Porsche’s Formula for the future

Bayden Westerweller Roar Guru

By , Bayden Westerweller is a Roar Guru

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    Porsche's involvement in the WEC is no longer. (Toyota UK)

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    The World Endurance Championship continues to reel following the announcement that Porsche will exit LMP1 at the conclusion of the season.

    This comes on the heels of sister Audi’s departure just twelve months earlier, though greater intrigue surrounds the future motives of beleaguered Volkswagen’s portfolio.

    Porsche simultaneously committed to the burgeoning Formula E from 2019-20. However, with respect to what Alejandro Agag has been able to achieve in a short time span, it’s difficult to fathom the manufacturer pulling the plug on a pioneering category following just four seasons. They were seasons comprising sustained success, capitalised by multiple Le Mans triumphs, purely in favour of a still embryonic series which continues to lack the inherent adrenaline factor.

    Mercedes had earlier confirmed its presence in Formula E – concurrent to its Formula One programme, from the same date, thus it wouldn’t be a stretch to surmise that Porsche is poised to join its German counterpart in the pinnacle of motorsport, with a logical entry in 2021 under the sport’s yet to be finalised regulations.

    At the time Volkswagen AG was embroiled in ‘dieselgate’ in 2015, which precipitated Audi’s exit from the stage they had dominated – boasting no less than thirteen victories at Le Mans since the turn of the century, it had been reported that the carmaker had been in deep negotiations to partner, or even acquire Red Bull’s Formula One operation, the energy drinks giant in the midst of an acrimonious spat with long-time supplier, Renault.

    The cataclysmic sanctions which were applied to Volkswagen placed those ambitions on the backburner, while Red Bull sheepishly retreated to ‘TAG-Heuer’ power once it became evident other manufacturers had been scared off by its belligerent tactics. Alas, the necessity for the former to rehabilitate its image, its psyche, leads to the logical conclusion that embracing the sport, revitalised under its new ownership, is a guaranteed reputation spinner.

    Whichever ‘asset’ Volkswagen elects to deploy is academic for the time being, though foremost is the requirement to concurrently take heed of Honda’s cautionary tale while being undaunted by ‘the final frontier’ which dictates only a select few ever appreciate the scale of commitment appropriate to conquer the unforgiving sport.

    Renault’s inroads over the one and a half seasons since re-joining Formula One in its own right suggests it will be a force by the close of the decade. Mercedes’ manful ascension to the top, having done its due diligence on the long-term at the detriment of immediate success – carrying its form into the latest iteration of the hybrid era, displays that as long as prospective entrants are under no illusions, it doesn’t have to represent an exercise in futility.

    If and when a commitment is made, the next step is to determine whether to strike out on its own or entering a collaboration with an established outfit, such as BMW alongside Williams and later, Sauber, through the 2000’s, as this has the potential to define the leap of faith. At the risk of compromising its autonomy at the behest of a partner, and betraying the very reason for going racing, there can’t be any wavering in understanding responsibilities from the outset.

    Much of this depends on the punctuality in negotiations regarding the sport’s future direction, which largely boils down to whether the existing participants are capable of civility and realising the benefits of paving the way for competitors to join, in turn offering the greatest opportunity for incumbents to showcase its superiority over direct road going rivals on motorsport’s grandest stage.

    Time is Volkswagen’s ally for the time being, and while the notion of Porsche, Audi, or Lamborghini taking on its respective compatriots is alluring, it must be careful to ensure it don’t stray too far from its DNA, if Formula One wants them badly enough, they must make it worth their while.