Mercedes has won praise for the way it has achieved record success without falling into the traps that have brought down many manufactured Formula 1 teams in the past.
It’s clearly going through a relatively difficult phase at the moment, but parent company Daimler’s commitment has remained steadfast.
The F1 team itself is structured in such a way that it is more like a private racing entity with a major manufacturer sponsoring it than a traditional business operation that controls everything centrally.
This makes Mercedes more agile and more like a pure racing team, as opposed to the kind of corporate beast that often failed miserably in Formula 1’s past.
Formula 1’s new 2026 engine rules are designed to encourage a new boom for manufacturers, after nearly 15 years spent with no more than four different engine builders.
Audi has already launched its new V6 hybrid project, and will take on Team Sauber to create a full works entry – with senior team boss Andreas Seidl already lured away from McLaren.
But there is apparent silence from the other manufacturer who has continued to pop up in the same conversations as Audi earlier in 2022.
Volkswagen Group’s sister brand Porsche was supposed to team up with Red Bull, until the 50% stake discussed collapsed amid fears among Red Bull’s current racing leadership that it would have to relinquish too much control.
Since Porsche does not have the capacity in its own motorsports facility to build a standard Formula 1 engine at the moment, a partnership with Red Bull would have given it access to a Red Bull Powertrains division that was created to bridge the gap presented by Honda’s F1 exit (sort of).
The need to find a replacement engine is only part of the reason why things have been quiet about Porsche’s Formula 1 ambitions since the Red Bull deal fell through in September. Domestic politics permitting, Porsche could re-badge — or just use — the Audi-designed stable engine.
But it is now understood that the biggest hurdle is finding a team willing to partner with, because the same control issues that have stymied Red Bull are believed to also be hurdles elsewhere. McLaren and Williams have both been cited as possible candidates for a Porsche relationship before, but Race understands that neither would be willing to hand over the level of team share Porsche wants.
Mercedes chairman and shareholder Toto Wolff expressed sympathy for Red Bull’s stance when news of the end of Porsche talks first broke, arguing that its F1 team’s structure is similar to that of Milton Keynes – and that Mercedes is only successful because Daimler allows the F1 operation to operate. independently.
“There are a lot of examples in the past where the big companies, the big original equipment manufacturers, failed in Formula 1 because of their decision-making process,” Wolff said in an interview with Channel 4’s David Coulthard.
“I also think that the unfortunate situation between Red Bull and Porsche, as far as I’ve heard, is down to the need for a large company that has a governance structure in place where they know what’s going on, where they know who has power of attorney, the decisions that are being made.
“This is not compatible with a structure like Red Bull, or we will have.
“What Mercedes has learned is to say, ‘Well, we’re this multinational group, we need a certain degree of control, so we’ve adopted whatever is necessary’, but they also leave us in for a very long time.
“Audi knows that. I guess this doesn’t come as news to them. When you look at the Sauber chassis today, Finn Rausing, the businessman, and [now-former team boss] Run by Fred Vasseur, quick decision-making and I think Audi will know that’s important going forward.
“For Porsche, it’s a shame it didn’t work out. It would have been a great competitor – not only Red Bull but also Porsche joining them – but who knows? Maybe they’ll find another possible chassis.”
Outside of McLaren and Williams, Porsche’s other possibilities look like long-range shots. Among other independent teams, AlphaTauri is not currently for sale because continuity plans laid out in the Red Bull group following the death of co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz bring it under Red Bull ownership for the foreseeable future.
And although Gene Haas’ current intentions for the future of the Haas team are unclear, Formula 1’s move to a more open and cost-effective competition as well as his team securing a major new sponsor in Moneygram alleviate some of the concerns he has expressed about the long term. F1 involvement.
That in effect leaves only Andretti’s proposed entry to F1 as an option for a Porsche partner, although such a deal would likely be transformative for Andretti’s hopes of actually getting onto the grid given that F1 is known to want any 11 team allowed to be a made squad.
Audi has set ambitious targets for the new F1 programme, aiming to be “extremely competitive” within three years of joining the grid.
The new engine rules have been drafted to help avoid new manufacturers falling behind incumbents when they arrive, but the recent history of Honda and Renault in Formula 1 suggests it will take much longer than three years for the newcomers to fight honestly with Ferrari, Mercedes and Honda/ Red Bull – especially when trying to bring the midfield level up to a top team.
But Wolf believes the strength and foresight of the Volkswagen Group, which owns both Audi and Porsche, means it has every chance of success right away, let alone in three years or more.
“I wouldn’t underestimate the Volkswagen Group, be it Audi or Porsche, when they get into such a project,” Wolff said during the Singapore Grand Prix weekend.
“They have the financial strength, the know-how, the racing experience, to come up with a great project. I think marriage to Sauber is a good fit – it’s German Switzerland, operating under the same legislative environment.
“I have them completely on the radar or quite a part of the teams that can make it through in 2026.”
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