Porsche-Red Bull deal looks doomed... unless F1 changes the rules— MPH


As Porsche's plans to team up with Red Bull hit the rocks, will F1 intervene in a bid to either save the deal or lure back Honda? asks Mark Hughes

Red Bull car in garage

Red Bull accepted development restrictions after cost cap breach — not that they appear to have held it back

Chris Putnam/Future Publishing via Getty Images

There is some big tectonic plate movement in F1 at the moment which could have a profound effect on the team landscape.

Obviously the entry of the VW Group brands Audi and Porsche has been known for some time, with Audi seemingly set to purchase a majority chunk of Sauber in preparation for its entry with its own power unit (PU) in 2026. But the plans of the latter to team up with Red Bull have hit a major obstacle and are probably derailed. There is a gap between what Porsche believed it had agreed with Dietrich Mateschitz and what Red Bull is actually willing to sell – which is a deal with Red Bull Powertrains rather than ownership of the team or Red Bull Technology.

Red Bull’s 2026 F1 engine could yet be badged as either a Honda or a Red Bull

This is within a backdrop of insistent rumours that Honda may yet U-turn on its plans to leave the sport, having already at least partly backed out of that decision with its continuing identification on the Red Bull engine cover. Opinion in Honda is said to be split on whether it should be participating in the new PU formula, beginning 2026. But for any company intending to supply power units from then to have voting rights on future regulation changes, it is required to sign up by mid-October this year.

Which would seem to leave both Porsche and Honda with something of a time-pressured dilemma. Porsche — which was planning on co-operating with Red Bull Powertrains — potentially has no power unit and no team. Ironically, Audi’s power unit will be based upon an initial Porsche R&D project for a non-ERS-h hybrid F1 unit of a few years ago, before dieselgate and before that technical group was broken up (ironically with many of the personnel transferring to Audi).


Audi’s 2026 entry will use a power unit conceived by Porsche


Assuming the Red Bull deal does not happen, could any Porsche PU programme with a different team be based around the Audi (ex-Porsche!) unit? Ostensibly, no. You cannot badge-engineer a common power unit between two different brands.

But both these ostensible requirements – the timing of signing up for voting rights and the badging of power units – are F1’s own. When they were conceived, Porsche was coming and Honda was not, so those requirements presented no difficulty. Now they do and in doing so they risk the participation of two automotive manufacturers. So it would be no surprise if F1 became flexible on those requirements – or at least tried to relieve some of the time pressure.

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We’d then potentially get into the niggly matter of new supplier concessions (cost cap and dyno time allowances) which have only just been settled after a lot of bargaining.

Red Bull Powertrains recently fired up its first engine and has recruited heavily from Mercedes, Renault and elsewhere. This is the basis of the ’26 power unit that was originally going to be badged as a Porsche, but which — if Porsche sticks to its ‘no team/no deal position’ — could yet be badged as either a Honda or a Red Bull. The clear message is that the Red Bull Powertrains power unit will be forging ahead and in the back of the 2026 Red Bull, regardless of badging.

Now add into that mix what is happening with Red Bull’s junior team AlphaTauri. Pierre Gasly is being sold with a year left on his contract to Alpine and in the gap that leaves, Indycar star Colton Herta is set to replace him (superlicence permitting). This has been seen as a possible advance party for Michael Andretti’s team buying into F1 but it may also be that Red Bull sees the marketing potential of an American driver, especially at a moment when none of the Red Bull junior drivers yet look ready for F1 promotion.