Porsche has confirmed a long-term commitment to its ABB FIA Formula E world championship programme by signing up to the Gen3 rules set through to 2026.
The move follows Nissan’s confirmation of the same deal earlier this week and takes the manufacturer count for the series’ new era up to four after Mahindra became the first to commit last November and DS Automobiles registered in January.
Mercedes will shortly confirm it too has registered, while Jaguar’s decision is also expected soon.
Audi and BMW have already announced they will be leaving Formula E.
The future status of fellow manufacturers Penske Autosport and NIO333 is less clear but both are expected to make communications next month.
The Race says
Porsche looked very closely at its future motorsport programmes during 2020 when it began to formalise its plan to go back to Le Mans with an LMDh car for 2023 – which was publicly announced in January.
Its executives have been keen on understanding precisely what the commercial and marketing direction of Formula E’s new world championship era would be.
They started to get some of those guarantees at the Valencia test last November and Porsche is believed to have formalised its decision shortly afterwards.
Jamie Reigle, who took over as FE CEO in September 2019, put in place a new executive and management team last year but its plans were disrupted by the pandemic.
Reigle has a strong understanding of commercial structures but does not have experience of the workings of OEMs in the motorsport industry and this is known to have been a concern for some of the manufacturers present in the championship.
Motorsport is ultimately a people business and in many senses OEMs need to be manoeuvred and guided smartly, not just by slick presentations and buzzwords, but also by political savvy.
This is what the championship’s co-founder and still current chairman Alejandro Agag was so capable at as he nurtured Formula E in its infant and growing years.
The manufacturers actually expect this guidance. They want to be led by promoters just as much as they want to be the leaders on track.
That might sound counterintuitive to the hackneyed image of manufacturers being disruptive when racing together. Yet in Formula E it is slightly different because so many constituent parts of it are new to them and they require strong leadership.
Formula E was faltering in its purpose of positioning its racing product, in the eyes of some manufacturers, and until late last year it was considered to be in full stall mode.
Whether this was just a legacy of the new regime gelling or the shock of a circumstances beyond its control – i.e. the pandemic – is not entirely clear.
But although very far from being the sole reason that perception was, even unconsciously, a part of why Formula E lost two manufacturers.
Audi, Toyota and Porsche often detail how they believe that the biggest mistake the World Endurance Championship made in its manufacturer heyday of 2015/2016 was to try to please all the manufacturers equally.
You can’t please everyone, and Formula E would be wise to heed that historic lesson.
But Porsche’s sustainability and eco-friendly credentials are real and continually escalating. It is investing €15billion in new technologies over the next five years and it is also looking at the use of silicon anodes in its battery packs to reduce charging times.
It also plans to go CO2-neutral ‘across the entire value chain’ by 2030. Its Weissach Zuffenhausen and Leipzig facilities are already CO2-neutral due to the use of biogas and other renewable derivatives.
These are among the real reasons why it has chosen to stick with Formula E for what should be the next five seasons.
Porsche revealed it was entering Formula E in July 2017 after announcing the cessation of its ultra-successful 919 Hybrid LMP1 programme, which netted a hat-trick of Le Mans 24 Hours wins across 2015 to 2017.
It missed the first season of Gen2 competition but entered for the 2019/20 season, taking a second place with Andre Lotterer on its debut at the Diriyah E-Prix (pictured above).
Since then it has evolved its powertrain and also signed Pascal Wehrlein to a long-term contract.
Porsche was involved in the discussions about the Gen3 regulations right from the start.
“It was important for us that the DNA of Formula E, which has made the championship so successful, was preserved,” said its motorsport chief Fritz Enzinger.
“That’s happened. At the same time, we see potential to take Formula E to the next level from a sporting and technological point of view.
“So we regard it as an interesting challenge to actively shape the successful future of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship thereby to give electric mobility another boost on a global level.”
Porsche’s parent company Volkswagen Group is known to be looking at the possibility of entering Formula 1 should it see through plans to make e-fuels a technical pillar of its 2025 rules.
The 2025 F1 engine regulations are set to major on harnessing more power through electric and regenerative means via a hybrid design.
Porsche’s current Formula E programme has been significantly informed by its 919 Hybrid effort, which was project managed by current McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl.
McLaren is the only F1 team to have won grands prix with Porsche power, using engines badged as Technique d’Avant Garde (TAG) Porsche between 1983 and 1987.