Porsche’s decision highlights F1’s ruleset failure
Porsche’s decision not to join the Formula 1 grid in 2026 highlights the failure of F1’s new ruleset to lure more manufacturers.
While Audi moved ahead with plans to enter F1 by acquiring a majority stake in Sauber, Porsche appeared distant after an association with Red Bull proved infeasible.
The failure of the new Formula 1 ruleset and its aim to lure more manufacturers could be interpreted from Porsche’s decision to abstain from the 2026 Formula 1 grid.
During the formulation of the sport’s new era, both Porsche and Audi expressed interest in participating in F1, given the appropriate circumstances. Audi moved ahead with plans to join in 2026 by acquiring a majority stake in Sauber, while Porsche appeared distant from the possibility of participation after an association with Red Bull proved to be infeasible.
The question of whether Porsche’s decision not to join the Formula 1 grid in 2026 is a failure on F1’s part or a result of misaligned demands from Porsche is debatable.
It is possible that F1 could not meet Porsche’s requirements, which may have been necessary for Porsche to enter F1, as they were not in line with any existing F1 team’s position. Therefore, F1 may not be at fault for Porsche’s decision not to join the grid. While it would have been a significant achievement for F1 to have both Audi and Porsche join the sport in 2026, it is ultimately up to the manufacturers to decide whether or not to participate.
Sebastien Paolinetti, on F1Lead Podcast, suggested that F1 could be disappointed to some extent, but they could not have done more to entice Porsche to join. Hence, F1 can take some consolation in knowing that they did everything they could to attract Porsche to the sport.
According to Sebastien Paolinetti on F1Lead Podcast, F1 has taken significant steps over the past three years to entice manufacturers to join the sport. These steps include the agreement to drop the MGU-H from the engine and simplify it, the use of sustainable fuels, increased electrification of the power unit, an engine cost cap, and the redistribution of prize money to create a more level playing field for teams.
These changes were not made explicitly to attract Porsche to the grid, but rather to attract manufacturers in general. Sebastien also noted that F1 did not shut the door on Porsche or treat them rudely during negotiations, which could have made the situation worse. Instead, F1 continued to have meetings and was willing to make changes based on what Porsche and Audi said needed to be done.
Therefore, while F1 may be disappointed that Porsche did not join the grid in 2026, they can take comfort in the fact that they did everything they could to make it happen. Audi was able to meet the terms set by F1 by brokering a deal with Sauber to acquire a 75% stake in the team through a series of investments over the next few years.
However, as Paolinetti noted on F1Lead Podcast, Audi will have to put up money now for something it will not receive anything out of immediately. Moreover, despite owning a 25% stake in the Alfa Romeo team, which is benefiting from the investment, the influence of Audi is currently minimal.
Paolinetti suggested that it may be several years before Audi’s significant influence is felt in the sport, given the size of the investment and the time required for it to pay off. Paolinetti argued on F1Lead Podcast that Audi and Porsche approached their negotiations with different mindsets.
While Audi was willing to play the long game and invest in a team over several years, Porsche appeared to enter negotiations with specific demands that were not necessarily realistic or reflective of modern F1.
According to Paolinetti, F1 could not have intervened and forced teams to lower their prices or give up control over decisions to appease Porsche’s demands. Manufacturers cannot be entirely subservient to a team or series, and F1 cannot be expected to completely bend to the demands of a single manufacturer.
Instead, F1 made significant changes to attract manufacturers to the sport, but it is up to each manufacturer to decide whether or not they want to participate based on the terms available. Any potential partner that F1 would consider needed to address two key questions: what would they bring to the table, and what would they require in return? In Porsche’s case, they offered their name, financial resources, and limited technical expertise to support their ambitions.
However, they were unable to provide their own engine, and they already have other motorsport programs, so the existing F1 team they partnered with would be responsible for providing most of the infrastructure and human resources. Porsche believed that partnering with one of F1’s leading teams, Red Bull, was the perfect way to achieve a successful entry into the sport.
Red Bull was in the process of establishing its own engine program, and Porsche could have piggybacked on it and benefited from the championship’s rising popularity. However, Porsche made it clear that it wanted control and a mere sponsorship deal would not suffice.
Therefore, any team that partnered with Porsche would almost certainly have to surrender influence. For Red Bull, this meant relinquishing 50% of its primary F1 operation. For other teams, like McLaren, it might mean losing their name and sacrificing strategic independence, which did not appeal to them.
Or rather, these were not terms that Porsche was able to offer in return. According to Sebastien Paolinetti on F1Lead Podcast, F1 and the teams involved cannot be blamed for Porsche’s decision not to enter the sport. While it is a missed opportunity, he does not think anyone will believe that they dropped the ball on this occasion.
Porsche’s demands and negotiation tactics are the primary reasons why they did not enter F1. Sebastien Paolinetti suggests that in a few years, if Porsche sees Audi achieving considerable success and benefits from being in F1, they might regret their handling of the situation.
In conclusion, it appears that Porsche’s decision not to join F1 was based on their terms and conditions, and it was not the fault of F1 or any of the teams involved. Ken Kiz and Sebastien Paolinetti agree that it is unlikely that Porsche will reverse its decision and enter F1 in the short- to medium-term future, even if they regret it.
According to Ken, the current era of F1 presented the best opportunity for Porsche to enter the sport, given the current level of interest and attention. While never say never, it is difficult to imagine Porsche looking at F1 again for a few years.
Sebastien Paolinetti concurred with Ken’s viewpoint, stating that the financial and engine changes in F1, coupled with the sport’s growth, make it unlikely for the conditions to be as favorable again. Therefore, Porsche may have missed its chance to enter F1 in the current form. According to Sebastien Paolinetti, 2026 was a great opportunity for a new manufacturer to enter F1 because the usual period of playing catch-up was reduced to a reasonable extent.
This point is supported by the statement made by Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess, who said that if Audi and Porsche did not enter F1 in 2026, they would not consider joining the sport for at least another decade. Therefore, the decision not to join F1 in 2026 may have long-term consequences for Porsche’s future involvement in the sport.
Despite the missed opportunity, F1’s current conditions may be conducive to attracting other manufacturers to the sport. According to Sebastien Paolinetti, the window of opportunity for Porsche to join F1 on their terms may not open again for some time, possibly not until the 2030s.
While it is possible for them to join in the coming years, they would have to modify their entry conditions significantly. If they were to join, they would likely have to accept a lesser form of entry, which may not be what they want.
Sebastien Paolinetti concludes that if Porsche were going to enter F1 properly, they would have done so in 2026. Therefore, it may be some time before Porsche has another opportunity to join F1 in a way that aligns with their terms and conditions.
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