Porsche is one of the biggest names in motor racing, with several events using their cars. Not only that, but they are also one of the most well-known car brands off the track as well. Thus, it is fair to wonder why Porsche doesn’t have an F1 car.
Porsche doesn’t have an F1 car for several reasons, with the main one being that it doesn’t suit their values as a company, being too far away from road cars which are their priority. High costs are the other main reason they don’t have an F1 car, but they do participate in other motorsports.
Porsche have a massive share of the luxury and sports car market, and this drives their priority away from motorsport. However, they have still been involved in Formula 1 in the past, and their various other endeavors in motorsport are worth looking at to understand why they are not in F1 anymore.
A Bit Of Background About Porsche
Porsche is aGerman car manufacturer, founded in Stuttgart in 1931 by Ferdinand Porsche. It is famous for its sports cars, but it also has a wide range of SUVs and Sedans as well, with all of them being tailored to those looking for a bit of luxury. The early years of Porsche saw it offering development and consulting to other manufacturers, without building any cars themselves.
But this all changed after the arrival of the Volkswagen Beetle, as cars became almost material itemsand people wanted to have more than they had before. The brand is famous for its 911 line of cars, along with its SUV, the Cayenne. These cars have always been marketed as luxury high-performance vehicles, and they have won the company many awards over the years.
High Profit Margins
It has become something of a household name, and the company does most of its business internationally. They claim to have the highest profit margins per car of any manufacturer, and in 2015 they reported pre-tax profits of more than $3 billion. But it is not just in production cars that Porsche has seen fame, as it is heavily involved in various motorsports as well.
Porsche In Other Motorsports
Before we consider Porsche in F1, it is useful to note the company’s participation and success in various other motorsports. They first got involved in car racing in the 1950s and 60s, but it was a slow start with nothing showing too many signs of promise. They began by racing in race-specific versions of their road cars, and never really designed any purpose-built race cars for many years.
Their First Le Mans Victory
The first piece of major success that Porsche experienced came in 1970, when their 1969 917 led them to victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is usually regarded as the ultimate in endurance racing, and it was the first of many victories for Porsche. The company went on to dominate the 1970s with several key models, namely the 911 Carrera RS and the 935 Turbo.
They won at prestigious events such as Targa Florio, Daytona and Sebring, which just continued to bring the company more fame and they became known as one of themost successful motorsport teams in the world. They rumbled along through the 1970s and 80s, eventually creating the fastest and most powerful race cars in the world, with lots of success both at Le Mans and in CanAm racing.
7 In A Row
The Carrera RSR was one of their most successful cars, along with the 917. An open top version of the 917 is what brought them many wins in CanAm racing, and various other models helped them dominate the 70s. The 1980s saw their longest streak of victoriesin Le Mans, with Porsche managing to win seven times in a row from 1981 to 1987, with 107 class victories as well.
The 1990s were also fruitful for the German manufacturer, with back to back Le Mans titles coming in 1996 and 1997. To date, Porsche are the most successful team at Le Mans, with a total of 19 outright wins. This puts them well ahead of rivals Audi and Ferrari, who have 13 wins and 9 wins respectively. But it is not just endurance racing that Porsche finds fame.
Rally racing has also been a part of Porsche’s motorsport history, with the team providing several wins over the year. A 912 was driven to victory in the 1967 European Rally Championship by Sobieslaw Zasada, and they sealed victory in the International Championship for Manufacturers in 1970. They won several WRC events, although not as a team, through private use of their vehicles.
This was common across other motorsports as well. Even though the Porsche team may not have had much rally success after the 1970s, their cars have been used to win many events, showcasing the power of the cars they produce. The company did enter a team into IndyCar, where it raced on and off from 1980 through to its withdrawal after the 1990 season, with mixed results.
The modern era has seen the creation of the Porsche Supercup, which is a one-make style competition using Porsche GT3 stock cars. It is also an official supporter of the Formula 1 World Championship. The tracks raced are usually European, but there are some events held in places like the USA and in the middle east, and the competition has been running since 1993.
Porsche have always noted that racing is an integral part of the engineering development side of automobiles. Essentially, they see racing as the perfect way to find out how cars should be designed, and through their racing endeavors they are able to gain insights that allows them to build all of their globally popular cars.
Porsche In F1
With such a rich history in motorsport, it is fair to wonder why Porsche does not have an F1 team, given that F1 is by far the most lucrative motorsport at the moment. But Porsche was indeed in F1 many years ago, putting forward a team that managed to win a race. Before this, Porsche had designed cars in the 1920s and 30s to be used by the likes of Mercedes in Grand Prix racing.
A Short Stint
But their direct involvement in F1 came in 1961, after they had already fielded a two-seater car in the Formula 2 series. Their history in F1 as a constructor however did not last long. Their only championship race victory came at the 1962 French Grand Prix, although they won non championship races and sold their cars to be used by privateers in later years.
They did then return to Formula One in 1983, although this time only as an engine manufacturer. This makes sense as Porsche had become one of the largest and best automakers in the world, and it seemed only right that their prowess in the motorsport industry was implemented in some form in F1. Their water-cooled V6 units were made for McLaren, branded as TAG power units.
This stint in the sport was far more successful than their first, as they managed to help manufacturers using their engines to two constructors’ championships, and three drivers managed to win the drivers’ championship as well. In total, Porsche powered cars won 25 races between 1984 and 1987, with two of the biggest names the sport, Alain Prost and Niki Lauda, racing with Porsche engines.
Even though they had this success, the engines were known to be less powerful than their rivals. Honda and BMW could push more power out of their engines, which gave them a big boost during qualifying sessions. Even though Porsche managed to get plenty of pole position starts, their engine lacked the turbo power to keep their drivers satisfied, and high costs ultimately ended their success.
Porsche then returned to F1 for a third time in 1991. This was not even as successful as their first stint, with the engines failing to score the Footwork Arrows team a single point. Porsche was fearful of putting their name on the engines back in the 80s in case they failed dramatically, but this time their failure meant everyone knew who was responsible, and they have not returned to F1 since.
Potential For A Return To F1
Too Much Money
After their success in the 1980s, regulations changed and engines evolved, and the drivers using Porsche engines wanted a separate engine made for qualifying. Qualifying requires drivers to push their cars much more than they do in the race, and so more power in the engine during this phase would prove vital in getting the best possible starting position on race day.
Porsche did not oblige due to the high costs. Plus, they were adamant that they could still hold their own with their engine, and they did for several races. But ultimately things got too expensive for Porsche, and when they returned in 1991, they reportedly just used two of their old engines side by side, minus the turbochargers, which must have saved a lot of money versus developing a new engine.
Not Fully Committed To F1
F1 is an extremely expensive sport. In the current era, teams are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year developing new cars. This requires a lot of upfront investment, and the teams need to be fully committed to their F1 endeavors. Taking for example a team like Williams, who are dedicated almost solely to F1, it makes sense to spend as much as you can to get the best results.
On the other hand, you have Mercedes, who have dominated the sport since 2014. They spend nearly half a billion dollars on their cars each year, but their success drives them to the top of the world of motorsport. Their advertising value has increased from millions to billions over the last decade, which clearly indicates a return on investment for one of the biggest automakers in the world.
Lack Of Historical Connection
Mercedes has not always been this successful in F1, but they have been in the sport almost since it began, debuting in 1954. Porsche does not have this historical connection, and with teams coming and going throughout the years it is clear that it is not easy for a new team to come onto the scene and have enough success to make it worth continuing.
Red Bull may be a good counterexample to this, having won four world championships in a row from 2010-2013 with Sebastian Vettel. Their major industry until that point was the energy drinks market. This did not conflict with F1 in any way, and it allowed them to spend a lot of money in a short amount of time and benefit from the incredible results of quadruple back to back championships.
Focus On Production Cars
Porsche on the other hand has so much invested in the production car market that it becomes hard for them to algin with F1. Where teams like Ferrari and McLaren have evolved their production car businesses alongside their F1 racing endeavors, Porsche has put its sole focus on its road cars since its inception, with racing being somewhat of a side development.
People think of Ferrari and instantly think of racing, if not solely F1. People think of Porsche and think of expensive road cars. Although they have achieved wild success in the likes of Le Mans, their motorsport ventures have been very sporadic, and they have lacked the consistency of their Italian rivals. This has made it difficult for them to put a lot of focus into F1.
However, there were rumorscirculating in recent years that Porsche was going to make a comeback in the world of F1. It was revealed that the team was working on a new engine, and more specifically a V6. This size of engine is what the 2021 FIA regulations stipulate the new generation of cars must use, and it is what they are using currently. This could be the perfect opportunity for Porsche.
Porsche was withdrawing from Le Mans, which stalled the efforts to create an F1-compatible engine. The main reason for this is that Porsche decided to focus on entering Formula E, which uses electric vehicles and thus there was no longer any need to create a combustion engine for either endurance racing or for a potential reentry into Formula 1.
This is about as close as Porsche has gotten to getting back into Formula 1 since its 1991 disaster, and it is unlikely to come close again. The amount of money involved in designing and developing engines and cars for F1 is too vast at this stage for Porsche to put any of its road car focus back onto motor racing.
Plus, the team has managed to score a couple of podiums in Formula E and finished 8th overall at the end of the 2019/20 season. This is promising and suggests that the team will continue to grow within the sport, and probably stay away from F1 for the time being. But as rules change all the time in F1, it could become favorable for Porsche to try again in the future.
Porsche is one of the most famous car brands in the world. Known for their luxury and sport lineups, with their cars being some of the most recognizable on the road, there is no wonder that they have also delved into the world of racing as well. Their motorsport history is something to be proud of, with a record number of wins at Le Mans being the highlight by far.
However, they have also jumped into the world of F1 on several occasions, and even powered some of the championship winning cars in the 1980s. But they have also struggled in the past too, and at the moment it is not financially viable or in their best interests to try again. Plus, they are having reasonable success in Formula E, but a return to F1 could be on the cards in the years to come.