January, F1 CEO, Stefano Domenicali, former head of Lamborghini, which is owned by Volkswagen, said the sport was in talks with a number of manufacturers not currently involved in F1.

"For the moment, they prefer to stay still quiet, but the good news is that there are other companies, very important companies, that are really keen to understand what is the value that they can bring home using the F1 platform," he said.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by alvarezh3, 09/03/2021 16:32

"Interesting info "Spindoctor".

I went to gather additional info on the fuel matter and found an article by Bob Sorokanich in Road and Track's website where it explains how inefficient it is to run direct hydrogen into a ICE. Apparently it's not a good fuel even for rockets as no space agency uses it.

My thoughts on electric racing vehicles is what effect the lack of sound is going to influence the general audience on the show. I for one will be a lot less interested in a soundless show as much as I am little interested in FE, totally tasteless for me.

If Bernie was worried with the diminished amount of sound created by the current engines, imagine what a totally electric F1 would be, would there still be millions of viewers? That's the million dollar question. Less viewers, less TV and advertising income. Will F1 be as we know it today?"

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2. Posted by Spindoctor, 09/03/2021 7:27

"If there is one certainty in life (apart from the universality of death & taxes) it's that you don't get ought for nought. Porsche's so-called "synthetic" fuels are designed to imitate the way hydrocarbons work in IC motors and are made from combining hydrogen & CO2 extracted from air. When burnt this produces C02 just like "natural" fuel.
The production process is energy-intensive & Porsche has teamed-up with Siemens whose wind turbines will provide the juice - that's why Porsche's plant is in a windy bit of Chile. It is nominally carbon-"neutral".

This system & similar others might provide very small amounts of fuel to be used in Motor Sports but it's simply not viable for more general use. This begs the question why should serious car makers want to develop & promote what are essentially just plain old ICE's, which are unlikely to be powering your Cortina in 2035.

As a professional cynic this move from Porsche just looks like a sop to being Eco-friendly, with little relevance to day-to-day reality. Battery EV's, despite their numerous shortcomings provide the potential (through continued development of Battery tech) for technological & societal advance rather than retrenchment. Logically, most manufacturers will opt for being seen as part of the "solution", not the problem."

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3. Posted by alvarezh3, 08/03/2021 19:42

"A couple of weeks ago, I posted the following note on Max Noble's "Electrifying" Feature article:

Just read today that Dr. Frank Wallier of Porsche Motorsport and GT cars, has declared that the company is working on a synthetic fuel tech that can be as clean as an EV.

Part of the human experience is covered by sound. What is a circus without a band, the lion show without the roar of the beasts, the sound of the whip as it brakes the sound barrier and the shouting of the tamer?

EV are fine for the road, I am all for it. Notice how FE has to use a DJ to create any type of excitement?

Why would we want to bring back F1 to the silent movie era if the technology is soon available to avoid it?"

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4. Posted by gt3bill, 05/03/2021 2:13

"yea..and i love my 997 gt3...... porsche in F1 is good "

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5. Posted by kenji, 04/03/2021 22:54

"@Flyinglap...I rather like Bosheff's '04 comment re the Middle East....'What's our oil doing under their sand' Prosaic."

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6. Posted by flyinglap, 04/03/2021 20:51

"@ kenji; Indeed, Porsche might eventually save the ICE for... mankind, by helping the free-thinking sections of both the general public and the business world to "see the light". Battery electric cars are not the only "solution" (assuming that there was a "problem" to begin with). Synthetic fuels are much easier and much less of a financial burden to implement than the precipitous electrification we will be otherwise forcibly subjected to over the coming decade ("great reset" and all of that included). By the way, I take this opportunity to repeat a recent post of mine for another article, which I believe is quite relevant to this same topic: "I imagine most of the younger fans will be unaware of the 1980 motion picture "The Formula" (an underrated gem, which incidentally is nowhere to be found online), starring George C. Scott, and Marlon Brando, as the chairman of imaginary Titan Oil. We are right after the (real, not imaginary) Oil Crisis of the 1970s when prices first increased by 400% (1973) and then by 100% (1979). The storyline is about a resurfaced formula devised during World War II by the Nazis and enabling to produce synthetic fuel. That would eliminate the need for oil, consequently posing a serious threat to the status quo. At some point, the character of Marlon Brando, in reply to one of his executives arguing that Titan Oil should increase their price of fuel as the people will accept it "because we can blame it on the Arabs!" responds "you are missing the point, WE ARE the Arabs". Food for thought."

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7. Posted by kenji, 04/03/2021 11:16

"What a breath of fresh air Porsche would bring to the F1 scene if they do decide to join the party. Their achievements in the WEC were nothing short of outstanding. For those interested in this development i would suggest reading up on Porsche's involvement in the provision of non fossil fuels originating from their joint venture in Chile. The scale is mind boggling and this project is something I will follow closely. The ICE is not dead and if this operation is successful the ICE will be with us for the forseeable future in whatever radical form. May the ICE force be with F1."

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