The history of Porsche in Formula 1

18-01-2023 18:00

Porsche haven't been seen on the Formula 1 grid for over 30 years but it appears their return to the sport seems closer than ever.

After a cryptic post on Instagram everyone thought they were teaming up with Williams but that never happened, and after last year's deal with Red Bull fell through, their return seems inevitable.

The early days

Let’s go all the way back to the 1930s. Ferdinand Porsche, the founder of Porsche AG initially designed Grand Prix cars for Mercedes and Auto Union, however the manufacturer never really settled in single seater racing. In fact it wasn’t until the late 1950s when Porsche returned, entering the Porsche 718 RSK, a two-seater sports car, into Formula 2 because for some reason that was allowed back then. This was then adapted to have a single seat in the middle, and in ’61 the former F2 cars were moved up to Formula 1 but Porsche were not competitive at all!

However, a year later they enjoyed their first win as a constructor in Formula 1. The sleek Porsche 804 produced their only win as a constructor in a championship race, claimed by Dan Gurney at the 1962 French Grand Prix. At the end of the season, Porsche withdrew from F1 due to the high costs but privateers continued to enter the outdated Porsche 718 until 1964. 

The glory days 

20 odd years later Porsche returned supplying water cooled engines to McLaren, badged as TAG Units. Porsche didn’t want to have their name associated with the engine because they feared if they failed it would lead to bad publicity. It was quickly obvious Porsche engines were the best and their name quickly appeared on the power units.

TAG-Porsche-powered cars took two constructor championships in 1984 and 1985, and three driver crowns in 1984, 1985 and 1986 as Niki Lauda and Alain Prost enjoying plenty of success.

However, their drivers regularly called for them to develop a qualifying engine to hold higher turbo boost. Porsche and TAG owner Mansour Ojjeh refused due to additional costs, and the fact they had 7 pole positions and 21 front row starts. 

"A miserable failure"

An attempted return in 1991 with Footwork Arrows was a miserable failure. Their Porsche 3512 double-V6 weighing over 180 kg, and there were even rumours of them just being two TAG V6 engines strapped together used by McLaren in 1983! Arrows sacked Porsche in favour of Cosworth engines and Porsche haven’t been seen on an F1 grid since.

A potential return

There were rumours around 2010 of a potential return but nothing materialised, and it all went quiet until last year. On 2 May 2022 it was announced that Porsche would make their return to the sport alongside VW brand Audi making their entry into the sport. Audi would later team up with Sauber as an engine provider from 2026. 

There was a huge deal on the table with Red Bull, as Porsche targeted a 50% share in their Formula 1 programme. The deal was so close a press release was ready to go at the Austrian Grand Prix, however, the FIA didn’t approve the 2026 engine  regulations before their planned date delaying what seemed to be an inevitable deal. In August Porsche even registered the “F1nally" trademark with the German Patent Office a deal seemed certain. However in September it all fell through as they could not agree terms on an an engine and team partnership. 

And that leads us to the present day. Months of speculation and the Williams rumour came out of nowhere. Now Porsche have since played down the announcement but Porsche in Formula 1 seems a matter of when not if!

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