from imminent announcement to aborted deal

Sunday evening, in the Zandvoort paddock, Helmut Marko dropped a small bomb. « Porsche will not be a shareholder with us », he told F1-Insider. Meanwhile, multiple sources have confirmed to our German edition that the deal will not materialize.

At Porsche, the disappointment is great in front of this failure. And many are asking the question: what would have happened if the FIA ​​had approved the 2026 engine regulations earlier? Red Bull and Porsche had initially agreed to officially communicate a « partnership of equals » during the Austrian Grand Prix. The press release was already ready. Because even before the board of directors of the Volkswagen group gave the green light to the arrival of Audi and Porsche in Formula 1 last April, Red Bull and Porsche had signed an agreement in principle. It provided for the acquisition by Porsche of 50% of the shares of the F1 activities of Red Bull.

What happened after the Austrian Grand Prix is ​​now the subject of speculation. It is said that Christian Horner would not have liked to lead a joint program with, at his side, a general manager appointed by Porsche. Helmut Marko disputes this version, however. Elsewhere in the paddock, rumors say that the failure of the agreement could be linked to the state of health of Dietrich Mateschitz, big boss of Red Bull, who has deteriorated since the start of negotiations.

Initially, the talks were fairly straightforward, but the longer they went on, the more detailed they got, the more Porsche executives got involved, and the more Marko and Horner’s doubts grew. They have with Max Verstappen the best Formula 1 driver under contract until 2028 and, with Adrian Newey, perhaps the best designer. All with fast decision-making processes. « Dietrich has always been fully behind us when decisions relating to drivers or strategy have been made »Horner recalls, « and this is one of our strengths directly linked to our DNA. »

A cohabitation too cumbersome?

Honda, which supplies what is perhaps the best engine on the grid today, apparently doubted the reasons for its departure. The signals that the brand wants to resume a factory program in 2026 are becoming clearer. So why call on a German manufacturer, with all the bureaucracy that would accompany such an agreement? Anyone who listened carefully to Horner at Zandvoort understood that Red Bull had long since made up its mind not to ally itself with Porsche. « We are an independent team »he said. « We always work in a way that allows us to be flexible, fast and efficient. It’s part of Red Bull’s DNA. »

Christian Horner, Director of Red Bull Racing.

Christian Horner, Director of Red Bull Racing.

Discussions with Porsche dragged on, and at Red Bull it was realized that if successful, any future projects would not be launched with Mateschitz’s support. It will first have to be presented and then approved by the board of directors, which will involve time and uncertainty as to the outcome. Neither Horner nor Marko want to work like that. « Our position is that the team is Red Bull’s biggest marketing tool in the world »insists Horner. « And why should we compromise for that on a long-term strategic level? »

At the same time, for Marko a partnership with Porsche is not yet definitively excluded, provided that the German brand is open to a collaboration with Red Bull Powertrains. Red Bull Racing will not be for sale. Designing a power unit has nothing to do with building a chassis. However, Red Bull no longer rules out doing it all, and the fact that the first engine ran on the Milton Keynes test bed shortly before the summer break speaks volumes about the confidence that reigns.

Red Bull doesn’t need anyone

According to Horner, Red Bull Powertrains is capable of designing and manufacturing a power unit from scratch. « The specialists we have take care of the entire power unit, including electrical and mechanical »he says. « We are committed to 2026. We recruited some of the best minds in F1 for Red Bull Powertrains, we built a factory in 55 weeks, we have fully commissioned test beds, we built our first prototype of engine 2026, it ran for the first time before the summer. We’re really in an exciting momentum and we’re not dependent on outside investment to do so. The power unit is clearly a very different challenge. there’s a partner to work on it, so that would make sense. »

Red Bull has already run an engine on its new test bed.

Red Bull has already run an engine on its new test bed.

But it will not be Porsche, for which a commitment is only considered on the condition of being a shareholder of a team, and not a simple engine manufacturer. This is what the mandate of the board of directors of the Volkswagen group specifies. Except that Porsche has based all its hopes on an agreement with Red Bull, and finds itself today without a solution. This is a bitter setback as the company prepares to go public and its ambition was to be a player in a booming Formula 1, which brews billions of dollars and which has never been as profitable for the teams as since the introduction of the budget cap.

Porsche can at least congratulate itself on having tried it, especially since it was Red Bull who backtracked. The existence of the agreement in principle mentioning a 50% stake is proven by official documents which have been widely relayed. Red Bull and Porsche were well aware that antitrust authorities would go public with the impending deal, and they had no problem with that since they had originally planned to announce it on July 7 at Spielberg.

Seeing a Formula team negotiate with a constructor without this materializing is nothing new. On the other hand, it is rarer to see the negotiations go so far before falling apart at the last minute. Porsche sees it as a disappointment, while Red Bull displays radiant optimism for the future: Max Verstappen is closer than ever to a second world title, Horner and Newey can continue the project without risk of interference from a big manufacturer, and the engine component is guaranteed by Honda until the end of 2025, without a sequel now being excluded.

« One of our strengths is that Red Bull has always been a brand that thinks outside the box, a team that is never afraid to take on new challenges »welcomes Horner. « First we got into Formula 1, and now we’re building an engine. The way we work is quite different, and it’s part of our DNA to be able to achieve great things. »

When the possibility is raised that he himself is behind the aborted deal with Porsche, the Briton responds with a slight smile. Last winter, he extended his contract as team manager until 2026. « I recently made a long-term commitment to this team »he concludes. « During the negotiations, we talked about the fact that the management structure should remain as it is. It was always fully accepted. So I don’t think I need to comment on such crazy speculations. »

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