New plans from Formula 1
It is an open secret that Volkswagen is emphatically knocking on the door of Formula 1. With Audi and Porsche, the group has two real sports brands that wouldn't be out of place in F1, of course. For the sport itself, it would also be nice to add two such car brands to the field of participants.
F1, therefore, went far to involve the Volkswagen Group in the new plans for 2026. At the moment there is no manufacturer that wants to enter F1 because you will have to invest a lot to become competitive. Honda's project has proven that. So F1 is looking for other ways to become less dependent on the existing manufacturers.
F1 is probably tackling two main issues to accommodate potential new manufacturers. The engine must become cheaper and easier to build. The MGU-H in particular was a heavy burden on the budget. In addition, there will be a budget cap for manufacturers, so that they cannot spend unlimited amounts. This system was already introduced for the teams.
Formula 1 already presented the concept for the new 2026 engine in 2021, where that budget cap was included and the MGU-H just disappeared. For the other manufacturers, that was a fine compromise. Volkswagen actually wanted an entirely new engine, but F1 also realised that this would be unfair to the current manufacturers who have invested billions in the current engine.
This concept resonated well with Audi, who have reportedly sent a letter of approval to F1. The World Motor Sport Council will announce all the details for the new engine in February, allowing manufacturers to get started on this new generation of engines. Then Audi and Porsche can also make a final decision on whether they want to join.
Audi and McLaren
How they will participate is also an important detail in this matter. Porsche and Audi will not build their own team. This would cost too much money and time to become competitive. Volkswagen is aiming for a similar model as they did before in the WEC, where one engine was developed for two teams, so they have only a few costs (for the engine), but double revenues.
Audi would be the brand that would actually appear on a car as a title sponsor. This means that Audi would have to sponsor or take over an existing team. McLaren is most commonly associated with Audi, but both parties denied any deal in 2021. It would make the most sense for Audi though, as McLaren is a big team, already fairly competitive and not in a perfect situation financially.
Once more is known about the engine, Audi can move on and start approaching teams as well. After the announcement of the new engines, we will probably get more news about this soon. Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams are also teams that could be acquired, but Audi doesn't seem to be the brand that wants to invest billions to turn such a small team into a big brand.
Porsche and Red Bull Racing
Porsche on the other hand should provide the engine. Again, they are looking at partnering with another party, and the most mentioned party is Red Bull. Red Bull Racing lost Honda as an engine supplier at the end of 2021, and for the next few years, they are working on their own engine factory in Milton Keynes.
Yet Red Bull has kept the door open to other engine suppliers from day one. Christian Horner spoke of a sponsor who could be on the engine as a name and fund the project, but of course, it could also be an engine manufacturer who will partner with Red Bull. Given Porsche's ambitions, those two teams seem made for each other.
However, the competition is less happy about this, as Porsche and Red Bull could develop an engine as two separate engine suppliers towards 2026, in order to come up with one design together in 2026. The competition thinks this is unfair and argues that Porsche and Red Bull should do this together and then also stick to one budget cap. For Porsche and Red Bull, it is, therefore, wiser to postpone a deal as long as possible.