As 2021 approaches, more opportunities come into manufacturers’ ways to cross paths with F1. Actually Porsche created its own path to get closer to the Pinnacle of motorsport, since it built and tested a six-cylinder engine compatible to F1.
The 2021 regulation change is set to revolutionize the F1 landscape as for the engine manufacturing, giving the chance to many constructors to expand their programme or establish new partnerships. It appears that 40 people from Porsche’s LMP1 team have been working on a six-cylinder engine, which was not used in the WEC programme as the German manufacturer decided to pull the plug with the series.
Fritz Enzinger, head of Porsche motorsport, has been quoted on motorsport.com: "In 2017 there were signals from Formula 1 that the regulations were to be changed and that energy recovery from the exhaust gases [the MGU-H] was no longer required. As of 2017, Porsche was a member of the FIA Manufacturers Commission and was involved in the discussions about the future drive strategy in Formula 1 from 2021 and represented at the meetings.”
"On the one hand we took part in these working groups. On the other hand the guys developed a six-cylinder for the WEC in parallel. Of course, we thought about what would have to change if the engine were to be used in Formula 1. Such things can be done in two ways."
Amongst the F1 teams, McLaren’s 3-year deal with Renault would ideally put the Woking-based team without an engine for 2021. This suggests a wide scenario opening up for the English team, including a Porsche partnership.
McLaren has been struggling with the Renault engine in its first season with the French power unit, as it suffered countless youth problems such as overheating and poor reliability. In 2019, they seem to have found the light at the end of the tunnel as they encountered more performance and delivered more consistently. Although management-related issues and further changes amongst the aero department became part of a long process, everyone at McLaren is adamant that they are on the right track. A number of question marks still remain though, on top of them the engine deal.
It is certainly good for them to know that Porsche’s six-cylinder engine has been developed to an advanced state and is being monitored by a team of 20 to 25 technicians, as Enzinger revealed. It is currently being used "for analyses and further orders with regard to series relevance".
"At the end of 2017, we received a concrete order from our parent company to further develop a highly efficient six-cylinder engine, despite its LMP1 withdrawal" he said.
"Not only on paper, but actually as hardware and with the idea that this engine will be put to the test in 2019. That was the order from the board to us."
"The possible use for this six-cylinder engine was completely open" he said. "If it had been decided to send Porsche 2021 to Formula 1, we would have made it the way we did in 2018."
Ideally, McLaren and Porsche (as previously rumoured) would make a highly beneficial and impactful partnership, but will the Woking-based team be willing to undertake a second gamble after the Honda failure. Porsche's last F1 campaign was in 1991 and did not produce any significant results, as the engine appeared to require a great deal of work to do to be adapted to the car. Therefore, the British team has to face a tough decision: either going solo on the engine side as well, or accepting an external engine manufacturer. But with Porsche starting off the project from scratch, I think they would go over the pros and cons of it multiple times.