Formula 1: How Porsche and Audi plan to get started, what role Netflix plays – MOTORSPORT AND FORMULA 1

Ferdinand Piëch († 82) had a reputation: the former CEO of the VW Group always spoke his mind clearly and would not be dissuaded from his path. It was only different when it came to Formula 1. In January 2001, Piëch described an entry as “nonsense”. Nine months later, in October 2001, he revised his opinion and told the “Welt” that he could imagine starting in the pinnacle of motorsport. This did not happen until his death in 2019. That is now changing.

VW wants to be in Formula 1, and Formula 1 wants VW. The group is to become another driving force alongside the previous works teams Mercedes, Ferrari and Alpine (Renault). From 2026, the Wolfsburg-based company wants to get involved with two brands: Audi and Porsche. The VW supervisory board gave the green light for this last week. The final hurdle is the cost-effectiveness test. A formality.

While for Audi it would be the first steps in the premier class of motorsport, for Porsche it would mean a return to Formula 1. Between 1961 and 1964 the Stuttgarters had their own team. From 1983 to 1987 and 1991 Porsche supplied engines. In 2010 there were already plans for a return to Formula 1, and test benches had even been bought. However, the idea was never implemented. Until now!

Porsche is in advanced negotiations with Red Bull. Red Bulls motorsport boss Helmut Marko (78) says: “As far as the future is concerned, we are the most attractive bride in Formula 1.” The parties are negotiating a cooperation. The plan is for Porsche to join the engine department of the Brause racing team.

Until 2026, the team of world champion Max Verstappen (24) will continue to be supported by long-term partner Honda in setting up the recently founded drivetrain department. At the start of the new engine generation, Porsche is to take over and equip the sister team Alpha Tauri in addition to Red Bull.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner (48) says: “It is very easy to adapt to a new engine supplier. But it has to be the right partner.”

There is not much time for adjustment. Although the Honda deal allows Red Bull to concentrate fully on building the new “powertrain unit” until 2026, for which around 50 Mercedes employees have been recruited to date, this is an ambitious schedule for the development of an engine. It provides for the racing team to build its own combustion engine for the first time and to support Porsche with its knowledge of the electrical part.

Mercedes & Co. suspect that Red Bull wants to gain a double advantage. The world association Fia is considering whether it should be easier for the new engine manufacturer to get started with more leeway for the budget cap and more test bench time. Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault fear that not only Porsche, but also Red Bull with its newly founded drive department could enjoy this privilege and thus have twice the time at their disposal. A massive benefit. There are first signs of this. At the Australian race, Horner spoke of Red Bull as a “newcomer”.

At Porsche, the forthcoming entry is rated as the main prize. With Red Bull you not only gain one of the absolute top teams as a partner, but you can also use the knowledge in dealing with synthetic fuels for your premium road fleet.

The Audi bosses would be willing to go one step further. The Ingolstadt-based company is considering not only being an engine supplier, but also providing shares in a team or even its own works team. That brings more freedom. Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali (56) did not rule out in SPORT BILD in December that an eleventh team could start in the future if a big name were won for it. Audi would be one of those.

However, a cooperation with Williams, McLaren or Alfa Romeo (better known as Sauber), with whom entry is being negotiated, remains more likely. One thing is clear: the people of Ingolstadt want influence and presence. That’s the crux of the matter. The VW subsidiary wants a say in the construction of the car for the financial package, which can be worth up to one billion euros for the first five to ten years. The teams know that the boom in the racing series gives them more leverage and they don’t want to undersell themselves.

The hottest lead currently leads to Sauber. Finn Rausing (66), who owns the Swiss team, does not rule out a sale. Especially since the Swedish billionaire, who earns his money in the packaging industry, is not supposed to be out for the greatest possible profit. The negotiations, in which the Audi bosses actually wanted to be much further, could soon pick up speed. Also exciting: Audi board member Markus Duesmann (52) has a Sauber past, was head of development at BMW Sauber in Formula 1 from 2007 to 2010.

One of the big drivers at VW for entering Formula 1 is Herbert Diess (63). The CEO of the Volkswagen Group is a big fan of the racing series. Especially since Diess is aware that Formula 1 has rehabilitated itself in recent years and has become an attractive target market again. SPORT BILD knows: The VW board also discussed the Netflix documentary “Drive to Survive”. The bosses are impressed by how the streaming provider has increased interest in Formula 1, especially in the American market.

It will take a while for an official confirmation. Audi and Porsche first want to wait for the final version of the engine regulations before making a firm commitment. A tactical move to be able to exert pressure and have more say together. By the end of June at the latest, however, there should be clarity – more than 20 years after Piëch could have imagined a VW entry into the premier class.

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