The Red Bull-Porsche partnership might have ended even before it begun

The Red Bull-Porsche alliance could be in trouble
The Red Bull-Porsche alliance could be in trouble

The Red Bull-Porsche alliance might be heading for a split even before it has been officially announced. Yes, you heard that right!

The power unit technical regulations that are expected to be finalized during the summer break might be heading towards a rather unfavorable twist. As reported by Dieter Rencken of RacingNews365, the latest developments might mean F1 will be heading towards an unfavorable outcome.

Now, before we jump straight to what happened, let's take a look at what was the supposed framework that was initially proposed by the FIA and how it brought a large manufacturer like the Volkswagen group into the picture.

What were the proposed power unit regulations?

The first draft of the proposed power unit regulations encompassed 5 key areas:

  1. Engine cost caps in place, with newcomers granted a number of financial and operating exemptions,
  2. MGU-H exhaust-driven energy recovery systems banned on cost and complexity grounds,
  3. Internal combustion engine/hybrid power contributions to be approximately 50/50 rather than 75/25
  4. Carbon-zero fuels mandated
  5. Introduction would be 2026

In this form, both Porsche and Audi have shown keen interest subject to conformity with the final draft that will be sent for ratification.

How does the latest framework compare to the original recommendation?

As of now, there have been deliberations on quite a few points during the WMSC meetings with nothing finalized. In one of our previous pieces, we had touched upon some of the key points of contention that were still not ironed out. Now, in one of the latest reports, Rencken revealed that the new proposed framework holds less to no resemblance to what was initially tabled by the FIA.

The initial framework was supposed to be favorable to new entrants, which is not the case anymore. The regulations are more or less a carryover from the previous iterations and hence will give the incumbent constructors a clear advantage over any new entrant.

Rencken stated:

"Multiple sources last week advised that a complete set of 2026-on PU regulations was finally distributed to major players on Wednesday, and that these vary considerably from the envisaged framework. Indeed, the word is that they pander to existing PU suppliers while potentially handicapping newcomers. The regulations are due to be ratified by the WMSC next week, some say on Wednesday."
"The word is that any technical differences are significantly smaller than originally tabled, enabling existing power unit manufacturers to carry over major items while newcomers need to develop completely new PUs in a truncated timeframe. Apart from deletion of MGU-H and variable intake manifolds, Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault (and Honda?) are able to carry over the main hardware: major cost, time and reliability advantages."

In essence, for any new potential power unit supplier, this is a clear red light because it means a large group like Porsche will join the sport already on the back foot and could risk facing infamy just like Honda had to for 5 years before it got a hold of the regulations.

Is the Red Bull-Porsche deal in jeopardy?

Talking about the Red Bull-Porsche deal, it appears that the alliance is contingent on the final ratified PU regulations being favorable for an automotive giant like the VW group to join the sport.

Rencken further wrote:

"As at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the situation was that Porsche and Red Bull held a memorandum of understanding contingent upon the full PU regulations finding favor with the Stuttgart brand, in which case they would operate a joint venture with Red Bull Powertrains effectively manufacturing PUs to Porsche design."

According to the report, it does appear that the copy that has been sent for ratification does not look favorable to new entrants and that could push the entire Red Bull-Porsche partnership into jeopardy. A large automotive manufacturer like the VW group would not want to enter the sport with one hand tied behind its back. This is one of the reasons why the group has kept its cards close to its chest and made no official announcements of any kind.

Even Red Bull, on the other hand, would be having a rethink on its approach to the 2026 F1 regulations. The team has everything in place to be competitive over the next few years. Having said that, the team would not have forgotten how it feels to be paralyzed by an uncompetitive power unit supplier.

If Porsche enters the sport in unfavorable conditions, Red Bull will be forced to rethink its approach. It possesses the best driver in Max Verstappen, and the best aerodynamicist in Adrian Newey, it cannot afford to have the power unit as a weak link once again.

While the details are still tentative, if the proposed regulations are supposed to be a deterrent to new entrants, then it won't be a surprise if the VW group takes a step back and does not go ahead with its entry into the sport. Similarly, Red Bull might look elsewhere as it would not want to compromise its position in the grid's pecking order as well.

Will the Red Bull-Porsche alliance end even before it has begun? Who knows? The consistent delay in finalizing the power unit regulations, however, is certainly increasing the possibility of things going south.

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Edited by Anurag C
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