The Volkswagen Group has been weighing up a potential F1 entry under the next generation of power units arriving in 2026 for some time, with officials from its Porsche and Audi brands playing a key role in high-stakes meetings.
Porsche has been linked with a potential Red Bull tie-up since the departure of the team’s former power unit partner, Honda, and the formation of a new powertrains division by Red Bull in Milton Keynes.
Sources have indicated to Motorsport.com's sister publication Motorsport-Total.com that talks between Red Bull and Porsche are now so advanced that any deal only requires approval from the supervisory bodies within the VW Group.
This could be given as early as March, providing there are no late stumbling blocks, and secure Porsche’s return to the F1 grid as a power unit supplier. Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko and fellow Austrian Fritz Enzinger, Volkswagen Group Head of Motorsport, are believed to have been instrumental in drafting the partnership.
Figures from Red Bull and Porsche have remained tight-lipped on negotiations. Marko told in-house broadcaster ServusTV last year that he had “spoken to a great many companies in the past”. When asked about the rumours of talks between Porsche and Red Bull, he said: “We keep talking. But nothing is fixed.”
Porsche CEO Oliver Blume, who has been present for the engine meetings, has been upbeat about F1’s planned switch to synthetic fuels, while Porsche motorsport boss Thomas Laudenbach said in November that conditions for a potential entry were now “coming true”.
Marko revealed last month that Honda was set to extend its direct Red Bull supply until the end of 2025, ensuring that Red Bull Powertrains or any possible partner would secure concessions from 2026 when the new power units are introduced.
The formation of Red Bull’s own powertrains operation at Milton Keynes is also thought to be attractive to Porsche and provide flexibility in terms of where the power unit development takes place, with parts of a potential F1 programme set to be operated out of Weissach in Germany.
Porsche came close to giving the green light on an F1 entry back in 2017, only for the extension of F1’s power unit regulations beyond 2021 to derail those plans. Its LMP1 programme came to an end in 2017 in favour of a move into Formula E, but it will return to the top class of sportscar racing at Le Mans next year when its LMDh programme gets underway.
F1 has been working hard through its meetings about the 2026 power units to make the regulations attractive for the VW Group, placing a focus on the use of e-fuels and removing the MGU-H, which was agreed at the end of last year.
The FIA World Motor Sport Council confirmed in December the MGU-H would be ditched, but the existing 1.6-litre V6 engine would be retained, combined with increased electrical power and the introduction of a cost cap for power unit development.
Independent of Porsche’s talks, Audi has been linked with a potential partnership with McLaren, which is currently powered by Mercedes.
McLaren issued a statement in November denying it had been bought out by Audi, but has held exploratory talks with the German marque and said in January it would be happy to wait on the VW Group to decide on an entry before evaluating a possible tie-up.