Porsche is a very different organisation to Honda, which was willing to leave Red Bull largely to its own devices in its operation of the F1 team. It’s hard to imagine the same will be true when this new relationship begins. Tensions seem inevitable. So how will the two organisations integrate within a partnership?
I asked Horner that question directly during a pre-season visit to Red Bull, by which time the talks with Porsche were well advanced. “It would need to be exactly that: a partnership,” he said, without expansion – probably because he has been trying to work that out himself. He knows how tricky it will be. So might it spell the beginning of the end of his own long and successful time at the team? And what about the famously spiky and outspoken Marko? Won’t Porsche demand a say in who drives the cars it is powering and (partly) paying for? Then there’s Newey, who hates to be crowded. Interfere with his technical departments at your peril. His future will become a point of speculation too.
Other questions: the deal is said to be a long one, as you would expect, stretching for perhaps 10 years. But how long before Porsche wants to take full ownership of its F1 interests? The Honda IP that Red Bull currently operates: will that pass directly into Porsche’s hands? Can that be the case? And how much of a Porsche will it be if the car and engine are both built in Milton Keynes? On that one, it has worked well for Mercedes-AMG, whose F1 cars are made in Brackley and the powertrains in Brixworth, both in the heart of England, so that’s probably surmountable. But how much direct input will Porsche have in the programme? This can’t and won’t be a simple badging exercise, because that won’t wash for such a company.
Questions, questions… But it will also be fantastic news for Red Bull, Porsche and F1 as a whole when it’s made official. Such a brand, which trades on its sporting traditions, absolutely should be represented at the pinnacle. It’s beyond time. And for Red Bull, the astonishing amount of investment the company has made in F1 – given that its primary business is to manufacturer and sell an energy drink – has been a significant burden. The team has aggressively chased commercial sponsorship to pay for the new powertrain department and a staff level that Horner told us could reach 400. Sharing that burden with a major manufacturer will reduce that pressure and only enhance the company’s future opportunities and potential. It completely makes sense for this proud organisation, while for Porsche, avoiding the pain of starting an F1 programme from scratch and joining forces with such a team almost guarantees it will come in with a bang. Expectations will – and should – be high.